Highlands Invasives Project

Invasive species are one of the greatest threats to the biotic communities of the Highlands Region. These invaders are wreaking havoc to the forests and waters of the region and cost millions of dollars every year to manage. In response to the encroachment of invasive species, state governments, universities, non-profit organizations, and citizens groups are taking action to protect their natural heritage.

HEnRI believes that helping to protect the biodiversity of the Highlands Region is one of our most important duties, and as a consequence has begun the Highlands Invasives Project. This project has been initiated to help coordinate the multitude of efforts across the four-state region of the Highlands in order to more efficiently and effectively combat the spread of invasives. Since invasive species do not stop at state or county borders, HEnRI will help to promote a regional perspective to solving this monumental problem.

Phragmites Eradication at Iona Island:

In 2008, HEnRI began work with its partners to manage invasive Phragmites australis at Iona Island Marsh in Bear Mountain State Park, NY. Our partners, the Palisades Parks Conservancy and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) received a three-year grant award through the NY Department of Environmental Conservation's (DEC) Aquatic Invasive Species Eradication Program. While not an official grant recipient, HEnRI staff donated their time to lead monitoring efforts in the marsh including coordinating volunteer bird and plant surveys.

The three-year term of this grant is complete. However, HEnRI continues to work the with PIPC and DEC to monitor the efforts at Iona. Bird and plant monitoring will continue through 2013.

The Mile-A-Minute Project of the Hudson Valley:

In 2010, HEnRI took over responsibility for the management of the Mile-A-Minute Project of the Hudson Valley from the DEC. This project, started in 2004, utilizes regional education efforts, mechanical control, and biocontrol to manage the spread of this vine through the Valley. Led by Student Conservation Association (SCA) interns, this project has led to the mapping of hundreds of known Mile-A-Minute sites and the eradication of dozens of patches through hand-pulling. Currently, the majority of our efforts are focused on a grant from the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to release and monitor biocontrol agents to slow the spread of this plant.

For more information on this project, please visit the project website: Mile-A-Minute Project of the Hudson Valley

The Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM):

Recently, in response to the threats posed by invasive species, a Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Managamenet (PRISM) has been formed. The PRISM is made up of members of local environmental organizations, state agencies, research institutes, and volunteers who are concerned about the damage being caused by invasives and wish to work together to slow their encroachment on biotic communities. HEnRI is proud to be a member of this PRISM, and continues to work with other PRISM members to detect and respond to new infestations of invasive species.

Recently, the Lower Hudson PRISM chose the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies as the host for the organization and is in the process of creating a web site that will be used to post information, inform group members, recruit volunteers, and educate the public. Once the web site is created, a link will be posted here.

Surveying by “Citizen Scientists”:

The NY-NJ Trail Conference and Rutgers University, funded by the USDA, have recently completed a three-year surveying project to determine the locations and quantities of invasive species in parts of the NY and NJ Highlands. This project relies upon "citizen scientist" volunteers to hike miles of trail in order to map the locations of phragmites, barberry, oriental bittersweet, ailanthus, and many other invasive plants.

In order to help facilitate the project, HEnRI provided its conference room to train the volunteers, and meeting space to collect and discuss the results of the work conducted during the first field season. For more information on the results of this project please visit the NY-NJ Trail Conference's web site, or the Rutgers University web site.


Managing Black Swallow-wort in Harriman State Park:

As part of our ecological management activities, HEnRI works regularly with the PIPC to monitor and manage invasive species on their lands. Last year, with the goal of "early detection and rapid response", HEnRI worked with local volunteers to identify, map, and remove several patches of invasive Black Swallow-wort. We also annually lead volunteer mechanical control efforts (hand-pulling, weed-whacking, etc...) to try to slow the spread of this plant.

If you would like to volunteer for invasive species management activities through the Highlands Environmental Research Institute, please e-mail Matthew Shook, HEnRI's Assistant Director.

Iona Island entrance with Phragmites in background
Oriental Bittersweet by Alan Wells
Viper's Bugloss by Alan Wells

Black Swallow-wort in bloom