– Properties and the hardwood forestry industry in Pennsylvania, the state’s ninth-largest sector, are experiencing significant issues due to the overwhelming presence of invasive species in the Commonwealth, according to Rep. Lee James (R-Venango/Butler).
James attended the House Majority Policy Committee tour in Elk County on April 19 to see firsthand how the two most prevalent invasive species, glossy buckthorn
and Japanese knotweed
, were swarming native plants and trees.
“It was very eye-opening to see up close how detrimental these plants are to our ecosystem,” said James. “The forestry industry contributes $22 billion in direct impact and $39 billion in indirect impact on the Commonwealth’s economy. We have a lot to lose if we do not act now.”
According to Penn State Extension, glossy buckthorns predominantly impact lumber and primarily spread by birds distributing the fruit. These plants can thrive in deep shade and less tolerant invasive shrubs within forests, as well as grow with full or partial sun. Glossy buckthorn is considered to be persistent, and constant surveillance is required in order to prevent these plants from reinvading areas where they have been removed as long as a seed source is nearby.
Japanese knotweed grows around streams, wetlands, stream corridors, forest edges and drainage ditches. The species spreads underground through the roots. While some populations can reproduce through seeds, colonies of knotweed are formed through horizontal roots called rhizomes. Despite being susceptible to splitting when disturbed, Penn State Extension notes the plant can form a clone and grow back.
Michael Hovatter, regional forester for LandVest in Ridgway, testified during the policy committee hearing the next day that exotic species have nothing to limit their growth. He also noted that in addition to rapid spread and economic harm, the invasive species negatively impact environmental and human health.
James said he supports considering all options to tackle this critical issue.
“We have a long road ahead to ensure we can properly contain the invasive species and improve property and forest health,” said James. “I look forward to working with my colleagues and stakeholders on how we can do just that.”