West Meadow Plan to Remove Invasive

This article first appeared in the Summer 2012 Sound Update issue and was written by Anthony Graves who works for the Division of Environmental Protection at the Town of Brookhaven.

Perennial pepperweed found at West Meadow Beach (Photo by Bill Jacobs)
Perennial pepperweed found at West Meadow Beach (Photo by Bill Jacobs)

The West Meadow Beach peninsula located in Stony Brook, NY is one of the largest and most diverse coastal ecosystems on the north shore of Long Island. The peninsula is about 7,000 feet long and lies between Long Island Sound on the west and West Meadow Creek on the east. The creek side of the peninsula has extensive tidal wetlands and is divided into various parcels that are owned by Suffolk County; the Town of Brookhaven; the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, a non-profit; and the Old Field Club, a private business. In 2004 the Town began to develop a master plan for the area designed to increase public access, provide enhanced educational opportunities, and protect the native fauna and flora. This dovetailed with preservation and management efforts by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization and Suffolk County.

In 2006, as part of the master plan development, an ecological resources survey was conducted that resulted in the identification of perennial pepperweed (Lapidium latifolium) growing at the site. Perennial pepperweed, which is native to Europe and Asia, is an herbaceous perennial that is found mainly in the western US, with some infestations in New England. It forms large, dense monotypic stands that crowd out native species. It can grow in a variety of habitats including both wetlands and uplands. It occurred primarily on Town land, but also occurred in patches on the land of all four property owners. It was along the roadside and at the edge of high marsh growing in stands mixed with common reed (Phragmites sp.), poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans), and high tide bush (Baccharis sp.). The distribution of perennial pepperweed was patchy, and stands tended to be interspersed with other plants. In 2009, the Town, with support from Suffolk County received a grant from the Long Island Sound Futures Fund to attempt to eradicate perennial pepperweed from West Meadow Beach. In 2012 the Town and the Ward Melville Heritage Organization received grants from the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area to address the pepperweed. The Town worked with a consulting firm, EEA, Inc. (now a part of GEI, Inc.) to craft a plan for eradication. Prior to this the Town had reached out to Suffolk County to cooperate on the project, but had not contacted the other landowners where the Pepperweed occurred. The literature on pepperweed indicated that application of herbicide was the most effective method of control, and that manual removal was effective only when addressing small isolated populations. Suffolk County bans pesticide use on their parklands with exemptions issued by a County Pesticide Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC). The Town and EEA approached the County Pesticide CAC to request permission to use herbicide at West Meadow Beach, but in a targeted manner using hand application on individual plants. Permission was granted for this approach with the condition that all landowners approve the use of herbicide.

Initially the condition that all landowners grant permission for the application of herbicide was seen as an obstacle to the project. However, in retrospect, it was a valuable addition because it increased cooperation and communication which enhanced the probability of the project’s success. Through the summer and fall of 2011, there was extensive communication between all landowners. These communications were facilitated by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Long Island Sound Study. They included meeting with the board of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization, and information sharing among all landowners. The meetings and information sharing resulted in changes in the approach, in particular it was recognized that an artesian spring on the land of the Ward Melville Heritage Organization had been used for generations as a source of drinking water by community members and that there should be no use of herbicide in this area. This was driven more by public perception and respect for the sensitivity of the site than by any dangers posed by the herbicide (Aquamaster, a formulation of glyphosate) that was proposed for use. However, it was recognized that in projects of this sort public perception is extremely important, and that the artesian spring was viewed as pristine, a view that could be affected if herbicide were used nearby.

A plan has been crafted that is site specific and that takes an integrated approach which includes hand pulling, mowing, and herbicide application. The site-specific plan accounts for unique features of the site including sensitive wetlands and the artesian spring that is a community resource. In addition, all of the landowners are participating in discussions and, through this process, the lines of communication between the various entities are much better than in the initial stages of the project. A second grant was received for the project from the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area. It is our hope is to report interim results in the fall of 2012 and continue the eradication effort in 2013.

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