Volunteers take out invasive plant species

After 20 years as Natural Resources Manager for the City of Bloomington, Steve Cotter is taking action against one of his toughest competitors yet: invasive plant species in the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve.

“I’ve been here 20 years and invasive species have definitely been an issue since before then, but they seem to be spreading more rapidly now and I’m not sure why that is,” Cotter said. “Some people aren’t sure why some plants can be around for a while and not be invasive then all of a sudden something clicks and they become invasive. I think that we are seeing a rapid increase in the rate of spread of some of these species.”

Controlling invasive species in the most ecologically sensitive manner has become a top a priority for Cotter.

He said he plans to combat the invasive plant species in order to protect Bloomington’s native plant life with Adopt-an-Acre, a new community program.

“The reason they become a problem is because they outcompete some of our native plants,” Cotter said. “These invaders typically don’t have a lot of things that eat them. They shade out the native plants; they take the water and nutrients from the plants and in some cases they have harmful chemicals in their tissues that make it harder for other plants to grow.”

The City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department is looking for volunteers who will stop invasive plant species growing in the Griffy Lake Nature Preserve with the Adopt-an-Acre program.

As part of the program, volunteers will be trained and wielded by the beginning of April with the proper tools, such as weed wrenches, to clear their assigned plot, Cotter said. They will be required to inspect their plot of land at least once a month.

Cotter said he was pleased with the first round of Adopt-an-Acre volunteers.

“We’re set for this round, but we plan to recruit again for the fall,” Cotter said. “We wanted to get five and we received 10 applications, so we’re deciding what to do about the difference of the number. We’re excited that there’s that much interest.”

One of the Adopt-an-Acre volunteers, Dick Stumpner, said he signed up for the program to take responsibility for his effect on the ?environment.

“Doing something like this is tied to sustainability, but not just sustainability as it relates to energy matters,” Stumpner said. “These plants have gotten foothold because of human activities and I’ve seen personally what happens when they get out of control.”

Residents who wish to assist in the fight against Bloomington’s invasive species but are unable to volunteer for the next Adopt-an-Acre program can still help with half the battle by being aware of what these invasive species are, then refraining from planting them, ?Cotter said.

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