Adirondack Park, NY

Background

Setting priorities and tracking progress on a landscape scale

GLPC Editor’s Note: This case study showcases prioritized management over a large service area, careful management of small patches, consistent monitoring, and successful community outreach efforts.  This model is most applicable for organizations that can support dedicated full-time staff, and possibly hire and equip a seasonal rapid response team.

Authors: Brendan Quirion and Zachary Simek

The Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program (APIPP) was founded in 1998 as the Adirondack Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM), the first of eight PRISMs in New York. APIPP is a partnership program whose mission is to protect the Adirondack region from the negative impacts of invasive species. It was founded by the Adirondack Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), and New York State Adirondack Park Agency (APA). Since 1998, the partnership has grown to more than 30 cooperating organizations and supports more than 600 volunteers.

APIPP began comprehensive non-native Phragmites australis control efforts in 2011.  These initial treatments occurred within a 3.7 million acre region, known as the Core Area (see map), of the PRISM. The PRISM covers nearly seven million acres of public and private lands that encompass the entire Adirondack Park and portions of northern Clinton and Franklin Counties. As of 2015, the Core Area contained 339 known infestations of non-native Phragmites, typically less than 0.1 acres but up to 1.43 acres. Most infestations occurred within emergent or forested wetland complexes, in wet drainage ditches, or on fill piles or waste areas.

APIPP faces several challenges, including sustaining sufficient staff capacity to handle the quantity and remoteness of land that must be surveyed and managed, and completing management in the short 5-month growing season of northern New York.

This map shows the Core Area and the boundary of the APIPP PRISM

Partnerships and Administration

APIPP-StrategicPlan

This strategic plan provides long-term guidance for the whole partnership.

APIPP provides regional invasive species programming and coordination, including invasive species prevention, surveillance, mapping, management, monitoring, education, and outreach. In addition, APIPP conducts priority invasive species research, through collaborations with partner organizations and external contracts. This helps influence policies and leverage support for new initiatives. APIPP has three full time staff (a Program Coordinator, Aquatic Invasive Species Project Coordinator, and Terrestrial Invasive Species Project Coordinator) and a seasonal intern. APIPP also contracts seasonally with professional invasive plant management companies that serve as invasive species regional response teams. These teams typically consist of four field staff working full-time from late-June through late-September and assist with surveying, monitoring, and managing priority invasive species infestations. The teams receive working orders from APIPP staff, but are self-directed in the field.

The partnership is guided by the Adirondack Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management – Invasive Species Strategic Plan, written by a subset of APIPP staff and partners, and approved by the whole partnership in 2013. The plan is periodically reviewed by partners through the APIPP listserv and at bi-annual APIPP meetings.

From 2011 through 2013, APIPP received funding from an anonymous private foundation to pilot an invasive species response team approach, which supported seasonal staff to address invasive plant infestations across the Adirondack PRISM.  In 2014, a lapse in funding greatly reduced the work completed; however, because of the successful results of the pilot team’s work, APIPP’s new 2015 contract with the NYSDEC contained funding for response teams over the next five years. This  contract funding is provided through the New York State Environmental Protection Fund out of the invasive species line. Moving forward, APIPP will continue to focus intensive management efforts in the Core Area, but will gradually expand into surrounding areas of the PRISM over time.

Response team members. Image courtesy of APIPP

Management crews work to eliminate infestations throughout the Core Area. Image courtesy of APIPP

Management Objectives

The Adirondack Park contains an estimated 600,000 acres of wetlands, most of which are in pristine, wild, and native states. APIPP’s control efforts aim to reduce the abundance of non-native Phragmites within the Core Area, in order to promote biodiversity of native species, maintain natural areas and their aesthetics, promote road safety by maintaining lines of sight, and prevent the continued spread of the species. Specific long-term control objectives for non-native Phragmites were established using The Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Plant Management Decision Analysis Tool (IPMDAT) and include:

  1. Eliminate all known non-native Phragmites infestations within the Core Area of the Adirondack PRISM that are outside of the town/hamlet areas by 2021.
  2. Eliminate all new non-native Phragmites infestations in the project area at a rate that is faster than they occur over the next 10 years.

These lofty management goals challenge staff and promote excellence in the program, have measurable outcomes to keep the project on track, and support multifaceted objectives that benefit nature and people.

This map shows the potential wetland impact of an expanding patch of Phragmites. Map courtesy of APIPP

Prioritization

APIPP uses a multi-tiered science-based prioritization framework that guides management efforts.  Non-native Phragmites was identified as a priority invasive species for management within the Adirondack PRISM due to its high level of invasiveness under New York’s non-native plant threat ranking assessment process, and its ability to quickly invade and degrade wetland habitat. The Core Area was prioritized for management due to low levels of disturbance, few roads, abundance of protected land, relatively low human population, and low invasive species abundances and infestation sizes. These qualities indicated promising opportunities for long-term invasive species management success.

When selecting infestations to be managed, priority is given to areas where there is the greatest potential for spread and the opportunity for high conservation returns. Such areas include roadsides where plants may be spread by mowing or the movement of contaminated fill, and wetlands where plants can easily spread via rhizome growth and overtake native wetland habitat. In addition, management efforts focus on true early detection and rapid response infestations that are still localized and where eradication is a likely outcome. Based on APIPP’s management data collected since 2011, infestations under one tenth of an acre prior to treatment had the highest likelihood of being successfully eradicatedOther research has suggested that infestations with an original gross acreage of one hectare or less have the highest likelihood for successful eradication.

This map shows the potential wetland impacts of expanding patches of Phragmites throughout the PRISM. Map courtesy of APIPP

TNC’s IPMDAT uses forms and decision trees to help you make decisions about management needs and appropriate actions

Several tools also help set management priorities, including New York’s Non-Native Plant Species Invasiveness Assessment, The Nature Conservancy’s Invasive Plant Management Decision Analysis Tool (IPMDAT), the Weed Information Management System (WIMS, a program that is now archived), and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). Unfortunately, these tools are not designed to accommodate external data sets or account for any level of uncertainty in the known distribution of the target species (New Hampshire has attempted to create a comprehensive management area prioritization tool that accounts for these issues). Nevertheless, these tools have allowed APIPP to prioritize which invasive species to focus on, identify areas with the highest likelihood for success and/or conservation returns, and determine which projects are feasible given resource constraints.

Policy and Regulations

In March 2014, the part 575 regulations of New York State’s Invasive Species Prevention Act went into effect. These regulations prohibit specific invasive species, including non-native Phragmites, from being sold, imported, purchased, transported, or propagated in New York. APIPP does not lobby, but provided relevant research to help inform decision making. These regulations reduce the likelihood of new unintentional, or purposeful human introductions of non-native Phragmites, allowing management programs like APIPP to focus on addressing historic infestations.

APIPP is required to obtain permits to perform management activities on non-native Phragmites from the state agencies that have jurisdiction over management areas (see table). Staff ensures appropriate permits are obtained for infestations based on shapefiles available on field GPS units and through GIS, used in the office when necessary.

Area of Infestation Permit obtained by APIPP
State roads  and right of ways within the Adirondack PRISM Highway Work Permit from the NYSDOT that covers all infestations within the PRISM
NYSDEC administered lands within the Adirondack Park Adopt A Natural Resource permit from the NYSDEC for each individual site
Within 100 feet of jurisdictional wetlands within the Adirondack Park General Permit from the APA that covers all infestations within the Park
Private property (requiring herbicide treatment) Commercial Lawn Care Contract with each property owner
Surface waters >1 acre in size NYSDEC Article 15 Permit for herbicide application

New York State Prohibited and Regulated Invasive Plants booklet.

Field staff can use shape files loaded on GPS units to assess the need for many permits. Photo courtesy of APIPP

While these permits give APIPP authority to manage infestations in nearly any situation, the permitting processes can take several weeks to complete, and some do not accommodate rapid response permitting. This often results in newly identified sites not being managed until the following year. In addition, APIPP is not always able to obtain permission to manage infestations on private property.

Communication and Outreach

Landowner trainings prepare citizens to manage invasive plants on their own. Images courtesy of APIPP

APIPP hosts numerous presentations and events about invasive species and provides at least 3 trainings per summer to landowners on how to manage invasive plants on their own properties. Since APIPP focuses most of its management in areas of high conservation value or on infestations that have high spread potential, the residential areas of the PRISM receive little management. These trainings increase community awareness of invasive species issues, help combat misinformation about herbicide use, and empower property owners to address invasive plant problems on their own properties. APIPP also coordinates with the other seven NYS PRISMs and NYSDEC on New York State’s annual invasive species awareness week, hosts a biweekly seasonal blog, and has reached over 11,000 people through formal presentations alone between 2009 and 2015.

APIPP hires a seasonal educator who oversees their education and outreach efforts and serves as a liaison to private property owners to assist in obtaining treatment permissions for private property. APIPP developed education and outreach materials to complement this position, including invasive plant best management practice guidelines for home owners, which summarizes information regarding species identification and management techniques, as well as invasive plant door hangers that are designed to be left on a property owner’s door when an infestation has been observed on their property but no one is home. When response teams are conducting road corridor surveys, landowners are often approached directly when infestations are identified on their property.  If infestations on private property are identified as a priority for management, APIPP covers treatment costs.

This door hanger is used to communicate with private landowners.

This four-page guide serves as a quick reference for landowners.

Since road corridors and their maintenance serve as primary conduits for spreading non-native Phragmites, APIPP attends and presents at NYSDOT/highway department trainings, conducts site visits, and coordinates management activities with highway department staff. APIPP maps and flags large infestations along the road corridor for DOT to manage. All of this management data is tracked in the WIMS database. APIPP also collaborated with NYSDOT to produce an invasive plant best management practices document for road corridors.

Management

The goal for each management site within the Core Area is to eliminate invasive plant cover, while minimizing off target impacts to desirable native species, so that the site will be re-colonized with a plant assemblage similar to the surrounding habitat. To achieve this, APIPP primarily uses herbicide application by stem injection or foliar spray depending on the size and density of the infestation, quantity of intermixed native vegetation, and proximity to desirable plant communities or sensitive habitats.

Field staff clip the stems of non-native Phragmites and inject them with glyphosate. Photos courtesy of APIPP

Large stands require spray-lanes for easier access and better herbicide coverage. Photo courtesy of APIPP

Where there is concern for off target impacts, stem injection is used. The stem injection, or clip and drip, method is performed using a JK Injection tool and a 50% solution of glyphosate.  Large, monotypic stands of non-native Phragmites are more likely to receive foliar spray applications or a combination of techniques. Foliar spray applications are made with backpack sprayers containing a 0.75-1.5% solution of glyphosate mixed with a non-ionic surfactant. Both techniques also include the use of a marker dye to indicate which plants have been treated in order to prevent over application.  For large stands, spray lanes are cut the length of the patch, spaced every six to eight feet. The spray lanes provide easier access and facilitate complete coverage when applying the foliar spray. Each stem in the spray lane is cut a few inches from the ground and treated with a 50% solution of glyphosate via stem injection. Additionally, a three foot radius around native shrubs is treated with stem injection to minimize impacts during subsequent foliar spraying.

Treatments are conducted beginning in July, when the plants are nearing full height and/or inflorescence, and are completed  in early September, at least three weeks before the first hard killing frost, allowing sufficient time for the herbicide to translocate to the roots. The following spring, the dead standing plant material is cut down using brush cutters, opening the canopy and promoting native plant recovery at the site. Since APIPP’s management sites are usually less than an acre in size, native plant recovery occurs naturally, and active restoration, such as planting or reseeding, is usually not required.

Repeated applications over consecutive growing seasons has led to the absence of non-native Phragmites at 164 of APIPP’s historic treatment sites within the Core Area.  Management efforts have been most successful for infestations that are .1 acres or smaller. All treatments are performed by certified pesticide applicators or technicians including APIPP staff and contracted response teams.

Management efforts have historically focused within the Core Area, but APIPP hopes to address many of the infestations that fall outside this area over the coming years. Because the PRISM includes areas outside of the Core Area, some stakeholders perceive this prioritization as neglecting those areas. As non-native Phragmites infestations within the Core Area are reduced and eliminated, APIPP will  shift resources to also manage outlying infestations.

Dead standing plant material is cut with brush cutters the spring after a fall herbicide treatment. Photo courtesy of APIPP

Pre-treatment acreage of 164 managed Phragmites infestations that have achieved “No Phragmites Observed” or “eliminated” status as of 2015. Image courtesy of APIPP

Core Area Management Yearly Program Totals
Year # Site Treated Acres Treated # Sites Eliminated
2011 110 2.40 0
2012 120 1.94 0
2013 141 3.57 3
2014 106 1.68 24
2015 142 5.77 56

Monitoring

To track the progress of each individual management site over time, APIPP conducts annual monitoring.  Each site has an annual photo log which is compared against previous years to assess trends in plant recovery. In addition, spatial data is collected annually using GPS and the Weed Information Management System (WIMS) to document any changes in the size and/or percent cover of non-native Phragmites infestations. Although it is challenging to collect photos and data quickly and efficiently, it is important to monitor each site.

More thorough monitoring is also conducted at several sites to document the change in species composition following treatment activities. Native species richness and density is compared between plots located inside and outside of a treated infestation, with the desire that the interior native plant assemblage will eventually match the exterior native plant assemblage. Because this monitoring is more extensive, it is not conducted at every site, and therefore provides a more narrow understanding of the native plant recovery that does not necessarily scale across the larger landscape.

Yearly patch comparisons are made possible through GIS and WIMS. This progression shows a decline in the size and percent cover of a patch. Images courtesy of APIPP

Repeated management over consecutive growing seasons is often required to see positive results. Image courtesy of APIPP

Photo monitoring allows staff to assess trends over time. Photos courtesy of APIPP

The monitoring reports are used to adapt management strategies in order to increase treatment efficacy and facilitate native plant recovery. For example, APIPP has modified its management actions over time to increase efficacy and reduce off-target impacts by incorporating more stem injection and mowing dead standing plant material the spring after treatment. The monitoring reports also help demonstrate successful management to APIPP partners.

Based on APIPP’s Phragmites management and monitoring results,164 of the 339 infestations, originally identified within the Core Area, have been documented as having no non-native Phragmites observed for at least one year. Fifty-eight of these sites have had no non-native Phragmites observed for two consecutive years and 56 have been documented as having no non-native Phragmites observed for at least three consecutive years. APIPP classifies an infestation as eliminated after three consecutive years of a documented absence of non-native Phragmites at the site.

Data and Information Integration

Prior to 2010, data was collected on paper forms.

Prior to 2010, APIPP relied on hand written data sheets for its Phragmites monitoring and management data collection. In 2010 APIPP transitioned to using electronic data forms in TNC’s Weed Information Management System (WIMS), allowing for an increase in the efficiency of data collection, better organization and quality control of data, and the ability to perform long-term trend analyses. In 2015, APIPP purchased ruggedized android tablets to replace Trimble GPS units for data collection. APIPP hopes to transition away from WIMS to an updated invasive species management data collection system over the coming years.

Although it is a challenge to standardize data for sharing, APIPP submits its data to New York’s iMap invasives database, to contribute to the broader-scale documentation of invasive species in the state.

APIPP-TrendGraph

Trend graphs help staff improve management tactics.

APIPP documents management trends over time with trend graphs, and uses this data to adapt management strategies. Although data processing and analysis can be time consuming, the benefits in terms of adaptive management are worthwhile.

Thank you!

The GLPC would like to thank the following case study authors and contributors for their hard work and commitment to a great product.

Brendan Quirion
Program Coordinator
Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program
[email protected]

Zachary Simek
Terrestrial Invasive Species Project Coordinator
Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program
[email protected]

Invasive Plant Control Inc.
Terrestrial Response Teams
[email protected]