A recap of the UES Spring Invasives Workshop
This past Sunday, April 6, 2014, nearly forty enthusiastic volunteers attended the Spring Invasives Workshop in Lower Frick Park offered by NMRWA and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy. It was a beautiful, sunny day, perfect for Jake Baechle, Volunteer Coordinator for the Parks Conservancy, and Paul Yanulavich, Urban EcoSteward Coordinator and Arborist for NMRWA, to talk about the Urban EcoSteward program and the importance of invasive plant removal and its connection to biodiversity.
For example, did you know that many plants from the nursery that people use in their gardens are specifically bred to be pest-free? Unfortunately, many of these plants find their way into Pittsburgh’s parks, where they have an unfair advantage over native plants.
While these invasive, pest-free plants are problematic for numerous reasons, one big one is that they affect the reproduction and survival of butterflies and moths. Butterflies and moths are not only unable to eat these plants, but they also are unable to lay their eggs on them, since they will ultimately need to be eaten by the young caterpillars.
One example of note is the monarch butterfly. Monarch butterflies’ main food source are native milkweed plants in the US & Mexico. Milkweed is the only plant Monarchs will lay their eggs on, which unfortunately is vanishing at a rapid rate, particularly in the Great Plains states along the Monarch butterfly’s migration route, due to increased use of herbicides. The effects on Monarch populations are alarming – at their peak in the 1990’s, Monarch butterflies occupied 45 acres of forest in the Mexican mountains; this past year they covered only 1.65 acres!
This lack of food and reproductive space for Monarchs as well as numerous other butterfly and moth species in turn affects bird populations. Adult birds can eat the berries of invasive plants, but their babies can only eat the soft butterfly and moth larvae usually found on the native plants these invasives are replacing.
Not all is gloom and doom, however. As participants at Sunday’s workshop learned, we can slow the rate of extinction and boost biodiversity and the food web by planting native plants, like milkweed, in our own backyards (and in the parks), and by removing the invasives that are taking their place.
Although not many plants (native or invasive) were coming up quite yet because of the late arrival of Spring, the group did manage to find plenty of emerging goutweed, garlic mustard, and mugwort plants to remove, and, as always, plenty of vines to cut away from our beautiful, native trees.
Thanks to all the Urban EcoStewards and other volunteers who helped to make the day a success, and to Jake Baechle and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy Naturalist Mike Cornell for their knowledge, leadership, and insight.
If you drove down Penn Avenue in the Wilkinsburg business district last Saturday, you may have seen people in brightly colored vests working on the street trees. That’s because on Saturday, March 22, 2014 NMRWA joined forces with Tree Pittsburgh and watershed Tree Tenders for our first pruning workshop in Wilkinsburg!
We were performing important maintenance on 27 of the 76 trees that were planted in 2012 along Penn Avenue in Wilkinsburg as a part of the Wilkinsburg TreeVitalize Project. Through our pruning efforts, we worked to remove damaged, diseased, and dead branches and enhance the trees’ natural forms, helping to ensure that they thrive in the urban environment and are able grow to their full potential.
As these trees continue to grow for decades to come, they will not only beautify and add needed public green space to the Wilkinsburg business district, but will also help reduce stormwater runoff and non-point source pollution entering Nine Mile Run. So, a big thank you to Jake Milofsky and Kevin Tang from Tree Pittsburgh for partnering with us for this workshop, and to all of the dedicated watershed Tree Tenders who volunteered their time on a windy Saturday morning. It’s because of you that these projects are ultimately a success!
If you are interested in helping to care for trees in the watershed this Spring, please visit our Upcoming Events page to see other tree care events that we have coming up!
Check out StormWorks‘ announcement about their new and improved rain container design below. They need your help naming it, so put your thinking caps on & you could win one for free!
Help name the new StormWorks rain container – the winner receives one for FREE (a $450 value)!
From now until Friday, March 28th, StormWorks is soliciting help from creative minds around Pittsburgh to help us come up with a name for our new rain container! The winning selection will receive a free StormWorks property consultation, one 116 gallon ‘still-to-be-named’ rain container, and free delivery/installation! All contest entries must be received through Twitter, Facebook, or email.
Twitter: @StormWorksPGH, must use hashtag “#StormWorksContest”
Facebook: Like us on Facebook and post your idea to our wall
Email: Use subject line “StormWorks Naming Contest” and send to
StormWorks has been working with rain barrels for a little over 8 years, field testing new designs, experimenting with new accessories, listening to clients’ feedback, and conducting research. During this time, we’ve been trying to understand and perfect how rain barrels are designed, perceived, sited, and installed. We learned that it is time for an affordable rain collection system designed to fit with the edges, corners, and flat surfaces of a house; the new StormWorks rain container has a slim, modern design that can fit in narrow spaces between houses or shared walkways, behind shrubs, or neatly up against or in a tight area of your house to blend in with your landscape.
Manufactured in Erie, PA with recycled UV-Stabilized polyethylene, our new container has a capacity of 116 gallons to handle any size roof. It has multiple spigot and overflow openings, a removable mosquito-proof filter basket, and will be available in multiple colors to make it one of the most user-friendly and aesthetically-appealing rain harvesting containers on the market.
We’re gearing up for another busy summer helping Pittsburghers harvest rain water in a responsible way and a creative name is the last piece of the puzzle! Come up with the winning name and get the latest in rain harvesting technology and expertise for free!
StormWorks is a social enterprise created to support the mission of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association (NMRWA) by implementing responsible stormwater management techniques throughout the Nine Mile Run watershed and beyond its boundaries. StormWorks aims to further the work of NMRWA by meeting stormwater service needs at two key levels: a suite of stormwater management and mitigation services to the greater Pittsburgh area, and consultant services at regional levels. StormWorks specializes in providing various products and services, ranging from the installation of rain barrels and cisterns, the design and installation of rain gardens and permeable pavement, complete landscape design, and stormwater property consultations.
Today’s blog post comes from the Clean Rivers Campaign – an education & advocacy program designed to raise awareness of the stormwater runoff and sewage overflow issues in Allegheny County. NMRWA is one of the CRC’s six founding organizations.
Two years ago, the Clean Rivers Campaign launched an advocacy campaign to educate our elected officials and the public about the opportunity to create a sustainable and vibrant Pittsburgh by investing in a green first approach to solving our stormwater runoff and sewer overflow problems.
The response has been incredible – Pittsburghers recognize it’s good for families, workers, and the environment to maximize our largest ever public investment to stop water pollution AND solve multiple community needs at the same time.
Recent events show that our advocacy has paid off! A few weeks ago, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruled that ALCOSAN’s current, gray infrastructure-only plan for solving our region’s water quality problems was “deficient.”
Mayor Peduto responded with enthusiastic agreement, and we now have a real opportunity to build a “green first” plan for the Pittsburgh region that maximizes investment in green solutions, reinvests in neighborhoods, and creates family sustaining jobs. THEN we can looks to what complimentary gray strategies are needed to meet full water quality compliance.
But our work is far from over. Just recently, ALCOSAN reported that the Department of Justice (who serves as the legal representative for the EPA) has indicated a willingness to renegotiate the Consent Decree and to reach a new agreement by April—a very short window of opportunity!
We know that EPA officials have been flexible in allowing other cities to prioritize green solutions. But, ALCOSAN has shown that they lack the vision needed to make a “green first” strategy successful and to make large-scale green solutions a reality, we need visionary leadership at ALCOSAN. We also need compelling local data to guide implementation, and sustained public pressure to hold ALCOSAN accountable.
These three critical pieces stand between the choice to bury billions of public dollars under our rivers or to invest that money in ways that will create clean water, healthy communities, and economic opportunities for generations to come.
We need your help. And we need to act fast.
You stood with us at ALCOSAN public hearings and Beyond Tunnel Vision presentations. We need you to stand with us now as we keep up the pressure, educate our policy makers, and hold our leaders accountable to building a sustainable and equitable green-first sewer plan.
We also need your help to raise funds for something no one else has done—a study demonstrating the water quality improvements and community benefits that could result in from a green-first investment in the Pittsburgh region. This information will help leaders and advocates make the case for a “green first” plan.
We are calling on our supporters—you—to show your support for green solutions, bycontributing what you can to make the study happen.
In a recent letter to the Clean Rivers Campaign, Cynthia Giles, the Assistance Administrator for Compliance from the EPA wrote:
“Given the multiple benefits, EPA encourages the use of green infrastructure to the maximum extent possible. The EPA is supportive of, but cannot compel communities to employ green infrastructure practices. Communities can, however, propose the use of green infrastructure in their wet weather plans. We encourage you to share your thoughts and ideas on green infrastructure with ALCOSAN.”
Our work over the past two years has shown that Pittsburgh does want to go green. Now it’s time to make it happen. Please visit our IOBY crowdfunding campaign at: https://www.ioby.org/project/green-first-burgh