COOK FOREST - As good intentions sometimes do -- a plan to remediate strip mines in Pennsylvania has gone awry.
"Japanese Knotweed is a non-native invasive species that colonizes waterways," said Kelly Culbertson of the Cook Forest Conservancy. "It was introduced by the state to remediate strip mines that have very low soil quality. That's the problem. It will grow where ever there is poor soil where you don't have a native plant established."
The result is the degradation of local streams.
"It grows to a height of six- or seven-feet tall and out-competes everything else," said Culbertson. "It also shades the stream banks and you get water that is less filtered and that causes more erosion."
Culbertson is heading a project centered from Cooksburg to the State Route 36 bridge to keep the banks of the "Wild & Scenic" Clarion River clear of Japanese Knotweed.
Because of the knotweed, the water is carrying less oxygen and the water quality is degrading.
"There is really no up-side to knotweed," Culbertson said in Cook Forest during a recent talk about the plant.
The persistent plant is difficult to control.
"If you are cutting it and not spraying, there is no benefit," said Culbertson. "It will re-root if it falls into a stream and flows downstream. "If it is along a stream it is best to spray it and not cut it."
Culbertson said you may need to spray it for several years and you should probably spray it in the fall.
"If you spray in the spring it will probably come back in the fall. The roots are trying to absorb energy in the fall for the winter," Culbertson explained.
Once the knotweed is removed, another planting needs to be introduced in its place.
"You have to come back in and plant something like a willow that will stop the erosion," Culbertson said.
The knot weed is also a problem away from waterways.
The plant's vast root system exploits weaknesses in building foundations and drainage systems, often making buildings structurally unsound.
More recently it has become a problem with home buyers and homeowners because certain lenders are denying mortgages due to the presence of Japanese knotweed.
The program's focus in 2022 is on properties downstream of the State Route 36 bridge in Cooksburg but anyone is welcome to attend the sessions andapplythe advice.
In mid-summer, a demonstration of cutting to weaken the plant; and, in early fall, a herbicide spraying demonstration will be held at MacBeth'sCabins& Country Store in Cook Forest State.
Landowners can choose whether to borrow CFC backpack sprayers for herbicide application on their own property or to contract with knowledgeable licensed vegetation managers.
This project is expected to span several years and aims to expand annually until the Clarion River within the Cook Forest area is clear enough of Japanese Knotweed to re-establish native riverbank species.
The Western Pennsylvania Conservancy is administering this grant program in commitment to its core mission of conserving Pennsylvania's diverse ecosystems through science-based strategy, leadership, and collaboration.
Partner organizations for the Clarion River Japanese Knotweed Project include Penn State Extension, Clarion County Conservation District, the DCNR and Cook Forest State Park, and the PennsylvaniaBureauof Forestry.