River group raising funds to fight invasive plant species


DOMENIC POLI , Brattleboro Reformer

HINSDALE, N.H. -- An ecosystem has two types of species -- native and invasive. And this town isn’t big enough for the both of them.

An invasive species, unlike a native one, gets somehow introduced to a different geographical region and then spreads and outcompetes native plans and animals, causing them to eventually disappear. One such species is the Trapa natans, or the water chestnut plant, and the Connecticut River Watershed Council has launched a campaign to raise funds to combat the perennial plant, which was found on the Hinsdale side of the Connecticut River.

The project is one of three the CRWC has started in New Hampshire and Vermont via CleanWaterFuture.org, which allows individuals, businesses and organizations to help fund conservation projects aimed at improving water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, erosion control and river access. CRWC Executive Director Andy Fisk compared CleanWaterFuture.org, which is administered by the watershed council, to the natural resources version of Kickstarter. Fisk said the other projects include one in Woodstock to remove invasive plants and restore streamside buffers (vegetated areas along waterways) at sites damaged during flooding from Tropical Storm Irene and one in Stratford, N.H., to stabilize a recreation trail and improve habitat for wild, native brook trout.

"(CleanWaterFuture.org) is an opportunity for people to donate to projects with real water quality benefits or environmental benefits," he told the Reformer. There are now 86 days remaining to contribute.

The Hinsdale project -- known as Paddle with a Purpose -- is sponsored by independent aquatic biologist Laurie Callahan, who said someone in 2012 discovered on the Hinsdale side of the river the first Trapa natans plant in a part of the water not in the states of Connecticut or Massachusetts. She said she and some volunteers got permission from the N.H. Department of Environmental Services and surveyed a half-mile section of the river and found 685 of the plants. If the fundraising project can reach $5,000 Callahan said she would like to organize a group of local volunteers to get their feet wet and remove the plants sometime in the summer.

"We just want to make sure we keep on top of it so it doesn’t become a big problem in the Connecticut River," she said.

Fisk said the Trapa natans is related to the water chestnut people might be used to cooking with, though it is not edible. He said invasive species like Trapa natans and milfoil can, if neglected, affect people’s ability to swim and boat in the water.

North Country River Steward Ron Rhodes said the quick spread of the species was "a wake-up call for the people that love and use the river."

Those interested in contributing to any of the river conservation projects can visit www.CleanWaterFuture.org. According to the CRWC, the average donation from individuals is $35, with larger organizations investing as much as $1,000 in various projects. Rhodes said the website has helped raised more than $55,000 for 17 projects throughout the Connecticut River watershed since 2012.

Donations from individuals, businesses and organizations are made by credit card through CleanWaterFuture.org, or can be made by check directly to the Connecticut River Watershed Council, 15 Bank Row, Greenfield, MA 01301.


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