The Valley Reporter – Additional funding is needed to combat invasive species

Early this year, the Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston conservation commissions will receive a $100,000 federal grant to continue their work managing invasive species – primarily knotweed – in The Valley watershed. Because this grant requires a contribution from local cities, the committees are gearing up for fundraising this spring.

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At an April 9 meeting of the Fayston Select Board, Andrea Henderson and Brian Litmans, co-chairs of the Fayston Conservation Commission, asked the board for permission to host a fundraising campaign so the town could participate in the grant, which was awarded by the Lake Champlain Basin. Program.

The grant will be used over the course of two years. It requires a local match of $50,000 – or $25,000 per year. In combining their funding, the three cities – known as the Tri-town Conservation Commission – fall a bit short. While Waitsfield and Warren set aside a combined $25,000 in their city budgets, Fayston — who has a group of volunteer community members involved in the knotweed efforts — did not. Litmans said the city was asked to contribute $5,000.

According to Jito Coleman, chairman of the Warren Conservation Commission, the Tri-town Commission has spent a total of about $35,000 on efforts to manage knotweed in The Valley watershed. Waitsfield and Warren’s funding came directly from town budgets – approved on Town Meeting Day, while Fayston’s funding came from ARPA funds.

The select board expressed support for the committee’s future fundraising efforts, as Chairman Chuck Martel said, “I think the message is: move forward.” Certain board members agreed that it would be helpful to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) drafted and signed by the three cities outlining their roles.

The Warren Conservation Commission began its efforts to manage knotweed about five years ago. They worked with a modest budget and a local high school intern. Today, the tri-city commission has access to more funding, a network of local volunteers, six interns and a program manager from the University of Vermont’s Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources. Henderson said the overall effort has become more scientific through the UVM collaboration.

“But we won’t win this battle until we have a program that lasts five to 10 years,” Coleman said.

According to the federal grant application, the funds will be used to continue invasive species eradication efforts along the Mad River and in the uplands and tributaries. The group will clear the knotweed propagules spread by the December 2023 flood on ten floodplains and increase the number of knotweed pests to be combated from 145 in 2023 to 175 in 2024/2025.

They will also plant 1,272 native trees and shrubs at five high-priority riparian sites along the Mad River where knotweed is managed, implement a monitoring program to measure the effectiveness of their management methods, and test mechanical methods for fumigating knotweed-infested gravel, under more other tasks.

“We would like to raise money for a more robust program,” Litmans told the board. “Fighting invasive species in The Valley is a multi-year project, and we are in this together with other cities for the long term. The more we can do to help the community recognize the threat of invasive invasions and help cities in this collaborative effort, the better we can build the program over time.”