Did you know that invasive vines can wreak havoc on forests?
Meet Jared Parks and Victoria Spice
Maryland forests are diverse, dynamic systems that would not be sustainable without people like Victoria Spice and Jared Parks keeping watch on the lower Eastern Shore. From the edges to the understory, invasive species are an ever-present threat to our woodlands. It’s the work done by Lower Shore Land Trust, including impactful projects on the ground guided by Spice and Parks, the nonprofit’s Land Programs Manager, that will keep our forests healthy.
Spice is now a weed control specialist with the MD Department of Agriculture’s Plant Protection & Weed Management Program, but her collaboration with Parks on battling wisteria consuming the forest and tree canopy of Pemberton Park in Wicomico County is where she learned “no invasive species project is ever complete.” This perseverance and patience is key in rolling with the punches that Mother Nature throws at natural resource professionals such as Spice and Parks who continually have to adapt land management and restoration practices.
The Pemberton project arose from the Wicomico County Natural Resource Conservation Advisory Committee (NRCAC). Parks recalls back in 2018 the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Forest Service county forester Matt Hurd at the time had brought the concern about invasive species up to the committee. Eventually, Wicomico County offered some money toward the effort, which the Lower Shore Land Trust used to hire a grant writer to apply for a Chesapeake Bay Trust Outreach & Restoration grant that was awarded in 2019.
“Pemberton rose straight to the top based on a couple of committee member’s knowledge of the infestation of wisteria there,” Parks explains. The Wicomico park ended up having over 14 acres blanketed by wisteria, requiring a multi-pronged —or multi-leafed, excuse the pun — approach. “You had to look and determine whether it was a tree or vine you were looking at. You couldn’t see the forest,” says Spice.
With a forest stand blanketed so heavily as it was in Pemberton, Spice and Parks decided to reach out to a forester and assess the trees in sections to determine proper treatment for vine removal when initial foliar treatments weren’t doing much. Once seeing de-branched trees that would die in a short period of time, timber harvest became a viable, cost-effective option to tackle the infestation. A community volunteer known by an NRCAC board member donated his services to log that portion of Pemberton due to his love of the land from hunting there as a child. This local steward “knew how much this work would improve forest health,” Spice says.
To educate the very community it serves, the Lower Shore Land Trust — as part of the grant funds matching with the county — incorporated three large signs into the timber harvest part of the project, “one at the parking lot and two at the site so that anybody coming by would see and be able to read the signs and understand what was going on.” Spice notes,” We didn’t hear any outcry because it had been that bad, it had looked that bad.”
The Trust has also worked with county staff to educate them on the invasives threat and is utilizing the app EDDMaps to log and map invasive species found on site. As part of the CBT grant, they also produced an invasive species guide, available on their website. Parks emphasizes that depending on the property owner, how they manage their invasives problem and their land overall varies with the type of forest and their individual goals.
Two alternative options that were heavily considered, but not employed, in managing the forest health and renewal at Pemberton were prescribed burn and biocontrol, in the form of plant-munching goats. Spice adds how managed fire “is absolutely a great alternative to controlling invasive species, especially in our situation where the forest was so poor that we didn’t really have anything to save.” She cites the local company Eco Goats as something to consider depending on landowner preference. “They’ll eat anything!” Spice exclaims.
Innovation and collaboration are the only ways the staff of Lower Shore Land Trust can keep pace with our continually evolving landscape. One of their grant deliverables was to create a network of stakeholders on the lower Eastern Shore to look at and combat the invasive species problem.
The Lower Eastern Shore-Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) was formed, with the city of Salisbury, all three Lower Shore counties, and 6 other parties overall signed on to the agreement. Although Spice has moved over to MDA, she will continue to volunteer as chair of PRISM. “I think the missions go hand in hand. Maybe we can get MDA now as a partner for PRISM and the Plant Protection & Weed Management Program,” she says.
One of the things Parks and Spice are most proud of, which came out of the CBT grant, is creating a county-level invasives plant coordinator position in Wicomico and soon to be one in Somerset. This coordinator will be tasked with implementing SHA contracts to spray for noxious weeds along state highways and is also available to private citizens. “They’re literally just a resource for invasive species knowledge and management,” says Spice.
Parks notes that the Lower Shore Land Trust was the grant applicant for this project since this work goes “hand in hand with one of our main programs to improve habitat for pollinators.” Not all green is good and it’s helpful to know the difference between what you should be putting in your yard for our native species and to bolster our wildlife and not to take away from it by planting these species.” Lower Shore Land Trust works across the tri-county area to assist landowners to identify conservation options for their properties. LSLT holds close to 140 conservation easements over nearly 25,000 acres. According to Parks, many of their easement properties are battling with invasives of some sort, and identifying the problem is the first step in finding a solution.
With Parks and Spice an integral part of their respective nonprofit and government agencies battling invasives, our state’s forests and trees have two incredible allies that are bringing people together in tackling a centuries-in-the-making issue — one which will take every generation to resolve and restore a sustainable, native landscape.
Pictured above: Jared and Victoria onsite at Pemberton Historical Park
Photo Credit: EDWIN REMSBERG PHOTOGRAPHS
Written By: Francis Smith, Natural Resource Planner- Maryland Forest Service
Project Support: Maryland DNR as part of the Delmarva Woodland Stewards Grant
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LINKS TO LEARN MORE:
Lower Shore Land Trust
Invasive Species Toolkit
Lower Shore Land Trust Native Plant Guide
Chesapeake Bay Trust
Maryland's Forests- Great for the Environment and the Economy
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