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Environmentalist of the Month-Tackles Invasives by Hand

February 17, 2013 Environmentalist of the Month, Green Blog No Comments
Ken Bawer
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  • Weed cutting Weed cutting
  • Volunteers cutting invasive plants Volunteers cutting invasive plants Volunteers cutting invasives


Gaithersburg, Md

Sunday, February 17, 2013

By: Alex Stavitsky-Zeineddin

Concern for one’s environment moves people to take action in a variety of ways, and for Ken Bawer it is getting rid of invasive plants that otherwise would drown out native plants in Montgomery County Md. parks and trails.

Bawer is a certified Weed Warrior supervisor, a volunteer  position in Montgomery County’s Parks department.  A supervisor requires weed warrior certification and then commitment to leading volunteers at least twice a year to identify and cut invasive plants in Montgomery County’s parks.

“ I became aware of the problem of invasive plants in Montgomery County five years ago from a friend of mine who works in Maryland’s Department of Environmental protection” said Bawer.  “Once you understand and recognize non-native invasive plants you understand that they are depriving native plants of the soil’s nutrients, water and sunlight. Non-natives can kill large trees and native wildflower plants.”

Employed in the computer industry in technical marketing by day, Bawer was drawn to the outdoors and tackling the invasive plants as way to give back to the community.  Certified as a Weed Warrior Supervisor a year ago, Bawer leads monthly Weed Warrior events, regardless of the weather, in the Muddy Branch Greenway Trail and Block House Point in Montgomery County.

Volunteers from watershed groups such as Muddy Branch Alliance, as well as nature lovers in general, show up every third Saturday of the month cut and clear invasive plants, lead by Ken Bawer.

Bawer teaches the volunteers to identify the invasive plants, how to cut the invasives and provides the tools -weed wrenches, hand saws, clippers and shovels- to get rid of the plants.  Students can receive student service learning hours for their work and have to be a minimum of 14 years of age.

Kudzo, Poison Ivy, Garlic Mustard, and Japanese Wisteria are some of the invasive varieties around Montgomery County.

According to Montgomery County’s Weed Warrior program, non native-invasive species present “one of the greatest threats to the health and biodiversity of our parklands.  They disrupt the ecology of the natural systems.”

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services estimate that there are 4,300 invasive species of plants in the U.S..

There are ecologists, however, that are questioning whether all non-native species are harmful, stating that eco-systems are changing due to climate change and that these changes alter the areas that different plants can live.



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