The Land Trust for the Little Tennessee and Friends of the Greenway, in celebration of N.C. Invasive Plant Awareness Week, hosted an educational event on the Franklin Greenway about the identification, control, and prevention of exotic invasive plants and animals. Experts from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River, Western North Carolina Alliance and others hosted educational displays, give brief presentations and answer questions about exotic invasive plants, insects, mammals, fish, and aquatic invertebrates. Weed-eating goats will also be on the Greenway to demonstrate a natural method for removing exotic invasive plants. Additional topicsthat were covered included the importance of streamside buffers for water quality; methods of native habitat restoration; and the benefits of healthy forest soils.
Experts at the event included Roger Clapp, executive director, Watershed Association of the Tuckasegee River; Dan Bryson, forestry technician, Great Smoky Mountains National Park; John Odell, Resource Management Coordinator, Appalachian Trail Conservancy; Debbie Boots, botanist; Jason Meador, Watershed Program Coordinator, Land Trust for the Little Tennessee; Bob Gale, Ecologist, Western North Carolina Alliance; and Macon Early College students. All presenters, volunteers, and students were on hand for interviews and to answer questions visitors had.
In 2011 N.C. Governor Beverly Perdue declared April 4-10 Invasive Plant Awareness Week. Most invasive plants affecting North Carolina are Asian natives. Upon arriving here, they crowd out native plants – turning complex ecosystems filled with a variety of plant species into simple communities dominated by a single plant. Animals, insects and birds that rely on the native ecosystems are also negatively affected. And in a state like North Carolina where agriculture is the leading industry, invasive plants have the potential to deliver a serious blow to the economy.
The first week in April is an ideal time to build awareness of the harm caused by invasive species. As plants start to green up in the spring, people are drawn to the outdoors and it is hoped that participation in this event on the Franklin Greenway will increase the interest in invasive species management.