NoVA PRISM- A New Partnership with ARMN

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by Alex Sanders

In 2017, Arlington County sought and was awarded a matching grant to create a new multi-jurisdictional partnership. Known as the NoVA PRISM (Northern Virginia Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management), this effort is bringing together government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), volunteer groups, for-profit organizations, and individuals to coordinate their work on invasive species through outreach, education, and field projects in Northern Virginia. Here’s more about the effort and how you can join in.

One doesn’t need to travel far in our region to see invasive species—in yards, on the sides of streets, and worst of all, in our parks and natural areas. Because these species are free from the natural controls they had in their native lands, these organisms cause ecological, economic, or human harm in the new lands they’ve been introduced into. They can reproduce very quickly and outcompete native flora and fauna. The National Wildlife Federation estimates that 42% of threatened and endangered species are at risk due to invasives. 

 As understanding of the problem of invasive species has grown, many, including ARMN volunteers, have taken on the challenge of managing these organisms. But as the species have spread across the landscape, we’ve come to realize that the threat must be addressed through collaborative action beyond jurisdictional boundaries. So, this why Arlington County created NoVA PRISM.

Over the last year, the PRISM has been organizing, conducting outreach in the region, and working on a series of pilot projects along the Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail. We’ve collaborated with NGOs in Loudoun County on a forum on sustainable landscaping for homeowner associations, are sending out educational mailers to thousands of residences, and have set up a website. The PRISM also conducted a plant survey along the W&OD Trail, has led several volunteer removals, and is in the midst of two restoration projects: in Falls Church and in Arlington. ARMN has been a key partner, and we are looking forward to further coordination and more involvement by neighbors in the community.

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The challenges of invasive species in our region are substantial, but there’s plenty we can do as individuals and communities. First and foremost, try to remove as many invasives from your property as possible, and install native plants both for their beauty and to support our local wildlife that depend on them to survive. Your ARMN neighbors are doing just that and can provide expert advice. Other great resources are Plant NOVA Natives (for photos and descriptions of local native plants, where to buy them, landscaping tips, and additional resources), and Audubon at Home (for on-site consultation, and other recommendations to help you establish and nurture sustainable natural habitat in your backyard, neighborhood, school, church, park or business). You can also tell your favorite nursery to offer native plants. The more people who do can make a difference in what’s offered. And you can volunteer with groups such as ARMN to help restore our natural areas and educate others. Finally, visit the new NoVA PRISM website  or contact us at novaprism1@gmail.com. Look for upcoming habitat restoration events coming to a neighborhood near you and sign up to pitch in!

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ARMN Member Joanne Hutton Receives Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award

(Based on article in Arlington County’s Environment webpage.) Photos courtesy of Bill Browning.

 On April 24, 2018, ARMN member, Joanne Hutton, was honored with a Bill Thomas Outstanding Park Service Volunteer Award for her volunteer work in Arlington last year. This award was established to pay tribute to lifelong parks volunteer Bill Thomas and to honor and encourage residents with passionate dedication and support for the county’s dynamic programs, natural resources, and public open spaces.

Joanne Hutton is one of ARMN’s super stars, and Arlington County has recognized her value to the natural world with this very special annual award. Joanne is also a member of the Master Gardeners of Northern Virginia and became an ARMN member upon retiring from Arlington County’s Parks Division, where for five years she, trained VCE Master Gardeners and oversaw the county’s Community Garden program.

Phot of ARMN member Joanne Hutton holding the 2017 Bill THomas Award

Joanne with her 2017 Bill Thomas Award.

Among her ARMN projects, Joanne worked with the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia to establish a native plant demonstration garden at Potomac Overlook Regional Park, and she continues to lead the ongoing maintenance of that garden. She helped form the Audubon at Home (AAH) Ambassadors program for Arlington and Alexandria. AAH volunteers visit individual homeowners to offer guidance on best environmental management practices and increased use of native plants to improve habitat in their yards. Joanne has also worked on the Steering Committee for the Plant NOVA Natives Campaign, helping edit its published guide, Native Plants for Northern Virginia, encouraging property owners to buy and plant locally native plants.

She trained in Arlington’s first Tree Steward class and in 2010, assisted in surveying trees on Arlington’s 256-acre Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall to help better manage its tree population. She also has been a community gardener at Arlington’s Barton Park Community Gardens since 1999, and served as Chief Gardener for three years, continuing on its steering committee. Her focus as a Master Gardener remains public and continuing education.

Joanne actively participates in citizen science projects, including Christmas bird counts, monitoring bluebird nest boxes at Fort C. F. Smith Park, and assisting the Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas to determine distribution and status of breeding bird populations. She participated in Arlington’s first BioBlitz in 2017, a 24-hour citizen science inventory of plants and wildlife.

Photo of ARMN Member Joanne Hutton with all the 2017 Bill Thomas award winners

All 2017 Bill Thomas Award winners with the Arlington County Board.

In her time with ARMN, she has brainstormed ways to attract new members and make them feel welcome, served as a mentor to new members, and created an overall sense of inclusion within the group. As Joanne’s neighbor and fellow ARMN member Bill Browning puts it, “Joanne is a literal force of nature by her knowledge of the natural world, her willingness to share this knowledge, and her desire to make members in the Arlington Regional Master Naturalists feel welcome and have a sense of camaraderie.”

Joanne serves a multigenerational cohort to ensure that Arlington residents have the skills and information they need to be good stewards to the environment. Her service has inspired and encouraged others to join the local community of active volunteers. The natural world in Arlington has a true ally in Joanne; the benefits of her volunteer work can be seen throughout the County.

ARMN: Getting to Know Caroline Haynes

From time-to-time, ARMN’s Membership Committee posts profiles of our members including how they came to be master naturalists, which parts of nature they most enjoy, and how they have an impact on the environment around them. The latest biography is for ARMN’s founding member, Caroline Haynes, who established and graduated from our first training class in 2008. Alison Sheahan conducted the interview.

Photo of ARMN past president Caroline Haynes

Caroline Haynes

Tell us about the ARMN projects you spend time with.

I currently serve on the ARMN Board as a past-president, now with a purely advisory role. There is tremendous talent and enthusiasm on the ARMN Board. They are a terrific group of people—so smart and committed and fun to be with. I actually look forward to these meetings!  I enjoy the people that are drawn to ARMN, as they are so talented, and come from so many diverse backgrounds.

I’ve always enjoyed being able to sample a variety of volunteer activities: Earth Sangha (note: Caroline arrived at the interview lunch fresh from sorting seeds with Earth Sangha), Plant NOVA Natives, Audubon at Home, outreach and education events like the Arlington County Fair, presentations to community and school groups, biotic surveys like those with the National Park Service along the George Washington Parkway, invasive pulls, and restoration plantings. I also still review the applications for each new class of Master Naturalist trainees. I ran the first six ARMN training classes, so I appreciate the huge volunteer effort involved with the basic training classes and am still glad to contribute.

What brought you to ARMN in the first place?

Well, there was no ARMN until I talked to Alonso Abugattas, then the naturalist my kids and I knew at Arlington’s Long Branch Nature Center (LBNC)! Frustrated that Arlington County residents would not be allowed into a neighboring Master Naturalist program, we explored starting a chapter in Arlington. I chaired the coordinating committee back in 2007, and had lots of support from Alonso (now, the Arlington County Natural Resources Manager), Rachael Tolman, a naturalist at LBNC, other naturalists in Arlington, as well as Rod Simmons, Alexandria’s Natural Resource Manager and Plant Ecologist. It took us a year to get ARMN up and running, especially demonstrating that there would be enough demand for another program in such close proximity to the Fairfax Master Naturalist chapter. Alonso agreed to be one of our first instructors and I was actually part of the first training class in the fall of 2008, along with 24 others including current ARMN president Marion Jordan. I became president of the chapter then, and served in that role until December 2013.

My “local” journey toward finding and founding ARMN probably had most to do with our purchase of some property in West Virginia. The more time I spend in the woods, the more my curiosity is sparked by what I observe. I began taking classes in the Natural History Field Studies program at the Audubon Naturalist Society in Maryland. That is where I first heard about the Master Naturalist program forming in Virginia.

Tell us something about your childhood/adulthood experiences that shape your perspectives on nature and your work for ARMN.

Well, I grew up in Colorado! So hiking, camping, and being outside in beautiful places were always part of the deal. After earning a degree in International Finance/International Relations, I came to Washington to work in the Senate and then later as Deputy Assistant Secretary with the Treasury Department. I feel like it is my experience on the Hill that led me to see how important it is for people to “have a seat at the table” to get anything done.

I also met my husband on the Hill and we settled in Arlington, soon joined by our two daughters.

Is there anything else you’d like to share? It seems like you are always trying to get groups of people to put the naturalist perspective “on the table.”

Yes, I strongly encourage others to get engaged in their local advisory groups. ARMN doesn’t generally count this service for hours, unless it has a direct natural resources connection, but it is important to add that natural resources perspective. I currently serve as the Chair of the Arlington County Park and Recreation Commission, as a member of the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission, and as chair the Natural Resources Joint Advisory Group, which is charged with monitoring the implementation of the county’s Natural Resources Management Plan. I also serve on the Chesapeake Bay Ordinance Review Committee. We review plans by homeowners and developers when building in the resource protection area to ensure that mitigation measures comply with the Chesapeake Bay Ordinances. In addition, I am co-chair of the Plan for Our Places and Spaces advisory group, where we are working on an update of the public spaces element of the county’s Comprehensive Plan. I am also serving as co-vice chair of the Four Mile Run Valley Working Group.

Citizen action is important, now more than ever. Paying attention to plans before they gather the full weight of policy is critical if we are to develop a more environmentally-sensitive direction.

Five Favorite Woody and Perennial Native Plants

Just in time for the fall native plant sales (See sidebar), ARMN volunteer Kasha Helget shares some of her favorites for landscaping.

by Kasha Helget

I grow a number of native plants in my yard, but there are some real standouts that deserve special recognition. Here are five each of shrubs and perennials and the features that make them real stars.

First, the shrubs:

by Kasha Helget

Clethra alnifolia (Summersweet) is a good foundation plant to place near an entrance because of its fragrant blooms. It can grow tall or be pruned to be shorter (after the bloom period). It has nice structure even without leaves in the winter. It can handle average moisture conditions and does well in part sun.

Wildlife: Butterfly nectar

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Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf Hydrangea) has wonderful year-around interest. First are the big white blooms in spring that smell terrific, and that later become pinkish, and then tan. Even when foliage drops in fall, the dormant flowers look good. It’s a good screening plant even with no leaves. It prefers part shade and average moisture.

Wildlife: Bird habitat

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Hypericum frondosum ‘Sunburst’ (St. John’s Wort) is another year-around favorite. It is fast growing, which makes it a good border plant. Its beautiful yellow blooms in spring are a magnet for a variety of bees. It’s a behaved self-seeder, and benefits from pruning after flowering. It can handle average moisture and full to part sun.

Wildlife: Bee nectar

Itea virginica 8-13-14

Itea virginica (Virginia Sweetspire) is a very versatile woody. It can take sun or part shade, and can handle moist or fairy dry conditions. It’s a moderate spreader (suckers) that are easily controlled or can be rooted as new plantings. It’s a great foundation or screening shrub.

Wildlife: Birds; larger mammals.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus 8-13-14  

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry) is even more versatile than the Itea virginica. It has beautiful foliage all year; great “coral” colored fruit in the winter, likes both shade and sun, can handle dry conditions, its runners are easily transplanted, and it can hold soil on a hill. It doesn’t grow very tall, which makes it a good foundation plant for low windows. While it can get powdery mildew, it can be prevented easily with a baking soda/dish soap/water spray.

Wildlife: Birds (berries); butterflies, moths, and bees (flowers). The dense thickets can provide nest sites.

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Homeowners save wildlife by creating a green network across Northern Virginia

By Leigh Pickering

In the past month, seven local properties have joined the ranks of homeowners creating a green network for wildlife in Arlington and Alexandria. This critical work is intended to blunt the impact of habitat loss in our area by providing small sanctuaries desperately needed for the survival of wildlife in our increasingly urban environment. The properties range in size and style from a narrow lot in Old Town Alexandria to a wooded ravine and intermittent stream just above Chain Bridge.

The Audubon at Home program seeks to make every home a wildlife sanctuary by certifying that each property works to achieve the goals stated in the Healthy Yard Pledge. The Healthy Yard Pledge is an amalgamation of many of the topics covered in our Master Naturalist Training. The five points of the pledge include:

1. Remove invasive exotic plants.
2. Reduce or eliminate pesticide and fertilizer use.
3. Conserve and protect water, waterways and water quality.
4. Install native plants to support the local food chain.
5. Support wildlife with water, cover and food to the extent possible.

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) is a great evergreengroundcover for a hot sunny area. Here, on a south- facing slate patio. groundcover for a hot sunny area. Here, on a south- facing slate patio.

Moss Phlox (Phlox subulata) is a great evergreen groundcover for a hot sunny area, shown here on a south- facing slate patio.

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ARMN Invasive Plant Species Education Volunteer Opportunities Intersect at PORP

By John Bernard

Several endeavors by Arlington Regional Master Naturalist (ARMN) on education of invasive plant species and alternatives converge at Potomac Overlook Regional Park (PORP). One is the ARMN Audubon at Home (AAH) focus summer project which had its kick off meeting on June 24 at ARMN’s native plant garden after “Meet Me On A Sunday” at PORP. The program included AAH ambassadors and potential future ambassadors with a schedule of site visits to ARMN member yards.

ARMN members gathered to hear from Joanne Hutton (ARMN, MGNV),
Kathy Landis (ARMN, Landscape Designer), Alan Ford (President, Potomac
Chapter of the Virginia Native Plant Society, Terry Liercke (Audubon Society of
Northern Virginia), and Cliff Fairweather (Long Branch Nature Center) about
ways to create habitat-friendly yards using native plants.

Garden creators Joanne Hutton and Kathy Landis gave an overview of the AAH focus project and a tour of the shade garden to show ways to enhance habitat.

Good table top display and training references for the program.

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