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2014 Anchorage Weed Smackdown to ‘takedown’ alien invaders

Local residents take action to reverse the invasion of Alaska’s forests by alien mayday trees

(Anchorage, AK) August 7, 2014. To combat and help contain the spread of invasive species concerned citizens plus municipal, state, and federal biologists are organizing the fourth annual Anchorage Weed Smackdown – a fun, friendly competition to ‘takedown’ invasive weeds. The Anchorage Weed Smackdown will take place Saturday August 9th from 10am to 1pm at Valley of the Moon Park (W 17th Ave., Anchorage).

Valley of the Moon Park and the adjacent Chester Creek Trail are heavily used and loved by Anchorage families. However, these parklands offer a cautionary example of how the introduced European bird cherry tree, also known as mayday tree, has escaped cultivation and is rapidly taking over native forests. In the worst infestations, the mayday trees have completely crowded out all other trees and plants – plants that moose and salmon rely on for food. The dense, jungle-like growth of the mayday trees can hide and shelter homeless camps in Anchorage’s forested parks.

Volunteers at the Weed Smackdown will help remove these invasive trees, learn more about Alaska’s alien plant invaders, and be rewarded with free lunch, a free t-shirt, and great prizes donated by local businesses.

Alaska is experiencing an invasion of harmful exotic species, which are just beginning to wreak havoc in Alaska’s wild and unique environments. The frontlines of this invasion are Alaska’s cities, ports, and transportation corridors. Several aggressive plant invaders are beginning to move from Anchorage’s developed landscapes into natural areas such as Chester and Campbell Creeks, Far North Bicentennial Park, Chugach State Park, Kenai Peninsula, and beyond.

Invasive weeds are non-native plants whose introduction and spread can cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. For example, a non-native plant might spread aggressively (invade) and completely overgrow surrounding native plants. Some invasive plants can harm Alaska’s fish and wildlife, while others can harm humans. Elodea, reed canarygrass, and purple loosestrife can choke up waterways and disrupt salmon spawning habitat; Canada thistle is very costly to agriculture, and giant hogweed can cause painful rashes or even blindness.

The Anchorage Weed Smackdown is organized by the Anchorage Park Foundation, Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation, Anchorage Cooperative Weed Management Area, Citizens Against Noxious Weeds Invading the North (CANWIN), Anchorage Waterways Council, UAA Alaska Natural Heritage Program, UAF Cooperative Extension Service, Alaska Division of Agriculture, Alaska Division of Forestry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

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