/ People and NatureRestorationVolunteers

The Toughest Multiflora Rose Remover

Volunteer Duane Bowker is a steadfast uprooter of invasive plants

Meeting with Duane Bowker, you can immediately sense his understanding and appreciation of the natural world. His readiness to help is contagious, and he truly lights up when surrounded by nature.

Duane and his wife, Ellen, relocated to the area from New Jersey two and a half years ago. Upon his arrival, Duane became involved with local hiking groups. On a trail near Connestee Falls, he and his hiking companions noticed a property line with signs for what was then Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. One of the hikers explained to Duane that the organization could be an outlet for his passion for the outdoors.

He went home that day, became a member and spoke with a member of the staff. This led to Duane finding out about the Habitat Restoration crew, and he was soon on the job clearing litter at Lewis Creek and removing invasive plants at Florence Nature Preserve.

One Pile of Uprooted Invasives at a Time

Duane is now a regular volunteer of Conserving Carolina and an integral part of its habitat restoration efforts. He attends nearly all workdays, ridding conserved areas of the non-native invasive plants that have overtaken them.

He has been referred to as the “toughest remover of multiflora rose”.

On a February workday in Florence Nature Preserve, a 1.5 hour drive from his home in Brevard, Duane proved himself worthy of the title. Creating piles of the uprooted invasive plants, he stopped only for water and continued working to clear the trail of the non-native species. By lunchtime, Duane has collected the largest pile of multiflora rose, a typical feat for him.

Duane works hard because he believes that every effort, no matter how small, is important to the cause.

“It’s not like we’re gonna walk in and make a huge difference in one day – it’s an incremental thing that we’re doing.” he said. “You just have to be patient and keep working at it.”

Befriending the Next Generation

Coming from New Jersey, where litter is a large contributor to land and water pollution, he sees his work in invasive plant removal in WNC as a comparable effort. Both actions require the removal of something unnatural, a harmful disturbance to the environment in which it exists; in this case, it is the removal of nonnative species that impair the biodiversity of our forests.

Duane realizes that these pursuits may at times seem futile, but he has faith in the next generation to carry on these good works.

“I really like working with and seeing people who are younger, in their teens and 20s, getting into environmental work,” Duane said. “It gives me hope for the future.”

He enjoys working with AmeriCorps Project Conserve members for this very reason.

“It’s nice being friends with younger people once in a while.” Duane said. “They’re kind and committed, and I’m interested in seeing what’s going to happen with their lives going forward.”

Duane Bowker is a warrior in the fight for biodiversity in our forests. Without dedicated volunteers like him, Conserving Carolina could only accomplish a portion of what it does. Contribute to the success of land preservation and habitat restoration by becoming a Conserving Carolina volunteer today.