Planning Board Backs Phragmites Removal

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By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, November 23, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

HAMPTON -- A professor at the University of New Hampshire is teaming with the Audubon Society to conduct a two-year study involving the removal of an invasive plant — phragmites — in the town of Hampton.

The Planning Board voted earlier this month to approve a special permit to impact wetlands to allow the group to cut eight acres of the plant near the Huckleberry Lane Salt Marsh.

Dr. Greg Moore said the study will explore managing phragmites in coastal habitats in ways that do not use herbicides.

The study is being funded by the National Resources Conservation Service Division of the United State Department of Agriculture.

"We are planning to go into the site and use a mechanized approach to cut the phragmites on a somewhat planned schedule," Moore said.

Moore said they want to determine when to cut it to get the maximum impact to stump growth.

Next summer they will cut twice and, depending on results, they will try to do one more cut later.

Moore said they are doing this because phragmites is an invasive plant.

"It tends to spread very quickly and reproduces very efficiently," Moore said. "It takes over native populations and native grasses within salt marshes. It also displaces a lot of wildlife and some that are increasingly important such as the salt marsh sparrow that is almost endangered."

Planning Board member Ann Carnaby questioned whether they have determined if cutting will diminish growth over time.

"Managing phragmites is not something that I just cooked up for the purpose of this project," Moore said. "This is something widely done as a management practice. But the timing of it matters."

Interestingly enough, he said, in Europe — where the plant is used for thatching — scientist are looking at the same idea but they are asking how they can cut it to get more of it.

Selectman Richard Bateman told Moore about the phragmites problem they recently had on High Street.

In additional to being invasive, he said, the plant is highly flammable.

Moore said in a separate research project they looked at possibly using the plant as wood pellets.

"Phragmites burns hotter than most hard woods," Moore said.

"By itself, it doesn't make a good pellet but it may as a mixture with other things. But that is a separate project."

Prior to the board voting to approve the project, Jay Diener, chairman of the Conservation Commission, told them he is 100 percent in support of the project.

"We like this project a lot," Deiner said. "There is really nothing good about phragmites. We think the town can learn a lot from this project as far as management of phragmites."

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