Pennsylvania’s Invasive Species: How One Scout Camp is Making a Difference

By Ashley Lyons / Full360 Reporter

Resica Falls Scout Reservation is one of my favorite places on Earth. 

Located in the Poconos, near East Stroudsburg, it stretches over 4,000 acres of forest, teeming with wildlife and bisected by the powerful Bushkill River. The reservation is named for the waterfalls that sit on its property, the largest right at the mouth of the summer camp that dominates most of Resica’s occupied land. During the summer, the camp is beautiful, filled with blooming flowers and all kinds of wild animals.

But Resica’s forests and other forests like them are in danger.

Invasive species have been dominating the Pennsylvania wilderness for the past few years.

Insects like the spotted lantern fly and the spongy moth harm native plants, and invasive plants such as autumn olive and Japanese stilt grass, which have no natural predators in Pennsylvania, and therefore spread rapidly through the state’s forests, taking resources away from native plants. This can decimate native plant and animal populations, which is why certain people at Resica Falls have been determined to destroy these invasive species and help native plants and animals reclaim their ecological niche.

Danni Scott was the Ecology Director at Resica Falls Scout Reservation for the 2021 and 2022

camp seasons. They led the effort to remove certain invasive species from Resica’s property during these two summers, helping to involve a variety of program areas, staff, and campers in the removal projects.

Scott’s main focus for plant removal was Autumn olive, a shrub with glossy green leaves that have light, silvery undersides. Autumn olive “shades out other plants and doesn’t allow them extra sun and can even affect the chemistry of the soil in a negative way.”

During the 2021 and 2022 camp seasons, they led countless Autumn olive removal projects cross the camp’s property. 

“The best and safest way to remove invasive species is by taking them out of the ground and destroying their root systems,” they said, “This can be very difficult, though, for plants that are large or have strong root networking systems.”

Danni Scott, Resica Falls’ former Ecology Director
Photo/ Ashley Lyons

Autumn olive can grow into the size of a small tree, with fairly strong root systems when they get to this size. Scott explained that “removing the Autumn olive from camp could take years to be successful, because often we are unable to remove the roots.”

That isn’t to say that invasive plant removal is doomed at Resica Falls. Scott provided some potential solutions, such as planting strong native plants at the site of invasive plant removals to prevent the invasive plants from returning.

While “removal works can be quite tedious and difficult,” as Scott describes them, they don’t have to be devoid of fun. Scott’s ecology staff helped out with the projects, making sure to parade around with the invasive trees they removed. 

Scott also enjoyed “seeing how proud some large troops were after they would wipe out a giant section of autumn olive in only about an hour.”

Ecological awareness is a huge part of scouting, and Scott’s efforts have changed Resica Falls for the better, creating space for native plants to try and flourish. Scott has worked to build enthusiasm throughout Resica’s community for this project, and with their help, we’ve been able to help Resica’s beautiful natural habitat.

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