BY SUE WEBBER
Buckthorn will be under attack in Maple Grove this year.
The Maple Grove City Council March 6 approved proposals to remove buckthorn in two areas of the city comprising 75 acres, for a total of $31,136.
Removal will occur in the city’s North Forest Preservation Area, south of Terraceview and west of Ranchview, at a cost of $16,520.
Removal in the South Forest Preservation Area, south of Bass Lake Road and west of Vicksburg, will amount to $14,616.
Ken Ashfeld, Maple Grove’s city engineer and director of Public Works, said recommendations for the buckthorn removal came from the Arbor Committee.
“In 1995, Maple Grove residents approved the referendum to authorize the city of Maple Grove to bond up to $5 million ‘for the preservation of forest and open space,’” Ashfeld said. Passage of the referendum enabled Maple Grove to acquire 250 acres of land to complete forests within two areas, he said.
“Land purchased after this referendum was passed has resulted in some of the most beautiful forests in the metro area,” Ashfeld said. “It’s been quite an asset to the city. Land adjacent to the Three Rivers Park District provides another 100 acres.”
However, he added that maintenance and control of invasive species is important in preserving the forest.
Maple Grove’s Arbor Committee conducts an annual buckthorn removal event each fall to help control the growth of buckthorn, Ashfeld said.
A forester who consulted with city staff on the buckthorn removal recommended returning to the two areas for follow-up treatment a second and third year, after this year’s initial treatment, according to Ashfeld.
“This is expected to be a one-time cost of this magnitude,” Ashfeld said. “It’s a huge effort. We hope to manage it going forward mostly with city staff.”
Now, 22 years after Maple Grove purchased the land, exotic species have been introduced into the area, Ashfeld said. “There are no checks and balances on the species,” he said. “They continue to silently grow and take over the forest floor. A forest of buckthorn doesn’t have much value.”
Councilmember Judy Hanson said she was serving on Maple Grove’s Citizen Advisory Committee in 1995, when the referendum was passed. Now she is the City Council liaison to the Arbor Committee.
“The last three years we have gone out on buckthorn eradication [efforts],” Hanson said. “It’s tough to get into the areas and spray.”
The citizen efforts, she said, are “really a drop in the bucket to take care of what really is a huge problem.”
What is buckthorn? According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) website, “buckthorn leafs out early and retains its leaves late into the fall, creating dense shade that helps it to out-compete many native plants.”
Buckthorn first was brought to Minnesota from Europe in the mid-1800s as a very popular hedging material, according to the website. “Shortly after its introduction here, it was found to be quite invasive in natural areas,” the website said. “The nursery industry stopped selling it in the 1930s, but many buckthorn hedges may still be found in older neighborhoods throughout Minnesota.”
Buckthorn is one of the most invasive species found in Minnesota, and is listed as a “restricted noxious weed” in the state, according to the DNR.
According to the DNR, buckthorn is a problem because it:
• Out-competes native plants for nutrients, light, and moisture
• Degrades wildlife habitat
• Threatens the future of forests, wetlands, prairies, and other natural habitats
• Contributes to erosion by shading out other plants that grow on the forest floor
• Serves as host to other pests, such as crown rust fungus and soybean aphid
• Forms an impenetrable layer of vegetation
• Lacks “natural controls” like insects or disease that would curb its growth.