Rep. Martin Causer (R-Turtlepoint) announced Thursday the McKean County Conservation District will receive $50,000 in funding from the state Department of Agriculture to assist with two projects designed to control and eliminate infestations of invasive plant species in the region.
“The grant will be implemented in cooperation with the Allegheny Plateau Invasive Plant Management Area partnership, which is working as a five county collaborative to address invasive plants at a landscape level,” said Jody Groshek, communications & outreach director for the McKean County Conservation District.
“Non-native, invasive plants can cause serious problems for reforestation efforts and other environmental concerns,” Causer said. “I commend conservation district officials for their proactive efforts to eradicate these problems before they grow any worse.”
The conservation district sought funding through the newly created Rapid Response Disaster Readiness Account, which was established earlier this year under legislation authored by Causer and funded in the 2019-20 state budget. The funding will be split equally between two projects.
“These treatment projects are high priorities to protect an important watershed from a Japanese knotweed problem and control a state listed noxious weed, goatsrue, from further spread within and out of McKean County,” said Groshek.
The first project will target a non-native, invasive and noxious weed called goatsrue, which initially appeared in McKean County 20 years ago.
“Goatsrue is an invasive species found primarily in McKean County, though some has been found in other places in Pa. and in Utah. It was promoted at one time that it would be a potential feed for animals, though it is actually toxic to livestock that feed on grass,” explained McKean County Commissioner Cliff Lane, who also serves as the secretary/treasurer for the McKean County Conservation District.
In recent years, the plant has spread to Cameron, Elk and Warren counties. So far, those infestations are smaller than most of what is found in McKean County, and officials hope to stop the spread and get rid of the plant before it causes any further damage. The project would be conducted on public and private lands in Cameron, Elk, McKean and Warren counties.
The second project will target the non-native, invasive Japanese knotweed, which grows very densely, sometimes up to 12 feet tall.
“It’s found across a lot of the states on the east coast. Nothing native will grow underneath it,” said Lane. “You can cut it down and it grows right back. Sometimes you have to cut it down and treat it multiple times before you can eradicate it completely.”
Clearing this plant would increase the effectiveness of reforestation efforts on commercial timber lands and improve recreational opportunities in the Tionesta Creek watershed, including improving watercraft and swimming access as well as fishing. The infestation is classified as a small, satellite population of the plant.
According to conservation district officials, the Tionesta Watershed is one of very few watersheds in the state that could be devoid of Japanese knotweed with successful implementation of the eradication plan to be funded in part by the grant funding.
The project would be conducted on public and private lands in Warren, Forest, Elk and McKean counties.