Today we are hearing from Mallory Gyovai, an AmeriCorps intern at Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge in West Virginia.
Invasive species management is a prevalent issue at any national wildlife refuge, but it is especially important at Canaan Valley NWR. With its unique ecosystem that has been noted as “a little bit of Canada, gone astray”, the battle against non-native and invasive competitors is fought fiercely. Generally, our invasive species list targets those hard to remove ones, like Japanese stilt grass and autumn olive, but we also target different areas of the refuge that need to remain in the successional habitat that they currently are. So, when the biology team began to discuss the grasslands and shrublands located throughout the refuge, the presence of juvenile non-native Scotch pines within those ecosystems were also mentioned.
That is when an idea struck. What if we removed the pines, which are the most common species of Christmas tree in the United States, and host an event that gives back to the community? It would be an invasive species management themed tree giveaway that would offer the community a chance to get together, enjoy hot chocolate and candy canes, learn about invasive species management on the refuge, and provide trees to people who may not have otherwise been able to get one! Instead of letting the “Charlie Brown” looking trees lay where they are, we loaded up trucks and brought them to our Visitor’s Center.
The event lasted two days, in the midst of a snowstorm, and we had 64 brave souls come out and pick up 57 of our trees. They were sent home with information on how to recycle their tree after the holiday season, a little piece of Canaan Valley NWR, and warm wishes from the volunteers and staff. This small gesture for our community went a long way, and many people were so grateful for the opportunity. Who would have thought that one person’s nuisance invasive species could be another’s holiday tradition?