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2013 Anchorage Weed Smackdown to ‘Takedown’ Alien Invaders

Action now can avoid a costly take-over of Alaska by invasive species

Anchorage, AK, June 5, 2013 -  To combat and help contain the spread of invasive species concerned citizens plus municipal, state, and federal biologists are organizing the third annual Anchorage Weed Smackdown – a fun, friendly competition to ‘takedown’ invasive weeds.  The Anchorage Weed Smackdown will take place Saturday June 8th from 10am to 1pm at Tikishla Park in Anchorage’s Airport Heights neighborhood (3018 E 20th Ave). 

Tikishla 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 now taking over native forests.  In recent years, several moose have died in Anchorage from cyanide poisoning after eating from the European bird cherry tree.  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 (including Alaska Railroad tickets, day cruise with Major Marine Tours, raft trips from Alaska Wildland Adventures, and Denali Outdoor Center).   Anchorage participants will also be competing against Weed Smackdowns in Homer, Palmer, and Fairbanks.

Alaska is experiencing an invasion of harmful exotic species, who 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, 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 and giant hogweed have spiny leaves and stems and can give people an itchy or even painful rash.

Last summer’s Anchorage Weed Smackdown was a tremendous success.  140 volunteers of all ages enjoyed working outside while removing about 6,000 invasive trees from Valley of the Moon Park.  The Anchorage Weed Smackdown is organized by the Anchorage Park Foundation, Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation,  Anchorage Cooperative Weed Management Area, Alaska Citizens Against Noxious Weeds Invading the North (Alaska 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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