The Journal Gazette
Friday, June 10, 2016 7:27 am

Nature nonprofit starts area chapter

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

A statewide nonprofit group working to curb the spread of invasive plants and promote the protection and use of native species has formed a northeast Indiana chapter.

The new chapter of Indiana Native Plant and Wildflower Society, also known as ­INPAWS, has gathered individuals and leaders of several area environmental and land management groups and plans to offer educational and volunteer opportunities to area residents.

"Our chapter is going to focus on programming," said Betsy Yankowiak, chapter president and president of the Little River Wetlands Project which oversees the 716-acre Eagle Marsh nature preserve in southwest Fort Wayne.

"We want to promote local involvement and get people involved across organizational lines," she said. 

The chapter’s first public program will be at 6 p.m. July 29 at Metea Park. "No Flowers? No Problem" will include a hike highlighting native ferns and mosses led by Bob Dispenza, the park’s manager.

Other activities that might be sponsored by the group could include eradication of invasive species and monitoring of new land developments, Yankowiak said.

Species such as Japanese stiltgrass, garlic mustard, autumn olive, Asian honeysuckle and Bradford pear trees have become a problem for many area nature preserves by crowding out natives needed to sustain wildlife and pollinators, including bees and butterflies, Yankowiak said. Battling invasive species has become a constant, labor-intensive struggle at Eagle Marsh, Yankowiak said.  

"Now we can build a pool of volunteers and connect them to land managers of local parks, preserves and natural spaces. We can help eradicate invasive species in a protected area or relocate sensitive native plants to allow them to thrive elsewhere."

In other areas, INPAWS sponsors native plant sales and educates residents about the benefits of using native plants in landscapes.

The chapter is using a Facebook page at Northeast Chapter of Indiana Native Plants and Wildflower Society-INPAWS to generate interest and members, Yankowiak said.

The local board includes two master gardeners/master naturalists, Sandra Lamp and Bob Streeter, and two owners of businesses specializing in native plants, Martha Ferguson of Riverview Native Nursery in Spencerville, and Laura Stine of Laura Stine Gardens, Fort Wayne.

Other members are biologists Ronnie Greenberg and Kate Sanders and Janet Canino, sustainability director of Oak Farm Montessori School.

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