Almanack Contributor Caitlin Stewart

Caitlin Stewart manages the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District. The District's mission is to manage and promote the wise use of Natural Resources in Hamilton County. Caitlin will be sharing the District's conservation-focused services, programs, and events. She’s been a full time resident of Hamilton County since 2008 and is an avid hiker, skier, paddler, and biker. She is obsessed with adventuring with her dog Artemis.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Caitlin Stewart: Making a Dent in Purple Loosestrife

Purple LoosestrifeSince 2003, I have been battling purple loosestrife, an invasive plant that may be gorgeous but overruns wetlands, and outcompetes native plants that wildlife and waterfowl depend on for food, shelter, and nesting grounds. After 11 years of manual management, populations along the Route 8 and Route 30 corridors in Hamilton County have decreased. This is good news for native plants that fill in areas where invasive purple loosestrife used to grow.

This August I focused on rights-of-way along Routes 8 and 30 in the Town of Lake Pleasant and the Village of Speculator. I snipped each flower with garden clippers before plants went to seed for reproduction. All plant material was bagged and allowed to liquefy in the sun before being delivered to a transfer station.

It is exciting to fight invasive plants for over a decade and see promising results like this. Manual management is tedious, but persistent efforts have helped stop the spread of purple loosestrife and remove these invaders from the environment. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In Hamilton County, A Giant Hogweed Alert

Giant hogweed has white, umbrella-shaped flowers.  Photo courtesy of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program.  It was a hot August day and Lenny and I had the truck windows rolled down as we hunted for a home address in Speculator. We were following up on the identification of a poisonous invasive plant.

“I bet it’s cow parsnip,” said Lenny.

“That’s the house number. Turn here,” I pointed.

I hopped out and gaped at the plant. It towered above my height of 5 feet 9 inches. The leaves were enormous. I walked up to take a closer look saw hairy stems blotched with purple.

“It’s giant hogweed,” frowned Lenny. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Forest Management Plans: A Win-Win

Adirondack Forest and FieldGot Woods? If so, there may be a way for you to maximize your woodlot and maybe even your wallet. Funds are available through the Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) to help landowners with the development of a Forest Management Plan for their properties.

Zack Hanan of the Town of Hope, Hamilton County, recently applied for a Forest Management Plan and described the application process as quite easy with guidance from Tom Bielli, District Conservationist, United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  Zack provided Tom the goals for his property and they worked together to develop a management plan. Meaningful information was provided about Zack’s woodlands that he was not aware of and he learned about numerous opportunities for improvements. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Invasives In Winter: A Trip To Lake Durant

binocularsOn a frigid morning in late December, I teamed up with a good friend and hiked the Lake Durant campground in Indian Lake in search of aliens. We were not on the lookout for little green martians, but invasive insects.

I met Tom Colarusso of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service in the campground parking lot. It was a windy day and the vehicle swayed a little as I dug around the back seat in search of my hat and gloves.

I was armed with a GPS system to document coordinates in case something suspicious was found, and tucked a pen and pad into my pocket for notes. Tom looped a pair of binoculars around his neck and then we were off. 2013 marked our fifth year of teaming up to survey Hamilton County’s forested areas for alien invaders like Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Surveying Adirondack Lakes for Aquatic Invaders

rake tossOver the last decade, I have monitored many lakes in Hamilton County for aquatic invasive plants.  I feel a sense of stewardship to these lakes because paddling, camping, swimming, fishing, and skiing are important aspects to my lifestyle that allow me to distress, reconnect, and stay healthy.  Invasive plant infestations can crowd out native aquatic plants that fish rely on for food and shelter; make boating and paddling unenjoyable; and be costly to manage. I survey lakes because I find it enjoyable and my efforts protect water quality.

This year my co-worker Lenny and I checked Spy Lake for invaders on two glorious September afternoons.  We were on the lookout for plants like Eurasian watermilfoil, water chestnut, fanwort, and curlyleaf pondweed.  The inventory was in accordance with the survey instructions of the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program’s Aquatic Invasive Species Project. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Monitoring Sacandaga Lake For Invasive Species

Eurasian watermilfoil can hitchhike to new lakes on boat motors.  The voice of the woman on the other end of the phone was laden with concern.  She called to report a possible infestation of Eurasian watermilfoil in the outlet of Sacandaga Lake, just past the Route 8 bridge in Lake Pleasant.  I took down her contact information and told her I would check it out.

That evening, my husband and I loaded up his Carolina Skiff with a glass jar full of water to collect a plant sample, a cooler to keep the sample cold, and an aquatic plant identification book.  The sky was streaked with ominous clouds against a low, red sun, and the boat ride would have been enjoyable if I were not so anxious to get to the plant bed.  Images of benthic mats and hand harvesting SCUBA divers flashed before my eyes, and my thoughts turned to the expensive cost of milfoil management that could take years to successfully eradicate.  According to a 2003 study, New York State spends an estimated $500,000 to control Eurasian watermilfoil each year. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Piseco Students Get An Invasive Species Lesson

3Young students knock my socks off with their ability to grasp new concepts! I delved into the world of the emerald ash borer, a nasty invasive insect, with third, fourth and fifth graders of Piseco’s After School Program. When I asked how many students heard of the emerald ash borer, none raised their hand. By the end of the interactive program, they understood its life cycle, listed invasion clues, and knew how to stop its spread. Talk about a class of intelligent students!

The program kicked off with some nitty gritty definitions. I asked the students what they thought the differences were between native and invasive species. They knew that native organisms are ones that have been in the Adirondacks for a long period of time, and invasive organisms are ones that cause harm to the environment, economy, or society. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Invasive Insects: Checking The Trees for Invaders

Surveying trees for signs and symptoms of invasive insects.Back in November, Tom Colarusso of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service asked me if I would like to join forces to organize and host an invasive insect forest survey workshop.

I thought this was an excellent idea. I whipped-up some posters and sent some promotional emails.  Fourteen concerned land owners and agency professionals came from as far away as Albany and Ray Brook for the workshop held at the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District’s office in Lake Pleasant.
» Continue Reading.


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Invasives: An Asian Longhorned Beetle Scare

I remember sifting through my work emails on a morning in June when my eyes popped to the subject, “Possible invasive Asian longhorned beetle spotted.”

The email was sent from Kavya Pradhan, the summer intern at the Irondequoit Inn in Piseco, NY who I had the pleasure of meeting earlier that week.  As a college student, Kavya is interested in invasive species, and scheduled a meeting with Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District staff to discuss partnership opportunities.  I assembled a packet of invasive species educational materials for her. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Beetles Take Bite Out Of Purple Loosestrife

For over a decade, I have been battling purple loosestrife, an aggressive wetland invasive plant that has cost the United States millions of dollars in damage, and is known to impede recreation and degrade wildlife habitat.  As a Conservation Educator for Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District, my efforts include manual management and a new biocontrol program.  On June 26, my coworker and I released 500 beetles along the Sacandaga River in the Town of Lake Pleasant to take a bite out of purple loosestrife. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Douglas Johnson: Japanese Knotweed Combatant

A long time summer resident to Seventh Lake, Inlet, Douglas C. Johnson has strong ties to the Adirondacks.  An outdoor enthusiast and certified pesticide applicator, Johnson has a passion to eradicate invasive species that led him to spearhead the Regional Inlet Invasive Plant Program (RIIPP).  In 2008, the program was launched with the mission to eradicate all Adirondack Park lands of invasive knotweed plants.  These invaders out-compete natives for growing space, decrease biodiversity, impede recreation, and could lower property value.

“This effort is crucial to preserve our beautiful landscape from a rampant and dangerous invasive species,” stated Johnson.  “RIIPP works closely with the Adirondack Park Invasive Plant Program and Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District.” » Continue Reading.


Monday, July 2, 2012

Combating Yellow Iris on the Sacandaga River

Late afternoon daylight waned as I rounded the meander of the Sacandaga River that entered Duck Bay and paddled up to a gentle rapid.  Turning my kayak around for my home voyage, I took a couple strokes and just about had a heart attack.  There on the shore grew a small clump of gorgeous, yellow flowers.  I instantly knew it was invasive yellow iris.  A series of fortunate events shows how early detection / rapid response works to nip invasive species infestations in the bud. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Caitlin Stewart: Meet the Invasive Milfoils

With the summer vacation season right around the corner, folks are getting ready to launch their motor boats, kayaks, and canoes, excited to enjoy a day on the lake.  They may be unaware that they could be transporting hitchhikers.  Not human hitchhikers, but the green, leafy kind.

Meet Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum L.) and variable-leaf milfoil (Myriophyllum heterophyllum), two perennial, submerged aquatic invasive plants that pose a threat to Adirondack lakes.  They can hitchhike from lake to lake on boat trailers, motors, or on canoe and kayak deck rigging.  These plants can degrade aquatic ecosystems, impair recreation, and are expensive to manage. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Caitlin Stewart: The Hunt for Invasives at Lewey Lake

I raised the binoculars to my eyes and stared into the tree canopy above me. Carefully scanning the bare winter branches, nothing out of sorts was noted. I continued down the trail searching for clues that invasive insects may be lurking in the forest.

As Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District’s Conservation Educator, part of my job entails monitoring and managing lands and waters for invasive species. I can’t do it alone, and partnerships are essential to detect invasions early and deploy a quick response. Since 2009, the District has teamed up with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to survey our forests for invasive insects that cost the United States vast amounts of money in economic and ecological damage each year. » Continue Reading.


Monday, March 12, 2012

Caitlin Stewart: Go Native With Spring Plantings

Go native with your spring plantings and choose Adirondack plants for your property instead of invasive ornamentals. Invasive plants like swallow-worts, Japanese barberry, Norway maple, and giant hogweed may look beautiful, but are bad news for our economy and environment. The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District can help you choose native Adirondack alternatives for your landscaping needs.

Invasive plants are a top contender for economic and environmental degradation in New York State. Damage and loss caused by invasive species affect you, costing American taxpayers billions of dollars every year. By planting native vegetation in your yard, garden, or forest, you are reducing erosion, improving wildlife habitat and food, providing windbreaks, promoting valuable wood production, and protecting Adirondack biodiversity. » Continue Reading.



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