To the Editor:
I read with interest in a May issue of the Mount Vernon Gazette that the National Park Service is working with volunteers to address invasive plant issues along the George Washington Parkway.
Volunteers perform a lot of valuable work for all National Park System units across the country every year, creating millions of dollars in value for taxpayers and those who enjoy our national parks.
Dealing with invasive species is a particularly useful form of volunteer service, since invasives are estimated by Professor Pimentel of Cornell University to cost the American economy $128 billion each year, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that about 43 percent of all endangered species are endangered at least in part because some invasive species has done something to them. Back in September 2013, the Economist magazine reported that of all the species extinctions since the year 1600, invasive species have been solely responsible for 20 percent of them and contributed to 50 percent. Clearly, anybody who cares about our environment, biodiversity, and quality of life ought to be aware of invasive species.
As your article rightly points out, invasive species are an issue for us in Fairfax County in general, and Mount Vernon as well. English ivy, multiflora rose, bamboo, and many others are threatening our native plants and landscapes, parks and natural areas, and ultimately our property values. We are lucky to have local volunteers who help remove invasive plants across Fairfax County. The county estimates that in the last eight years 10,000 volunteers have logged 360,000 hours trying to address invasive plants across forty locations in Fairfax County. In fiscal year 2014 alone, these volunteer services were valued at $124,000.
Given the obvious willingness of our citizens to devote their personal time and attention to this issue, it is therefore especially disappointing that the county government in April zeroed out the county’s modest $150,000 Invasive Management Area Program in the 2015 budget. That is the same program that leverages all those volunteer hours of public-spirited people who are trying to improve the environmental quality and quality of life in our county. Given that the quite literal sweat equity of our citizens is contributing about as much value to the program as the county budget has provided in the past, it clearly makes sense to restore funding for the Invasive Management Area Program.
Let’s encourage our Board of Supervisors to reconsider their funding decision, and restore funding for the program.
Scott J. Cameron
Riverside Estates, Mount Vernon