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Garlic Mustard challenge competition expanding this spring

LANCASTER- Registration is now open for the Garlic Mustard Challenge, a friendly competition to reduce a harmful, invasive plant in Western New York. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), Friends of Reinstein Nature Preserve, the Buffalo Audubon Society, and the Western New York Land Conservancy have joined forces to improve habitats in four Western New York nature preserves by ridding them of garlic mustard. Civic organizations, scout groups, and families are encouraged to compete in the Challenge, which kicks off April 13.

“Garlic mustard is harming some forest ecosystems,” said Friends of Reinstein Invasive Species Coordinator Jacob Bajdas. “The goal of the Garlic Mustard 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 like trillium and Dutchman’s breeches. Fortunately, garlic mustard is easy to identify and easy to remove by hand, even for a child.

Volunteers can sign up to remove garlic mustard at four locations:

• Buffalo Audubon’s Beaver Meadow Nature Center in North Java (Wyoming County)

• New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve in Cheektowaga (Erie County)

• Western New York Land Conservancy’s Kenneglenn Preserve in Wales (Erie County)

• The Lewiston Plateau Habitat Area in Lewiston (Niagara County).

The teams that pull the most garlic mustard at each site will win $200 and an overnight stay at Beaver Meadow’s cabin in the woods. The runner-up at each site will receive $50. The nature preserve that harnesses the most volunteer power will be crowned “Challenge Champion.”

This is the third year of the Garlic Mustard Challenge. In 2012, more than 300 volunteers removed 4,471 pounds of garlic mustard from three nature preserves in Western New York.

“Last year, competitors included not only scouts and school groups, but also a woman’s club, an adult education class, and even grandparents with their grandchildren,” said Reinstein Woods Center Director Meaghan Boice-Green. “This year, Reinstein Woods’ volunteers are excited to try to retain the ‘Challenge Champion’ title.”

Land Conservancy Stewardship Director Kathleen McCormick said, “One of the requests from volunteers last year was to expand the Challenge to include a site in Niagara County. We are excited that the Lewiston Plateau Habitat area is now part of the competition.”

“This is a great way for people to become stewards of their local environment,” said Buffalo Audubon Executive Director Loren Smith. “The challenge will not only improve habitat at Beaver Meadow, but will educate people about the impact of non-native species on the environment.”

On Saturday, April 13, each site will hold a “kickoff” event to train volunteers in identifying and removing garlic mustard. After the kickoff event, groups can visit their preserve as often as they desire to collect garlic mustard until the competition ends on June 21. The winners will be announced during an award ceremony on Saturday, June 22.

Attendance at the April 13 event is not mandatory, but groups interested in participating at any of the four sites must register by calling Reinstein Woods at 683-5959. For more information, contact Reinstein Woods or search for “Garlic Mustard Challenge” on Facebook.

Garlic Mustard Challenge “kickoff” events include:

• 10 a.m. Beaver Meadow Audubon Center: 1610 Welch Road, North Java

• 10 a.m. Kenneglenn Nature Preserve: Land Conservancy Office, Wales Center

• 10 a.m. Lewiston Plateau Habitat Area: Kickoff at Lewiston Library, 305 South 8th Street, Lewiston

11a.m. Reinstein Woods Nature Preserve: 93 Honorine Drive, Depew


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