821 Hemlock Trees Inspected for Woolly Adelgid

(Adelges tsugae)


Hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae), native to Asia, is a small, aphid-like insect that threatens the health and sustainability of eastern hemlock (Tsuga canadensis). Hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA) was first discovered in the United States in 1951 near Richmond Virginia, and has since spread throughout the northeastern US and into the Midwest. Decline and mortality of hemlock after an infestation typically occurs between 4 and 10 years.

HWA is currently observed in Cayuga and Onondaga Counties, which border the SLELO PRISM. This species is considered a “Watch-list” species, whose arrival could be detrimental to the ecosystems found within the PRISM. One area of special concern is the southern Tug Hill Region. Eastern Hemlock is ecologically important, as it is frequently found along exposed slopes, protected gorges, and streams.

During the 2015 field season, the SLELO PRISM’s (2-person) early detection team embarked on an intense effort to survey hemlock stands for the presence of the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid. The focus area was the southern Tug Hill region within the lower half of the PRISM region. Our two person early detection team inspected a total of 821 hemlock trees within fourteen of our Priority Conservation Areas, PCA’s. So far no adelgids have been observed. The SLELO PRISM’s early detection team will continue similar efforts in the future.

For more information please refer to the HWA Field Report found in the 2015 Field Reports page of this website.


Saving Native Ecosystems

By Caitlin Muller and Benjamin Hansknecht

When it comes to invasive species, it is sometimes hard to understand the true cost and toll they take on the world around us. What could be bad about plants imported to reduce soil erosion, for example? Other times it is clear as day, like when an invasive species dominates the forest landscape, prevents sport-fish from spawning, or is harmful to touch like giant hogweed. The truth is that an invasive species can be any plant, animal, or micro-organism that might cause harm to the environment, biodiversity or human health, even if they also have useful traits. Although some species are more prolific than others, a trademark of most invasive species is their ability to outcompete native species for food (and other resources) and dominate an ecosystem if left unchecked.

Monotypic understory of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). Elklick Woodlands Natural Area Preserve, Fairfax County, VA. Photo by Ben Hansknecht.
Monotypic understory of Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum). Elklick
Woodlands Natural Area Preserve, Fairfax County, VA. Photo by Ben Hansknecht.

49% of threatened or endangered species are in demise as the result of invasive species introductions . By pushing out native rivals, invasive species often disrupt food webs, alter the ecology of the local ecosystem, and can ultimately lead to the extirpation of other native species. It is a global conservation issue with large scale ramifications and one important question to address is why these species are so successful when introduced to new locations and environments.

By relocating living organisms to new habitats, it is frequently the case that their destination is outside the range of their native predators and diseases, two of the biggest restrictions on population growth. Without these limits, it is possible for species to rapidly reproduce and expand their populations, whether they are continents away from their native range or as close as the state next-door. In this way, invasives can completely displace native species and create monotypic stands, or monocultures. This environment decreases the biodiversity of the area and in turn disrupts the local food web. Negative impacts to the habitat and resulting decreases in biodiversity in turn produce decreases in ecosystem quality.

For example, Eurasian water milfoil outcompetes native aquatic plant species for space and nutrients. By outcompeting the natives and through shear abundance it creates low oxygen environments via decomposition where native fish and aquatic invertebrates have difficulty surviving. This in turn limits the food supply of organisms higher up the food chain which feed on these species.
Some invasive species impact health of animals, invertebrates, plants, and humans. Swallow-wort, causes a problem for livestock when injested. Goats, which are sometimes used in invasive species control, cannot ingest swallow-wort as it causes illness. Monarch butterflies will lay their eggs on swallow-wort plants, because it’s a member of the milkweed family, but when the larvae hatch they will not survive due to the host specificity of the caterpillars. Other plants are affected by swallow-wort due to its allelopathic tendencies. By releasing toxins into the ground, swallow-wort inhibits other native plants from establishing. Plants such as giant hogweed and wild parsnip can affect animals and humans. Both plants cause a burn through a combination of coming in contact with chemicals on the plants stem and sunlight. Giant hogweed by far has the most damaging effects through this reaction.
In order to prevent decreases in biodiversity and maintain conservation value of our favorite outdoor places, invasive species awareness, prevention and management is important for all flora and fauna that depend on native systems including for posterity.


Early Detection & Rapid Response

“A Team Approach”


During our original strategic planning sessions our partners discussed several options for moving our efforts to mitigate the impacts of invasive species forward. Our Rangers (strategic planning break-out groups) first recommendation was to move beyond strictly volunteer surveillance and develop seasonal teams to conduct deliberate early detection surveillance and another team to deliberately conduct rapid response measures.

In addition to this, it became important that we needed to focus on Priority Conservation Areas (PCA’s) since the alternative would be an attempt at surveying some 7,400 square miles or 1.916591Ex10 square meters, not likely! Our partners furthered the cause by identifying 24 PCA’s and recommending 2 individuals as our seasonal early detection team and 2 individuals as our rapid response team.

So four+ years later how’s it working? Our current work load allows our early detection team to survey our PCA’s on a two year rotation, that being ½ or (12) sites per season. In addition, we have developed a protocol that allows us to focus on the areas within each PCA where there is a higher probability of invasives being introduced, known as our HPA protocol (Highly Probable Areas). This structured/organized approach has resulted in all 24 PCA’s being surveyed twice with several new HPA’s discovered each season increasing our chances of early detections. Hundreds of HPA waypoints have been recorded. Nine early detections have been made with an equal amount of rapid responses to each of the nine sites.

Job well done to our partners and seasonal teams; however, it should be noted that most of the aforementioned early detections and responses were for target management species, e.g., species that are currently found within the SLELO region. The exception being water hyacinth (Eichornia crassipes) recently discovered in Jefferson County by our partners at NYS DEC Region 6 whom responded very rapidly. Of the utmost importance is to remain vigilant in surveying for our prevention list species, a.k.a. “watch list” species.

It is our hope that this approach will, as planned, be a successful second line of defense after “prevention” and if used will allow us to meet the desired effect of eradicating a watch list species before they can become established in any of our Priority Conservation Areas. So far – so good!

ED RR 2015

Above: Early detection and rapid response team members from left: Ben Hansknecht, Caitlin Muller, Mike Parks, Ed Miller.


Beware Wild Parsnip

(Pastinaca sativa)

IMG_0471 RWa

(Photo by Rob Williams, PRISM Coordinator)

Summer activities expose us to many “not so nice” things that Mother Nature has to offer – bee stings, poison ivy, thorns, and sunburn. Skin irritations or rashes are usually diagnosed as poison ivy if one has recently been in a wooded area. Poison ivy plants are relatively easy to identify and pretty common in our area. Giant hogweed is another rash-causing plant that has been in the news a lot lately. It is easy to identify because of its size, but it is somewhat rare.

Another more common plant that causes an itchy rash is wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa). It is so common that you probably see it every day in the summer along roadsides and in disturbed areas. It is a noxious weed and highly invasive. It out-competes native plants and develops into large monocultures. In sensitive individuals contact with the plant will lead to serious skin irritation.

Wild parsnip plants can be up to 6 feet tall. They have a flower cluster that looks like a Queen Anne’s lace flower, but the flowers are greenish yellow, not white. The flat-topped cluster, or umbel, can be 2 to 6 inches across. It is in flower from late June through July in our area. The compound leaves grow alternately on the stem. The leaves have 2 to 5 paired leaflets that are sharply toothed.

A perennial that reproduces by seed, wild parsnip is native to Europe and Asia and was introduced here in the 1600’s. The plant spends several years as a rosette of leaves; then it bolts, flowers and dies. In high summer you will see it everywhere if you look for the yellow flowers. In parts of the SLELO region it is continuous on the roadsides.

Wild parsnip is a member of the Umbel-liferae (apiaceae) family, which includes other toxic plants such as giant hogweed and poison hemlock. It also includes food plants, herbs and spices: carrot, celery, parsnip, dill, parsley, coriander, caraway, anise, cumin, lovage and myrrh. The non-native, ubiquitous wild flower Queen Anne’s lace is also in this family.

If skin comes in contact with wild parsnip a rash will develop in most people. The plant sap contains psoralens which are chemicals that make the skin sensitive to sunlight. Burn-like lesions will develop within 24 hours of exposure; fluid filled blisters develop after 48 hours. The area will be painful and itchy. After these symptoms subside brown pigmentation of the area and scarring may persist for several months. The plant causes a phytophototoxic reaction and affected areas can remain sensitive to sunlight for many years.

Wild parsnip populations can be con-trolled with herbicides. Foliar applications of
glyphosate work best if applied to the rosette stage in the early spring or late fall. Keep in mind that glyphosate kills all plants. Keep it away from desirable plants in the area; read and follow the product label instructions completely. Several years of treatment may be necessary to bring large populations under control. Continue to scout the area for new plants that may develop from latent seeds. Manual or mechanical methods of control are not recommended because they will expose the operator to the plant sap and spread the seeds. If you must get near the plants use gloves, protective clothing and eye protection.

~Sue Gwise, CCE Jefferson County


Eradicating Giant Hogweed

(Heracleum mantegazziamum)


Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazziamum) is one of the most notorious invasive species to enter our region. The sap produced by hogweed, combined with sunlight, creates a photosensitive reaction on human skin which can cause serious burns and blisters and possible scarring. Introduced in the early 1900’s by intrigued botanists, the plant has spread throughout New York State and the northeastern United States.

Fortunately and due to the biology of this plant, partners of the SLELO PRISM believe that it is possible to eradicate local populations of Giant Hogweed. The plant, which produces only basil stems during the first two years of growth, reaches maturity and produces a long stalk (bolt) at about its third growing season. This bolt produces a seed head (umbel) and after producing an average of 20,000 seeds, the parent pant then dies. What this means for managers is that it is possible, given the appropriate treatment, to eradicate hogweed plant populations.

SLELO PRISM Partners have joined forces to collaborate on efforts to eradicate hogweed from at least four of the five counties within our PRISM with no sightings yet reported in St. Lawrence County. Across New York State other partners continue to work towards mutual eradication of Giant Hogweed. The SLELO Rapid Response team works each year to control hogweed plants using multiple techniques. A site where plants exists and are treated, is not considered eradicated unless there is no new growth of hogweed plants for a minimum of three consecutive years. In the SLELO PRISM region, our partners have successfully eradicated fourteen sites.


Focus 2015

Partners Prepare for Productive Season



Collaboration is a great thing, especially when it comes to managing invasive species for the purpose of protecting our regions natural areas, biological diversity and eco-nomic assets. Our tag line is “Teaming up to stop the spread of invasive species” and that’s exactly what the SLELO PRISM partners will focus on during 2015.

By working together throughout the five county Eastern Lake Ontario region, our partners anticipate a robust season focused on meeting our PRISM’s seven strategic goals; prevention, early detection/rapid response, cooperation, information management, control, restoration and education/outreach. Many activities will take place on a PRISM-wide scale, other activities will focus on our PRISM’s priority conservation areas. Partners will also be working on independent projects targeted towards invasive species management along with tentative special projects sponsored by the PRISM. Combined, these efforts offer a collaborative approach targeting invasive species prevention, management and habitat restoration.

Our Education & Outreach Committee is getting an early start by scheduling the following events which are open to the public;

June 10 – Eastern Lake Ontario Invasive Species Symposium. Co-sponsored by Selkirk Shores State Park and Douglaston Salmon Run. Contact Shelby Alavekios at: rwilliams@tnc.org  for details and registration information TBA.

July 11 – Port Ontario Citizen Science Event.  Co-sponsored by our partners at the Oswego County Soil & Water Conservation District. Contact Shelby Alavekios at: rwilliams@tnc.org for details.



Strategic Accomplishments


Partners of the SLELO PRISM continue to make progress towards the objectives and goals of our Strategic Plan. By working collaboratively we achieved the following in 2014:

Autumn Oak

  Our partners continued efforts to restore the Salmon River and Salmon River Estuary by suppressing 86% of Japanese Knotweed populations and began restoration work by planting native grasses within the disturbed areas along the river corridor.

Our partners have significantly reduced the human health threats posed by Giant Hogweed by treating 61 sites and completely eradicating 14 sites.

We continued to restore over 50 acres of globally rare Alvar communities along the Eastern Lake Ontario coastline by suppressing Pale Swallow-wort and promoting native succession.

We have teamed up to protect our freshwater resources, wetlands and fens by supporting hands-on citizen science based control efforts, pathway mitigation and environmental DNA sampling. This includes hand-harvesting of 85.5 cubic yards of water chestnut plants and treating an additional 215 acres on the Oswego River.

Encouraged the development of biological controls for Water Chestnut (Trapa natans) and Pale Swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum).

Assisted with the release of a biological control (Galarucella spp.) to suppress purple loosestrife and maintain the native plant composition of the Lakeview Wetland complex.

 Together we have completed early detection surveillance on ten priority conservation areas along with one rapid response to pale swallow-wort on the Limerick Cedars preserve.

 Through a collaborative effort we reached over 550 individuals through a combination of educational and outreach initiatives targeted at invasive species that affect our forests, lands and waters.

 Nice Work Partners!



Land Disturbance & Terrestrial Invasive Species

 back hoe 1

On my daily drive to and from work I have often noticed a relatively small patch of Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) in the southeast corner of a nearby intersection. My previous disregard stems only from the fact that this small patch does not lay within one of our PRISM’s identified priority conservation areas (PCA’s).

In a more recent drive by of this same site, I noticed a small bulldozer clearing, or should I say grading the land. The topsoil, about 20 cubic yards was being staged along the south end of the lot and being that the entire site was covered with knotweed, certainly the topsoil was full of seeds and cuspidatum propagules.

After pondering the demise of the topsoil throughout the workday, I toyed with the idea of stopping after work to inquire as to what plans they had for the topsoil, after all topsoil is a sought after commodity. Too late, all the equipment and topsoil were nowhere to be seen.

Often overlooked in our discussions of invasive species pathways and mitigation is the idea of land clearing and infrastructure development, even on a small scale, and the translocation of topsoil contaminated with invasive plant fragments and/or seeds. I assume that the aforementioned “spoil” was used elsewhere to fill a need.

Let’s extrapolate using another species known for its high seed production (pale Swallow-wort (Cynanchum rossicum). At 2,000 seeds per square yard multiplied against an average 550 cubic yards per acre of topsoil, that suggests 1,100,000.00 seeds translocated per acre of contaminated topsoil.

In cooperation with our Canadian friends of the Ontario Invasive Plant Council, the SLELO PRISM Education & Outreach Committee will soon be pursuing a clean equipment protocol initiative that educates heavy equipment operators and will hopefully serve to identify contaminated topsoil and its translocation as a significant pathway for the spread of terrestrial invasive species. Identifying the need to manage contaminated topsoil is a good beginning, but must be followed with best management practice recommendations along with incentives to implement such practices.

The PRISM partners are confident that this initiative will serve to educate developers, engineers and heavy equipment operators on the need to better manage this pathway.

Rob Williams, PRISM Coordinator



Salmon River Initiative


The Salmon River, located along the eastern shore of Lake Ontario, is a valuable cultural and natural resource worthy of protection from the habitat-altering impacts of invasive species. As a cultural resource, the Salmon River is a multi-million dollar fishery hosting in excess of 100,000 angler visitors annually. Angling enthusiasts travel from numerous regions across the United States and Canada, as well as from throughout the world, to fish the river. Many local businesses thrive as a result of this cultural resource. The Salmon River is also an integral part of Lake Ontario ecosystem linking it directly to the overall Great Lakes whole system. Unfortunately, the increasing dominance of Japanese knotweed, an aggressive invasive plant present within the Salmon River corridor, has the potential to negatively impact the economic and ecological values of the Salmon River and Salmon River Estuary.

Partners of the SLELO-PRISM have endorsed a strategic initiative to restore and protect the estuary and river which involves three components to include; 1) Suppression of Japanese Knotweed over the course of a minimum of three years using a stem injection technique as the primary control strategy. 2) Native plant restoration, which includes promoting natural regrowth and intentional plantings and 3) Education and outreach to occur as an on-going and important project component. Partners are confident that this project will benefit the natural processes and the ecological integrity of this magnificent resource.

Anglers and Conservationists – please help!

1. Learn to identify the Japanese Knotweed plant – (refer to the “Species in the SLELO Region” menu item on this website – top of page)

2. Don’t walk through, trample, cut or otherwise disturb knotweed patches—this plant spreads primarily by germinating plant fragments, you will only spread the seeds and plant fragments which will worsen the problem.

Thank you!

  Background on SLELO

Invasive species pose a serious ecological and economic threat in the St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario region of New York and indeed the entire state.

The St. Lawrence – Eastern Lake Ontario Partnership For Regional Invasive Species Management (SLELO PRISM) was formed in 2005 to combat the spread of invasives and mitigate associated threats. Our overall mission is to protect the natural and cultural integrity of aquatic and terrestrial areas in Jefferson, Oswego, Oneida, St. Lawrence, and Lewis counties from invasive species. Formally recognized by the state in 2011, our PRISM has made tremendous progress towards the prevention of new species and the management of existing species within the PRISM.

SLELO provides region-wide coordination for invasive species monitoring and management across the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems within our 7,600-square mile PRISM region.


SLELO partners promote prevention, early detection and rapid response of invasive species through development and dissemination of educational materials and programs, documentation of species distributions, promotion of integrated habitat management strategies, and builds consensus for resource protection through partnerships with residents, institutions and agencies. Hosted by the Central Western NY Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the SLELO PRISM has and continues to make significant progress towards invasive species management by utilizing the support and expertise of our partners.

  1. From early detection to rapid response and education, SLELO shares several goals with our PRISM partners.
  2. To focus immediate priorities, we have targeted several invasive species.
  3. We engage in several Projects & Activities throughout the SLELO region.

Invasive Species Program Coordinaator Rob Williams, has engaged and rallied the SLELO partnership in a strong and focussed way, one which will certainly help our PRISM to achieve our goals and objectives.