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SWCD fighting forest invasives through Good Neighbor Authority

The Madison County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) is working with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) and the U.S. Forest Service to manage invasive species through Good Neighbor Authority (GNA).

The district has five shovel-ready projects identified and hopes to begin prioritizing efforts in May, Madison County SWCD Director Tyler Ross said.

“The only way we’re going to get this stuff done for the future is for all of us to come together,” he said. “It’s a great partnership. Once we get the green light, we’ll develop a plan of attack.”

Madison County SWCD is working with the Appalachian Ranger District ranger and botanist and NEPA officer to develop projects that fall under the GNA agreement. Each will focus on invasive species eradication on federally managed lands, on the Appalachian Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest. Ross and Soil Conservationist Brandon Young have earned chainsaw certification for the Forest Service and licensure for public pesticide operations. They also have the ability to assist with prescribed burns.

Under the GNA agreement, Ross and Young are able to use best management practices that they already plan and oversee for the projects.

“It’s giving us an opportunity to expand our knowledge locally and do research with the Forest Service on eradicating nonnative species,” Ross said.

GNA allows the Forest Service to enter into agreements with state forestry agencies to do critical management work to keep forests healthy and productive. Few conservation districts have been directly involved in GNA agreements since the program rollout; Madison County SWCD is working with the NCDA&CS Division of Soil and Water Conservation on these projects.

“It fits into the directive of the district from a water quality standpoint,” Ross said.

Madison County is the driest in the state, but the area has had multiple storm events that resemble 500-year storms. The result is stream degradation and erosion, which has opened areas for invasive plants, such as Japanese knotweed, to replace natives like red twig dogwood and black willow in disturbed areas.

“We’re in a diverse area,” Ross said. “Non-native invasives really upsets the diversity and mosaics of the landscape. This can lead to issues for wildlife and the overall health of the landscape.”

More than 15 acres, including land along a popular hiking trail and the Appalachian Ranger District headquarters, are scheduled for chemical treatment, weed eaters and chainsaw and stump treatments to remove invasive species such as autumn olive, Japanese knotweed and Chinese silver grass.

“One of the biggest things our landowners call us about is how to treat invasives,” Ross said. “We have to make sure whatever we’re using will work with the area we’re in, and this partnership will give us an opportunity to find what is going to work best.”

Madison County SWCD will also be involved in monitoring and follow-up treatments as needed for five years after the initial application and treatment.

Tags: Forestry, Forestry Notes

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