Invasive Species Strike Team Volunteers Target Invasive Plants in New Jersey

Officials say 150 plant species brought to New Jersey from other parts of the world are thriving, but at the expense of the Garden State’s ecosystem.

“One of my friends is doing an internship at an accounting firm and just sits there all day,” says Lawrence Township volunteer Madeline Weeks. “It’s more about feeling influential and purposeful.”

Weeks is a student at Eastern University. She spends her summer vacations protecting the state’s ecosystem.

“It’s really nice to walk around on your own feet and be with physical plants,” she says.

Volunteers are killing invasive plants in the state as part of the New Jersey Invasive Plant Strike Team, which targets 150 non-native plant species introduced to New Jersey.

“The more invasive species we have, the more the ecosystem deteriorates,” says Mike Van Clef of Friends of Hopewell Valley Open Space. “I introduced these exotic plants that went out of control.”

Tuesday’s team was at Hopewell’s Woosamonsa Ridge Preserve in search of some plants. They’ve worked hard all summer long from Sussex County to Pine Barrens.

New Jersey is one of two states without an official list of invasive plants. So volunteers step in to help undo the damage that humans have unintentionally caused.

“We tend not to wait to see how bad it gets. The key is early detection and rapid response,” says Van Clef.

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