Program: Regional Inlet Invasive Plants Program (RIIPP)
Organization: Town of Inlet, NY
Target plants: Japanese, giant and bohemian knotweed (Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) species)
Volunteer base: 10 active volunteers
Acreage managed: NA
Budget: Raised $10,000 in donations as of 2010
Paid staff: All volunteer with support from Town of Inlet
A full-time resident of Boston, Dr. Doug Johnson seems like an unlikely coordinator of an invasive plant control project in the Adirondacks. Yet, an active outdoor enthusiast, Doug spends many weekends since 1971 in West Townsend, VT where has had witnessed the spread of Japanese knotweed from front yards to roadside ditches and on to streams and rivers. He has vacationed every year of his life to 7th Lake, Inlet, NY in the Adirondacks; a place where Japanese knotweed is only starting to take root.
Doug thanks Vermont for motivating him to organize the Regional Inlet Invasive Plants Program (RIIPP), which launched in the summer of 2007. The goal of RIIPP is to rid the entire Adirondack Park of Japanese, giant and bohemian knotweed, which are fortunately only early detection species. In the first summer Doug worked with local business owners to control knotweed along 40 store fronts in downtown Inlet. Since then, tens of thousands of knotweed canes have been injected and tens of thousands of additional plants sprayed with herbicide (glyphosate) in over 50 sites in Inlet, Eagle Bay, Webb, Indian Lake, and Blue Mountain Lake. Many sites are near shores, rivers, and streams, which are very important to treat to prevent downstream spread of knotweed.
Crucial to their success has been the support offered by the Town Clerk of Inlet who collects permission forms and tax-deductible donations and handles the paperwork for pesticide use. Besides partnering with local business owners Doug has received support from The Nature Conservancy and the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District. To date RIIPP have raised $10,000 in donations and 80-100 permissions from local landowners.
RIIPP has about 8 active volunteer invasive plant coordinators who identify and assess properties for knotweed; get permission from property owners to treat knotweed; and raise money to pay for herbicides and hiring contractors. New York does not allow volunteers who are not certified to apply herbicides on land they don’t own so the invasive plant control work is done by Doug or hired out to a contractor. Initially The Nature Conservancy helped with training (plant ID and control strategies) but because volunteers mainly focus on outreach and fundraising there hasn’t been much training since then. Doug is the glue that binds everything together—he coordinates the 8 invasive plant coordinators, coordinates the Town of Inlet, maintains his pesticide certification, conducts about 40 hours of control work/year and writes grants.
RIIPP has been most successful at obtaining high control results using the stem injection method for large canes with spraying of small plants as well as increasing public awareness via the invasive plant coordinators, articles in the local paper and highly visible control projects. Raising enough money to pay certified applicators is a huge barrier; they have permission to treat more properties than they have money for. There is no state or federal funding allocated at the local level for small-scale projects and RIIPP cannot enlist the help of non-certified volunteers for treating knotweed. In addition, there’s a limited 2-month season to treat knotweed with herbicides (best done from when it starts to flower through first hard frost, when nutrients and herbicide are taken to root system) so RIIPP has struggled to secure labor for such a short work season.
Doug sees the following elements as critical to a successful invasive plant management program:
1. Develop a reliable group of people to do the control work—get volunteers certified or hire someone to do the control work;
2. Partner with a non-profit or government agency to serve as the organizing agent for collecting permission forms and to provide a mechanism for people to make tax-deductible donations.
3. Find a proverbial “sugar daddy” to provide financial support as grants are not a reliable fundraising option in this economic climate.
4. Develop a network of local community members who are critical for getting the word out, locating sites, obtaining permissions, and showing applicators where the treatment sites are.