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Why Invasives? Greg Miner Shares his Passion for Invasive Eradication

A guest article by Conserving Carolina volunteer Greg Miner

I’ve worked on invasive eradication for perhaps 15 years and when my co-workers at a local community hospital heard of my hobby, their invariable question following their look of perplexion was, why?

Why?  It’s a hard question to answer. The how, the where, the when are no brainers but the why is a head scratcher.  I’m not entirely sure what makes bending over on hands and knees digging at some pervasive plant rewarding, or why I would return to a dig site after running full bore in the opposite direction from angry ground hornets, or why I would subject myself to a myriad of other issues that invariably revolve around invasives like poison ivy, kudzu bugs, high humidity, heat, cold, ants, prickers, and the occasional snake which to this point has been nonvenomous.  None of it seems logical or makes sense, at least to the rational person, and perhaps that is my segue into why I do what I do.

When I first moved here in 1995, I looked at the 2 acre property I bought in Tryon and saw how kudzu was stunting the growth of my dogwoods, forming a thick web preventing its upward growth.  I noticed kudzu curtains on the hillside literally 30 or 40 feet high among my pines and oaks.  I saw the girdling of kudzu and wisteria either misshaping the trunks of trees or squeezing so tight that it left its impression for years on the bark.  So my first target was this purple flowered monster.  I found myself enjoying its eradication because its roll back was accompanied by my land being more visually gratifying and healthy.

I went to several classes and seminars on invasives, one of which introduced me to Pacolet Area Conservancy Steward, Pam Torlina.  Pam eventually invited me to assist in invasive removal at Wilder Forest and introduced me to a growing number of invasive targets: English Ivy, privet, bittersweet, muliflora rose, and Pam’s personal favorite Tree of Heaven.  I think it was one of our futuristic rock singers who sang, “So many invasives, so little time.”

My growing knowledge of what was unhealthy to the land naturally lent itself to what was healthy, and I saw how the removal of my ivy allowed sweet shrub, Virginia creeper and mountain laurel to thrive.  I became enamored with the process of being outside, quietly, diligently resurrecting our native habitat maybe accompanied by the nearby sounds of a stream or the wind through the trees

There also is more of a philosophical response to the why question and that is, we have made it so difficult for nature to flourish.  Our land has been divided into property lines, highway systems, electrical grids, railways and the common feature of it all is: that life and this planet is, all about us.  If I build my dream home here I get a beautiful view of the lake, if I place my business there I’ll take advantage of people pulling off the interstate, if I buy this plot I can sell the timber.  Even our land put aside for nature has to have a human function to it, like trails or camping in order to justify its worthiness to be saved.  It’s a discouraging perspective because population growth and an emphasis on “growing the economy” are sure indicators that the encroachment of land will continue.  It’s the nature of all things to place itself and its progeny first but humans have the singular ability to reshape its perspective; to change its culture to where the emphasis could be: how will this development affect all living things.  That’s a cultural shift that I will not see in my lifetime but that change in perspective can either be forced on us by nature or done voluntarily.   I’m hoping groups like Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy and locally, Conserving Carolina can be a stepping stone into that future.

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