TILT pursues funding to combat invasive plant on Carleton Island

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CAPE VINCENT — An infestation of pale swallow-wort on Carleton Island has prompted the The Thousand Islands Land Trust to pursue state funding to remove it.

TILT will submit its application for the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Invasive Species Rapid Response and Control grant by Friday for equipment needed to control, if not eradicate, the invasive plant, which has spread across approximately 40 to 50 acres of grassland and forest on the island, said Brandon J. Hollis, trust stewardship director. DEC can award each recipient from $11,000 to $100,000, according to the state Grants Reform website.

“If we don’t act now, the invasive species will have an opportunity to utilize nearby islands as stepping stones to move further into the seaway and greater Thousand Islands Region,” Mr. Hollis said.

Pale swallow-wort, also know as the “dog-strangling vine,” is a member of the milkweed family with dark green leaves, slim seed pods and red-pink flowers that can form dense mats along the ground and climb up shrub branches.

Mr. Hollis said this non-native species can crowd out local vegetation, “choke out” native milkweed species that monarch butterfly larvae use for food and inhibit grassland birds from nesting in afflicted areas. Mr. Hollis said pale swallow wort can also lower property values.

“There are no natural enemies or predators for this plant,” said Spencer T. Busler, director of land conservation for TILT.

TILT plans to remove the pale swallow-wort infestation by mowing it with brush hogs attached to either tractors or skid-steers.

The land trust used this method on Grenadier Island for three years as part of an ongoing effort to control the species over a five-year contract with DEC, Mr. Hollis said. The trust may use herbicide for certain areas depending on their proximity to water and if the trust receives permission from landowners.

“That’s a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Hollis said. “We would be subcontracting that out.”

While waiting for the DEC’s decision in May, Mr. Hollis said TILT must receive letters of permission to control the species from the 10-12 property owners who each own parcels within the afflicted area, adding that the trust has already received 75 percent of those letters.

After its initial discovery four or five years ago, Mr. Hollis said TILT has mapped and monitored the spread of pale swallow-wort and worked with the Carleton Island Pale Swallow-Wort group to educate and garner support from island residents.

“(The land owners) have realized that this is an island-wide problem,” he said.

(See original article.)

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