Sunday, August 15, 2010

ADK Urges Hikers: Brush Off Invasive Species

The Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) is urging hikers to give their boots a good brushing after each hike to remove any seeds of invasive plant species and help prevent their spread to other wild areas.

“Because of the rapid spread of invasive species such as garlic mustard, Japanese knotweed and wild parsnip, hikers should include a whisk broom or brush as part of their hiking gear,” said Neil Woodworth, executive director of the Adirondack Mountain Club. “By giving your boots or shoes a good brushing before leaving the area, you can help prevent seeds from spreading to the next trail you hike.”
Hikers should also clean their clothing, backpacks and equipment before going to a new area to hike. Campers should shake out their tents before breaking camp to dislodge invasive seeds.

Invasive plants tend to push out native species and disrupt natural habitats, and some pose serious health threats for humans. The sap of giant hogweed, when combined with moisture and sunlight, can cause severe skin and eye irritation, painful blistering, permanent scarring and blindness. If you see it, don’t touch it. Information on identifying and controlling giant hogweed is available on the Department of Environmental Conservation website. If you find giant hogweed growing in the wild, call the DEC hotline, (845) 256-3111. Information about the health effects of exposure to giant hogweed is available online.

Wild parsnip, which looks like Queen Anne’s lace with yellow flowers, is another toxic invasive species. Contact with its sap can cause rashes and blistering. In some cases, it causes long-term sensitivity to sunlight, which manifests itself in a sunburn-like rash.

“Wild parsnip has been called poison ivy on steroids,” Woodworth said. “Anyone who spends time outdoors should know how to identify giant hogweed and wild parsnip and avoid contact with them.’’

Plant species are not the only concern. The emerald ash borer, a tiny beetle that has killed millions of ash trees in the Midwest and in Canada, was recently discovered in Ulster and Steuben counties. To help prevent the spread of this and other forest-destroying insects, DEC has prohibited the transport of untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source. More information on that regulation is available online.

The Adirondack Mountain Club, founded in 1922, is a nonprofit membership organization dedicated to protecting the New York State Forest Preserve and other wild lands and waters through conservation and advocacy, environmental education and responsible recreation.

Photo: Giant Hogweed, Courtesy DEC.

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