As those familiar with this organization knows, we are dedicated to habitat restoration, whether along our creeks via The Creek Defender Program, or on our properties via our Bay Friendly Yards Program, or through our efforts to restore habitat itself as we work with local oyster entrepreneurs to find an environmental and economic solution for The South Shore.
In the past several months, as I have learned more about restoring habitats via planting, I also began to appreciate just how awful invasives were. It certainly brought the lesson home when I started to clear my family’s yard of weeds.
The battle is ongoing. I’ve come to look forward to it each day with my wheelbarrow, shovel, my lopper, and rake and my scythe. With them,
I go to battle . Chinese Wisteria may be the most hated!
Here are the the top invasives from my rogues gallery. Having seen these in my yard, I am now seeing them everywhere!
Amid all this, I came to see that whatever I needed to do on my property, many of my neighbors were in the same situation. Further, when I looked out the window on the LIRR, all I saw was invasives. Ditto when I drove along The Southern State, visited so called nature preserves. Once I had learned to recognize these invasives, I could not unsee them. It became apparent that Long Island was going to have to mobilize — every local civic, the boy scouts and girl scouts, the local civics, local businesses. The effort ahead to clear Long Island of invasives was going to have to be systematic and massive. Things have gotten this bad.
Its not just that invasives are ugly or a nuisance. Their presence destroys local habitats. While lopping and digging out the invasives in my yard, I was also listening to the audio version of a book by Douglas Tallamy called Bringing Nature Home
The book takes as its central thesis that invasives and non-natives disrupt native food webs, Invasives and non-natives have few local insect predators. They are not recognized locally as food, either for bugs, birds, amphibians, reptiles.etc. That’s a lot of lost habitat here and globally. Globally, song bird populations have declined 1% per year since 1964 and insect populations are collapsing. Globally, over a million species are threatened with extinction, would count as one of the six great extinctions that have struck this planet over the past billion years. As fas as life on this planet is concerned, human beings rival asteroid strikes in terms of impact on the earth’s biosphere. The best we can do, according to Tallamy, it to devote a portion of our properties to recreating native habitat. Our public lands are not enough to stave off massive extinction here locally. Only when we start, through conscious, intentional, eco-aware gardening to restore lost habitats for our native plants, bugs, birds, amphibians, reptiles, etc, will we begin to defend ourselves against this global disaster on Long Island. We must learn to recognize natives, and non-natives, overcome our “plant blindness.” We must move away from ornamentals that are non-native, and that therefore are sterile, are unusable as food for the natives.
We’ve lost so much here on Long Island in my 60 years. We have to rebuild our native biome or surely much will perish, and our legacy will be a lifeless Long Island, a degraded tangle unusable as habitat.
The problem is everywhere, Fire Island included, I wrote this LTE to The Fire Island News:
“This coming July 4th weekend will mark the 43st annual “Invasion of The Pines,” Each year over a hundred drag queens travel from Cherry Grove to The Pines by boat, reenacting that day in 1976 when a drag queen was denied entry to The Pines, and Cherry Grove responded. It has become part of the fabric and folklore of this community.
The other invasion I speak of also travels from Cherry Grove to The Pines. Here I speak of invasive plants. Traveling the boardwalk between the communities means seeing bamboo and other invasive and non-native plants choking out what should be growing there. Many residents plant ornamentals, non-natives that do nothing for the local environment; no bug or bird recognizes these alien species as food. Worse, they push out those species that are native because here they have no natural predators. Whether invasive or ornamental, these non-natives break the local food web. Globally, we have lost 50% of our insects and song birds in the last 50 years, much due to habitat loss, with much of that from such disruptions.
Fire Island is National Seashore. This barrier beach is a rare place on earth, with unique habitats. Yet, here is a situation where we are watching what’s left of it degrade through inaction and because frankly we are only now coming to see the dangers non-native flora and fauna have on native populations.
This is a plea then to Fire Island’s local communities, along with The National Parks Service, to work in concert, and relentlessly, to restore Fire Island’s native biome so that we will have a Fire Island to pass on to future generations. As is also the case with “The Mainland,” we must ‘repel the invaders” if we are to stave off the local extinctions which are sure to follow.”
The science has made our mission blindly clear: We need to reclaim our land on behalf of nature here on Long Island, It is otherwise vanishing before our eyes. Now let’s get some loppers and get to work.