Bowie is battling invaders, but the attackers aren’t using rifles — they’re armed with roots.
About 141 acres of the city’s roughly 328 acres of public land have a significant amount of non-native plant species, which threaten to overwhelm and kill native species of trees and other plants, according to a report released in late March. The same report recommends a $1 million, five-year plan to remove plants and stop their advance.
“I didn’t expect the numbers to be as significant as they are,” said David Deutsch, Bowie city manager.
Last year, the city paid $20,000 to Baltimore-based Biohabitats to analyze what types of invasive species are in Bowie and the threat they could present.
The study recommended a five-year effort to combat invasive plants that would cost up to $500,000 in the first year, with total five-year costs going up to $1,000,000, according to the report.
Environmental cleanups are typically expensive in the first year as the efforts focus on eradicating problem plants while subsequent years focus more on prevention and maintaining the initial cleanup, said Kevin Heatley, a Biohabitats restoration ecologist who was part of the team that evaluated Bowie.
Whitemarsh Park was found to be the top site in need of remediation, with the site having about 62 acres of 191 acre site had invasive plants, according to the report.
“While we take it for granted that there is a lot of green around us, if we don’t clean up Whitemarsh Park, all those trees are going to die,” said Sue Livera, a Bowie resident and volunteer with the city’s environmentally focused action committee, the Green Team.
The Green Team is working to educate residents on the dangers of planting invasive species such as Callery pear, Japanese stiltgrass and Norway maple and supporting the sale of native species plants. The group is also working to develop a program that will show residents how to both identify and safely remove the plants, Livera said.
Most of the plants were originally purposely introduced for landscaping or ornamental reasons, said Kerrie Kyde, an invasive plant ecologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, who is on the state’s Invasive Plant Advisory Committee.
Due to the timing of the report’s release, the city hasn’t been able to draft and include a full response to invasive species in the fiscal 2014 budget, which has to be in place by July 1, said Tiffany Wright, the city’s watershed manager. The proposed $56 million budget does include about $75,000 for initial remediation work.
The Bowie-Crofton Garden Club also regularly tells members of the club not to plant non-native species, said club president Diana Bahr of Bowie.
“I talk to my local nurseries and ask them not to sell invasive plants,” she said.