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Environmental Commission to Fight 'Invasive Species' and Pesticides

The EC discussed how to get rid of harmful plant species and the status of questionable pesticide practices in one neighborhood.

The Bernards Township Environmental Commission has resolved to begin planning of an initiative to reduce the number of "invasive species" of plants in the area.

Most of the plants in question are listed on the Environmental Commission's section of the township's website, Bernards.org. The plants in question are ones that are foreign to the area that have gone on to grow, unchecked throughout the state.

"If animals eat [a plant], then it's fine and not a problem," said Deputy Mayor John Malay. "If they don't, then it pushes all the edible plants out. That's the big problem." The committee specifically cited the Russian olive shrub, Japanese stilt grass and Norway maple tree as harmful species, who have been allowed to grow out of control.

The problem was brought to the attention of the committee by member Paula Axt, who described a recent trip to the Great Swamp State Park where she noticed the Russian olive shrub had, "completely taken over the woods."

Axt suggested encouraging high school students to take part in initiatives to remove the plant from the park, as part of their mandatory community service requirements. Committee chairman John Speeney contributed an equally unique idea when he suggested the EC create a kind of "Plants Most Wanted" List, with pictures of harmful species and a message encouraging people who come across them on their properties to rip the plants up.

In another point of business, Speeney spoke about the latest development in the fight against pesticides in his neighborhood where the landscaping company is under investigation by the Department of Environmental Protection for pesticide violations. "People who have kids are up in arms about this," he said, referring to a study which came out earlier this summer that linked organophosphate pesticides to ADHD in children.

The company continues to deny wrongdoing, most recently in the form of a letter to residents, which Speeney called "completely hosed-up and misleading." He maintains that he, and many fellow residents, remain unsatisfied with how their concerns have been addressed and are eagerly awaiting the findings of the DEP.

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