Accomplishments of the East Central Illinois Master Naturalists (ECIMN) for 2011

By using many tactics, Master Naturalists battle invasive plants and insects.

Great Garlic Mustard Hunt a success -A total of 2,740 pounds of garlic mustard was eradicated in 2011 as a part of the event. As temperatures rise and the days grow longer, we begin looking toward spring and the return of abundant life and color in our favorite natural areas. However, emerging along with our beloved native wildflowers is a plant that is not welcome due to its unruly behavior.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an exotic, invasive plant introduced from Europe for culinary purposes. It has spread throughout North American woodlands. It can out-compete native plants for the light, moisture, and nutrients they need. On April 2, 2011 news releases and invitations to local natural areas groups went out inviting them to join East Central Illinois Master Naturalists and the Invasive Plant Task Force in the inaugural Great Garlic Mustard Hunt to unite people in ensuring that this disruptive plant does not overcome our forests.

Weeding in the woods events were held at several East-Central Illinois locations throughout April and into May, 2011. It was a great opportunity to get outside and into nature amid some friendly competition and to learn more about protecting our forests. The Hunt was capped off with a celebration and potluck featuring garlic mustard recipes.

Invasive plants document published- The Invasive Plant Task Force of the East Central Illinois Master Naturalists developed and published"Invasive Plants of East Central Illinois: includingRecommended Actions and Alternative Plants for Landscape Applications". It was reviewed by botanists, restoration specialists and horticulturists. The 19-page document was shared with local natural areas groups and is included on several of their websites. It is also highlighted on ECIMN website. The concept: Gardeners and landscapers are faced with a myriad of decisions when planning any project. Plants are not necessarily confined to the spaces where we plant them. Join Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners in fighting invasive plants by becoming informed on which plants are invasive in our area and by choosing plants to avoid ecological problems.

Invasive plant alert sent to garden centers– Over the past four years the UI Extension had been receiving reports of garden centers selling illegal plants. After talking to garden center managers it became clear it was a matter of lack of information more than a total disregard for the law. As a response, letters (detailing the plants and cultivars included in the Illinois Exotic Weed Act) were sent to thirty-three East-Central Illinois garden centers in February 2012. Purpose was to remind suppliers which plants and their cultivars are illegal to grow and sell in Illinois and the possible alternatives they may want to supply. Each garden center was sent a copy of the "Invasive Plants of East Central Illinois" document.

"Eco-conscious Gardening and Landscaping" enjoyed by over 80 people -Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners partnered to present "Eco-conscious Gardening and Landscaping" on February 21, 2011. Along with natural areas, home landscapes are part of the local ecosystem. Purpose was to learn about using native plants in the home landscape and how to be a responsible gardener and landscaper by choosing plants to avoid ecological problems.

Presentations by Dan Olson, Director of Natural Resources for Champaign County Forest Preserve District and Jamie Ellis botanist with the Illinois Natural History Survey. Program was open to the public.

Post survey of participants showed practice changes– In September 2011 a survey was sent via email to the "Eco-conscious Gardening and Landscaping" program participants with email addresses. Of the 84 registered (66 with email addresses) 27 participants responded to the survey. Of respondents 92.3% stated they increased their knowledge about invasive plants at the program. 85% of respondents stated they made changes to their gardening practices after participating in the program.

Over 200 people participate in National Public Lands Day- East Central Illinois Master Naturalists participated in National Public Lands Day on September 24, 2011.
210 people participated at 8 sites in Central Illinois by removing invasive plants and collecting prairie plant seeds to be used to restore local natural areas. Partners included Champaign County Forest Preserve District, Urbana Park District, Grand Prairie Friends, UI Pollinatarium, Champaign Park District, University of Illinois, Allerton Allies and ECIMN's Illinois Demonstration Prairie.

Ash Tree Inventory Reports shared with community leaders– East Central Illinois Master Naturalists completed nine ash tree inventory reports detailing the number, location, state of health and size of ash trees (genusFraxinus) in selected Champaign County communities. The Ash Tree Inventory project is an effort to discover the potential financial burden that will result as the emerald ash borer (EAB) makes its way to east central Illinois and kills ash trees. Villages often do not have tree inventories as to species; therefore, they have no way of quantifying the ultimate cost of removal and replacement of ash trees. The inventory consists of volunteers observing ash trees that are on public land or are observable from public land. Using a GPS system the information is tabulated and the locations are shown on a map. This information is compiled into a report and communicated to public officials responsible for maintaining the public land so they can begin a budget process for removal and replacements over the next few years.

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