File photo burning knotweed.

Early this year, the conservation commissions of Waitsfield, Warren and Fayston receive a $100,000 federal grant to continue their work with invasive species management – primarily with knotweed – throughout The Valley’s watershed. With that grant requiring a match from local towns, the commissions are gearing up for fundraising efforts this spring.   





At an April 9 meeting of the Fayston Select Board, Fayston Conservation Commission co-chairs Andrea Henderson and Brian Litmans asked the board for permission to organize a fundraising campaign so that the town could participate in the grant, which was awarded by the Lake Champlain Basin Program.

The grant will be used over the course of two years. It requires a $50,000 local match – or $25,000 each year. In combining their funding, the three towns – known as the Tri-town Conservation Commission – are falling a bit short. While Waitsfield and Warren earmarked a combined $25,000 in their town budgets, Fayston – which has a group of volunteer community members involved in the knotweed effort, did not. Litmans said the town was asked to contribute $5,000.   

In the past year, the Tri-town Commission has spent about $35,000 in total on efforts to manage knotweed in The Valley’s watershed, according to Warren Conservation Commission chair Jito Coleman. Funding from Waitsfield and Warren came directly from town budgets – approved on Town Meeting Day, while Fayston’s funding came from ARPA funds.   




The select board expressed support for the commission’s future fundraising efforts, as chair Chuck Martel said, “I think the message is, move forward.” Select board members agreed that it would be useful to have a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) drafted and signed by the three towns, outlining their roles.

The Warren Conservation Commission began its efforts to manage knotweed about five years ago. They worked with a modest budget and one local high school intern. Today, the tri-town commission has access to greater funding, a network of local volunteers, as well as six college interns and a program manager from the University of Vermont Rubenstein School of Environmental and Natural Resources. Henderson said the overall effort has become more scientific with the UVM collaboration.

“But we don’t win this battle until we have a program that goes on for five to 10 years,” Coleman said.

Per the federal grant application, the funds will be used to continue efforts at eradication of invasive species along the Mad River and in the upper elevation roadways and tributaries. The group will be cleaning up knotweed propagules dispersed by the December 2023 flood in 10 flood plain locations and increase the number of knotweed infestations being managed from 145 in 2023 to 175 in 2024/2025.

They will also plant 1,272 native trees and shrubs in five high priority riparian locations along the Mad River where knotweed is being managed, implement a monitoring program to gauge the effectiveness of their management methods, and test mechanical methods for decontaminating knotweed-infested gravel, among other tasks.

“We would like to raise money to have a more robust program,” Litmans told the board. “Fighting invasives in The Valley is a multi-year [project], and we are in this with other towns for the long haul. The more we can do to get the community to recognize the threat posed by invasives, and to help support the towns in this collaborative effort, the better to build up the program over time.”