FODM Summer Quarterly Membership Meeting September 10, 7:30 p.m.
TOPIC: Wetlands and Climate Change: How Do Wetlands Protect Us?
SPEAKER: Ms. Molly Mitchell, Virginia Institute for Marine Science
Virginia Is In the Hot Seat - Climate change is here now. You can learn how it is affecting Northern Virginia, how wetlands like Dyke Marsh and other natural resources of Northern Virginia will be affected and how Northern Virginia can respond at FODM's September 10 program, 7:30 p.m.
How is Climate Change Affecting Virginia?
This program is sponsored by the Friends of Dyke Marsh, Sierra Club, Mount Vernon and Great Falls Groups.
Secretary of Interior Visited Dyke Marsh to Launch $100 Million in Hurricane Sandy Grants
On Tuesday, October 29, U.S. Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell visited the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve to launch a $100 million Hurricane Sandy Competitive Grant Program. Secretary Jewell and local officials also celebrated the award of a $25 million grant to restore Dyke Marsh, part of a $162 million Interior investment in 45 restoration and research projects to restore wetlands and beaches and rebuild shorelines. Speakers included U.S. Senator Tim Kaine, Congressman Jim Moran, George Washington Memorial Parkway Superintendent Alex Romero and Friends of Dyke Marsh President Glenda Booth. Over a dozen members of the media were there to cover the event including television, radio and newspaper reporters.
Students from Jefferson Houston PreK-8 School came to learn about the marsh and its ecology. After the announcement, Secretary Jewell joined the students and officials and from the Alexandria Seaport Foundation in an outdoor learning activity and National Park Service Horticulturist Barry Stahl introduced students to some of the plants common in the wetland.
Click on this link to watch a video of Secretary Jewell's visit to Dyke Marsh.
Girl Scout Troop 2459 Tackled Trash at Dyke Marsh
Ten enthusiastic Girl Scouts from Troop 2459 visited the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on April 28 and cleaned up trash along the shoreline. They are working on an animal habitat badge. Their troop leader is Sarah Olson and they are based at Fort Hunt Elementary School in the Mount Vernon area. FODM President Glenda Booth, Vice President Ned Stone and FODMer Patty McCarthy talked about the harm of trash on wildlife and habitat.
New FODM Board Member - Katherine Wychulis
By Erik Oberg, Biologist, NPS
On September 27, NPS's Natural Resources and Lands staff marked Dyke Marsh's federal boundary in the Potomac River with 11 buoys. This marks the end of four years of work to secure the approvals, permits and funding to help visitors see and understand the full extent of Dyke Marsh and how much land has eroded since the NPS began managing the marsh.
Working as a team, park staff safely moved and set over 3,300 pounds of concrete anchors, buoys and chain. With excellent satellite reception, anchors were placed within 17 inches of the target for every location. Each anchor was given enough chain to allow for site-specific water depth, anchor sinkage, tide and peak flood variation.
In addition to placing all 11 boundary buoys, NPS staff also gave assistance to U.S. Geological Survey researchers by extracting three soil cores from the marsh. These cores will be analyzed to provide a millennium-scale climate record of the region and supplement a new joint publication.
President's Message, Spring 2014 - Glenda C. Booth
It's been a “ping-pong” spring weather-wise, but an interesting one. We've seen screech owls mating, a woodcock doing courtship flight displays and a red-necked grebe in breeding plumage.
FODMers in River Towers have been captivated by killdeer, tundra swans, Cooper's hawks, beavers, foxes and more. Ned Stone spotted two beaver lodges in Hog Island Gut, with tell-tale sapling trees cut nearby on April 1. Ospreys made a glorious return up and down the river and “our” marina boat ramp pair returned. They “star” in a 13-minute video titled “Osprey Love Nest” by William Young, an Arlington writer, who shot the footage and wrote the script. Ashley Bradford, an artist who lives near Dyke Marsh, narrates. It describes the behavior, anatomy and field marks of the pair, as well as their interactions with other birds Visit FODM's homepage for a link to this video and Bill's other video featuring egrets, coots and eared and horned grebes in the area.
Destroying Bird Food
For the second year, we expressed concerns about Fairfax County's helicopter spraying to “suppress” fall cankerworms in their larval stage. FODMers met with officials on March 25 at which Board member Katherine Wychulis made an excellent presentation, stressing that the pesticide, Btk, kills all moth and butterfly caterpillars, not just cankerworm caterpillars, when warblers and other birds are migrating through our area. Caterpillars are a major food source for many birds, especially birds feeding their young. Entomologist Doug Tallamy has said that more than 550 caterpillar species can feed on a native oak tree. We and our colleagues from the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, Friends of Huntley Meadows Park and Friends of Mason Neck State Park urged the county to take another approach. Since then, the Northern Virginia Bird Club has joined the effort. FODMers also maintained that the helicopter noise, proximity and spraying could adversely affect Dyke Marsh's two bald eagle nests.
The National Park Service (NPS) does not spray or allow this spraying on their properties. A map of the areas targeted is on the Fairfax County website. For information, contact Joan Allen, email@example.com.
Congressman Dingell to Retire
Michigan Rep. John Dingell, the longest-serving lawmaker in congressional history, announced that he will not seek re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives this year. He helped write many major bills, including the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Endangered Species Act, Affordable Care Act and Medicare. Few know that it was Congressman Dingell's 1959 bill that added Dyke Marsh to the national park system. In 2009, he attended our 50th anniversary event commemorating enactment of the bill. Best wishes, Congressman Dingell.
Congress is now considering President Obama's proposed budget for fiscal year 2015, which would restore $55 million in funds for NPS after several years of cuts. Virginia's national parks generated nearly $1 billion in economic benefits through more than 23 million visits in 2012, reported Ralph Berrier, in the March 3 Roanoke Times.
Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has said that she is in the “forever business.” So are we. Advocating for conservation and restoration is a noble cause. Thanks for all that you do.
New Bulletin Board and Bicycle Racks Installed on Haul Road
On August 9, 2014, Carson Cameron and his Boy Scout Troop 1509 colleagues installed a new bulletin board
and bicycle racks at the Haul Road entrance as an Eagle Scout Service Project. Carson organized 16 boys and adults who worked
diligently from 8 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. FODM thanks Carson, his helpers and the National Park Service for the new bulletin board.
Photo collection contributed courtesy of Scott Cameron.
Organizer of the project, Carson Cameron in front of the newly installed bulletin board. F
E Lots of holes need to be dug prior to installing the new bulletin board and bicycle racks.
Ground is leveled off after installing new bicycle racks in the holes. F
E Materials brought in by wheelbarrow help to complete the job.
International Academy Students Visit Dyke Marsh
Thank you, T. C. Williams students! You are a great group. Come back soon!
Photo collection - clockwise from right by Glenda Booth:
T. C. Williams High School students arrive, ready to plant some native plants.
FODM Vice-President Ned Stone explains why non-native, invasive plants can be a problem.
The group celebrated their planting successes with a group photo on the bridge across the wetland.
Students dug holes and planted new native plants.
Many Signs of Spring on FODM's April 19 Walk
The Friends of Dyke Marsh April 19 spring walk turned into a delightful snake walk. Led by Arlington County Natural Resources Manager Alonso Abugattas, the group had two sightings of a northern watersnake and three sightings of the Eastern rat snake. It was a beautiful day, with spring emerging.
Here are a few highlights, tidbits from Alonso:
SPRING WALK PHOTO COLLECTION
Redbuds were showing off their bright pink blossoms.
Beavers are at work in Dyke Marsh. While people usually express concerns about trees that beavers chew down, these rodents do make ponds by building dams, Alonso pointed out.
Alonso Abugattas shows an introduced or invasive "mystery snail" that is commonly seen all up and down the Potomac River shoreline.
Several eastern rat snakes were basking in the trees and one slinked for cover under the wooden bridge. It feeds on rodents, birds' eggs, salamanders and lizards.
The cleavers or bedstraw plant has whorled leaves and will stick on anything, like FODMer Mary Ellen Freesland. It was once used to make bed ticks or mattresses.
Volunteers Prepare to Attack Invasive Plants
Thirty eager volunteers participated in a training on May 16 on how to attack invasive plants along the George Washington Memorial Parkway, sponsored by FODM and the National Park Service (NPS). NPS Biologist Erik Oberg explained the harm of non-native plants and trained volunteers in how to reduce and manage these plants. Many invasive plants outcompete valuable natives and form monocultures, thus reducing biodiversity, Oberg explained. He said that NPS has to prioritize and perform a “triage operation” along the parkway, given the abundance and widespread distribution of non-natives.
The target invasive plants for the teams are garlic mustard, amur or bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose, wineberry, English ivy, Japanese honeysuckle and Oriental bittersweet. Volunteers will “enter into a relationship with the parkway,” he suggested and he asked everyone to commit to four hours a month. If you’d like to help, contact Erik at firstname.lastname@example.org or FODM Vice-President at email@example.com.
Photos by Glenda Booth.
Ned Stone is Recognized
The Trash Summit is a forum of elected officials, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, businesses and citizens gather to develop approaches to reduce litter and waste in the Potomac watershed.
FODM President Glenda Booth has written an article published in the September-October 2012 Virginia Wildlife magazine titled "Virginia's Watery Wonderlands" describing wetlands in Virginia. Read the entire article.
FODM Presents Dyke Marsh Photo to Senator Tim Kaine
Dyke Marsh Islands Get Official Names
The multi-agency U.S. Board of Geographic Names has given four islands in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve official names – Angel, Bird, Coconut and Dyke Island.
As we reported in our summer 2012 issue, the Friends of Dyke Marsh suggested four different names -- Osprey, Marsh Wren, Kingbird and Cormorant Islands. Congressman Jim Moran and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors agreed with FODM’s suggestions.
The Board accepted names recommended by the U.S. Geological Survey scientists who prepared the comprehensive 2010 study documenting the severe erosion occurring in Dyke Marsh (http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2010/1269/) and entered the new names into the Geographic Names Information System, the official repository (http://geonames.usgs.gov).
Commenting on the decision, Congressman Moran said, "Dyke Marsh is one of Northern Virginia's treasured wetlands and deference should be given to local community and local government when it comes to naming geographic sites. The Friends of Dyke Marsh proposed thoughtful and appropriate names for the four islands and I am disappointed USGS rejected the recommendations. Moving forward, we must continue working to preserve Dyke Marsh. Regardless of what the islands are named, they are important to the community."
Our 2012 article provides the rationale of the Board’s decisions and for FODM’s recommendations. Generally, FODM argued that the names should reflect the flora or fauna that are typically present and observed by those who know the area best.
The National Park Service told the board that they have “no objection” to the names recommended by USGS scientists. The website of the Board states that its goal is to “maintain uniform geographic name usage throughout the federal government. . . In partnership with federal, state and local agencies, the Board provides a conduit through which uniform geographic name usage is applied and current names data are promulgated.”
Research on Sediment Dynamics in Dyke Marsh
Many of us have wondered, "Is the marsh growing or shrinking? Is it being rebuilt by the river, or are we losing it to erosion?" To provide some answers to these questions, research in the gain and loss of sediments in the marsh has been undertaken by Cindy Palinkas and David Walters of the Horn Point Laboratory of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science in Cambridge, MD, in cooperation with the National Park Service, building on earlier work by Katia Engelhardt. They reported their work in a poster paper at a recent conference of the American Geophysical Union. The goal of their study is more modest than predicting the ultimate fate of the marsh: "to better understand the spatial and temporal variability in sedimentary processes in a freshwater tidal marsh." There are competing effects at work in setting the level of the marsh relative to the river. The Potomac always carries a burden of sediment, which is greatly enhanced following heavy rain upstream. Two daily incoming tides flood parts of the marsh, and some of the river-borne sediment is left behind in those areas.
The following is a copy of a letter to the editor written by FODM President Glenda Booth and published in the August 26 edition of the Mount Vernon Gazette.
Many newcomers view Northern Virginia as a suburban sea of tract homes, dense development, shopping malls and traffic jams.
I hope they realize that we are blessed with a natural jewel, which former U. S. Senator John Warner called “a magnificent little oasis.” It is the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve on the banks of the Potomac River in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax County, just south of Old Town Alexandria.
At 485 acres, the preserve is one of the last tidal wetlands on the river. Tidal freshwater marshes are rare, says Dr. Elizabeth Wells, a George Washington University wetland plant expert. This wetland complex is one of the most significant temperate, tidal, freshwater, riverine marshes in the national park system. Thus, it is a national treasure as well.
Congress designated it as a preserve in 1959 “so that fish and wildlife development and their preservation as wetland wildlife habitat shall be paramount.” Today, it has 300 known species of plants, 6,000 arthropods, 38 fish, 16 reptiles, 14 amphibians and over 230 birds, Like all wetlands, Dyke Marsh provides ecological services: flood control, water quality enhancement, habitat, fish nursery, shoreline stabilization and recreational opportunities.
It’s been excavated, dumped in and invaded by exotics. Commendably, the U.S. National Park Service is moving to restore damaged areas.
The Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve is “the nearest thing to primeval wilderness in the immediate vicinity of the city,” wrote naturalist Louis Halle in 1947. Newcomers’ lives can be enriched by the few remaining natural areas like Dyke Marsh that have not fallen prey to the bulldozer and asphalt spreader.
Take a walk out the Haul Road in Dyke Marsh, and when you
round the bend you will be treated to an open view of the Potomac River on your
right, thanks to Don Robinson (pictured), Ned Stone and Mary Jo Detweiler. The
three meet Friday mornings to remove Bush (Amur) Honeysuckle and other invasive
plants from Dyke Marsh. After they cut invasives to the ground and flag the cut
stems, National Park Service personnel selectively apply herbicides to the
flagged plants. Stone and Robinson have been trained by NPS to identify and
remove invasives. To join this volunteer effort, please contact either Ned
Stone, 703-765-5441 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Elizabeth Ketz-Robinson
or Don Robinson at 703-768-1344.