Arlington Receives Grant to Further Invasive Plant Removal, Restore H

Published on November 29, 2017

  • County will develop five-year plan to restore and maintain natural meadows along W&OD

  • Grant supports regional partnership

Arlington's Parks and Recreation toolbox to manage nonnative invasive plants just got bigger.

The County has received a $140,000 grant through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's "Pulling Together Initiative" to identify and remove invasive plants along the 45-mile Washington and Old Dominion (W&OD) trail. The grant amount will be utilized through September 2018.

The project will include completing an inventory of invasive plant species and infestation levels, developing and implementing a five-year plan to clear the plants, improving techniques and training to manage the inventoried plants, and educating nearby homeowners in curbing nonnative plant use.

The grant will also support Parks and Recreation's development of a Cooperative Weed Management Area, which will bring together local jurisdictions, state and federal agencies, nonprofits and for-profits to encourage community buy-in and support to stop the spread of invasive species while restoring natural habitats.

"Invasive plants don't care if they grow on public or private land or whose jurisdiction they are in," said Alex Sanders, Arlington County project coordinator. "By working together, we will better manage the invasive plants in our area and help homeowners join in the effort."

Building regional partnerships and awareness

The general concept of the recently awarded grant—removing invasive species—is not new. What is new, however, is the cooperative approach among several regional partners. These include the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William; cities of Alexandria and Falls Church; the towns of Herndon and Leesburg; the community of Reston; the Virginia Department of Forestry; the National Park Service; NOVA Parks; Dominion Energy; and nonprofits Master Naturalists, Earth Sangha and Friends of the W&OD.

"Better coordination, improved techniques and enhanced community education are really the one-two-three punch needed to make an impact," said Sarah Archer, Arlington County Natural Resources Specialist. "Our partners have ongoing efforts to remove invasive plants and restore habitat. Working together, our unified approach is sure to have a greater impact in the next five years and far-off future."

Making strides against invasive plants

Invasive plant species are a widespread problem. Because they are not native to the area, they have a tendency to spread easily and push out native species. Common invasives in our area include the English ivy and kudzu dangling on trees, the honeysuckle along fences and shrubs, and the bamboo crowding out shrubs and trees. Not only do invasives compete with native plants, they are poor habitat for local animals and insects and can harm these native populations.

Local cooperative efforts are making a difference. For example, last spring Dominion Energy mowed green space beneath the power line along the W&OD Trail, and staff and contractors treated the area. By June a mix of native species, including common milkweed (essential to the monarch butterfly), dogbane and sensitive fern had returned. Another recent success is the Magnolia Bog in Barcroft Park. The globally-rare habitat had been overtaken by invasives, but thanks to removal efforts by volunteers and staff, the bog now hosts new and increased appearances of species like little wood satyr butterflies, rusty blackbirds and the gray fox, along with uncommon-to-Arlington, but healthy, plants like bloodroot and wood anemone.

Want to help? Volunteers always welcome.