Volunteers often help remove invasive plants along trails and in easily-accessible areas of the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks. However, in remote wildland areas where trekking in on foot is just not feasible, scientists still have to keep invasive plants at bay. To seek out and eradicate these far-flung patches of weeds, Irvine Ranch Conservancy staff gear up and take to the air.
Last weekend, two Conservancy staff members flew by helicopter to areas where invasive plants were taking hold. Together with contractors from Wildlands Conservation Science and transported by an expert wildland helicopter pilot, the team treated over 200 remote patches of artichoke thistle, pampas grass, tamarisk, and fountain grass. They received special training to safely and efficiently enter and exit the helicopter with their equipment. Using the helicopter meant that the crew could “hopscotch” from site to site and consequently finished work in three days that normally would have taken months to complete on foot.
Tackling invasive plants no matter where they are is critical to the health of local wildlife. Invasive species compete for space and resources with native plants, and if left unmanaged, can grow to huge populations and monopolize the landscape. Areas dominated by invasive plants support less wildlife, so removing them, especially those isolated patches that occur in remote areas will help preserve sensitive native plant communities and the animals that they support.
The work done by air complements that done by volunteers at more accessible sites on the ground. If you would like to join the fight against invasive plant species, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org/Activites and do a search for stewardship activities.