Falmouth plans campaign against invasive plants

  • Mail this page!
  • Delicious
  • 0

FALMOUTH — The Conservation Commission is expanding its invasive plant species eradication efforts.

The plan, which will cost $15,000 and was already built into the municipal budget, includes ongoing educational efforts on the problems these plants create, new policies and ordinances to reduce the spread of invasive plant species, and expanded eradication of roadside populations and heavy infestations on town-owned properties.

Commission member Nancy Lightbody said the plan is important because of the risks invasive species pose to native plants.

“They crowd them out, they threaten biodiversity, they out-compete native species and destroy nesting opportunities for birds,” Lightbody said. She added the berries of the plants can be harmful to birds, and some invasive species can harbor up to “eight times as many deer tick larvae.”

Robert Shafto, the town’s open space ombudsman, said there are six to eight problematic species, including multi-floral rose, Japanese honeysuckle, bittersweet, buckthorn and Japanese barberry.

“They have no enemies,” Shafto said. He added insects don’t eat these plants, they aren’t susceptible to disease, and are quick to take over the habitat.

Eradication along roadsides in parts of West Falmouth would likely be done by Vegetation Control Services, a Massachusetts-based contractor, although a contract has not been signed. A low-concentration herbicide mix will be used as the control agent, which Lightbody said does not pose a risk to native plants or animals.

“We’ve checked it out many times, and the amount (the contractor) would apply is minuscule compared to the area,” she said.

The herbicide would not eradicate anything else growing in the area, Lightbody said, and the contractor’s work will be adjusted for the weather: on windy days there wouldn’t be spraying, in order to contain the herbicide.

Lightbody emphasized this is a pilot project that hasn’t been tried before in Falmouth. She said there will be public meetings to explain the process to abutters, who may choose not to have the treatment done to the edge of their property.

The town-owned properties being suggested for treatment include Falmouth Community Park, Underwood Park, and Hardy Road Conservation Area. This work would cost about $5,000, Lightbody said, while the roadside work would likely account for the rest.

Lightbody said the work would likely begin at the end of August, because that’s when the plants begin growing berries, and they don’t want the berries to drop.

Shafto said late summer and early fall is when the plants are most “susceptible to treatment.”

Lightbody said she isn’t sure exactly how long the eradication efforts would take, although it may only be days.

The commission is also proposing expanding an existing ordinance to ban the sale, importation and planting of designated invasive plant species in town, and expanding the town’s list of prohibited plants.

It is also proposing that performance bond requirements for developers include a provision that their developments be certified free of invasive plants by the Conservation Commission, and an acceptance requirement for new subdivision roads to include a provision that the commission certify the roads as free of invasives as a condition for town acceptance.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.