Garlic Mustard Challenge aims to clean up habitats
Registration is now open to compete in the Garlic Mustard Challenge this spring, a friendly competition to reduce a harmful, invasive plant in Western New York.
Several agencies are joining forces with the Niagara Frontier Section of the Air and Waste Management Association to improve habitats in three Western New York nature preserves by ridding them of garlic mustard. Those agencies are the state Department of Environmental Conservation, Friends of Reinstein Nature Preserve, the Buffalo Audubon Society and the Western New York Land Conservancy.
Civic organizations, Scout groups, and others are encouraged to compete in the challenge, which kicks off April 21.
“Garlic mustard is harming some forest ecosystems,” said Friends of Reinstein Invasive Species Coordinator Brittany Rowan. “The goal of the ... challenge is to harness volunteer power to help restore the forest, in a fun and exciting way.”
An invasive species is a plant or animal introduced to an ecosystem by humans, either on purpose or by accident, and adversely affects the habitat it invades. The fast-growing garlic mustard, a European plant, crowds out native wildflowers such as trillium and Dutchman’s breeches. Fortunately, garlic mustard is easy to identify and easy to remove by hand, even for a child.
“In honor of Earth Day, the Niagara Frontier Section of AWMA wanted to support a project that could make a difference for our local environment,” said Section Co-Chair Randy Rakoczynski. “We are thrilled to be sponsoring an effort that will have a positive impact on not just one forest in Western New York, but several.”
Volunteers can sign up to remove garlic mustard at Buffalo Audubon’s Beaver Meadow Nature
Center in North Java (Wyoming County) or at one of two sites in Erie County: the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Cheektowaga and the Western New York Land Conservancy’s Kenneglenn Preserve in the town of Wales.
The teams that pull the most garlic mustard at each site will win an overnight stay at Beaver Meadow’s rustic cabin in the woods and $200. The runner-up at each site will receive $50.
Reinstein Woods held a similar contest last year that was very successful, with volunteers removing more than 500 pounds of garlic mustard from the nature preserve.
“In addition to Scout and church groups, even some families joined the competition,” said Reinstein Woods Center Director Meaghan Boice-Green. “We’re excited that not only will groups be competing with each other, but they’ll be competing with other nature preserves as well.”
The nature preserve that harnesses the most volunteer power will be crowned “Challenge champion.”
On Saturday, April 21, each site will hold a morning “kickoff” event to train volunteers in identifying and removing garlic mustard. The kickoff events are scheduled for 9 a.m. at the Kenneglenn Nature Preserve, 10:30 a.m. at the Beaver Meadow Audubon Center, and 11 a.m. at the Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve.
After the kickoff event, groups can visit their preserve as often as they desire to collect garlic mustard until the competition ends on June 22. The winners will be announced during award ceremonies on Saturday, June 23.
To register for any of the three sites, call Reinstein Woods at 683-5959.