Fish and Wildlife Service seeks community volunteers to assist in invasive plant removal

Published: Jul. 13, 2021 at 3:41 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - This Thursday July 15th the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Invasive Species Rapid Response Team will be working to remove a large thicket of bird vetch from the area surrounding the Cripple Creek restoration project. Slowing the spread of invasive species is a big job, and they are looking for as much help from the community as possible.

Christina Trimingham, Fish and Wildlife Service Invasive Species Rapid Response Team Biological Technician, explained the plan for the group effort. “We are gonna be coming out here with loppers, and bow rakes, and hand pulling, just getting as much of this vetch out of this restoration site as possible. If this vetch really chokes out this area it could impede on the salmon habitat, as well as other animals and plants that are having a resurgence with this restoration project. Additionally we just really want to make sure that none of the seed goes downstream. If it gets close to the water source, we don’t want it seeding and then getting carried downstream somewhere else.”

Trimingham told us the vetch pull will take place at the corner of Old Chena Pump Road and Chena Ridge Road, and will run from 8:00 a.m. to noon. “Bird vetch is very invasive because it’s a tendriling plant. You see it right here as a big thicket, but as it goes into these trees and whatnot, it’s really going to climb up that vegetation, and it’s really gonna start to choke it out - kind of prevent photosynthesis from happening for those trees, and basically take over and cover everything up. And of course we don’t want to just have a single plant out here, we want a nice ecosystem going for our native plants and animals, and that’s why it’s (vetch) so terrible to have around.

Some tools will be provided on site, but it’s recommended participants bring their own bow rakes and hedge shears. Other recommended items include sunscreen, bug spray, garden gloves, and a raincoat. Trimingham said, “We found that the most effective method is to have one person with a rake, and they’re kinda raking away the vetch. But of course it’s stuck to the ground so you’ve got someone else with loppers coming along to free the vetch of the ground - so if we could get people in pairs for that. But it’s also totally awesome to have people bagging the vetch, and for the more adventurous types if you want to go down into the trees and hand pull the tendrils that are climbing up the trees, that would be really really great as well.”

Removal of invasive plant species is a job too big for any one agency to handle. Trimingham said the protection of our local ecosystem will only be possible as a group effort from the larger Fairbanks community, and everyone can do their part by reporting the presence of invasive species to the Fish and Wildlife Service. “If you see a new plant or any kind of organism, an insect a plant or an animal and it’s taking over your neighborhood [and] you never noticed it before, [if] it’s growing really rapidly, we have a hotline you can call - it’s 1-877-INVASIV.”

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