Invasive Management Area (IMA) - Volunteer Program
Climbing vines a problem? Shrubs with thorns keeping you from exploring the woods? Many invasive plants are preventing us from enjoying our forests and are degrading our natural ecosystems.
Want to help with parkland restoration or use cool tools? Students or scouts, do you need to earn some community service hours?
IMA is the program for you! Check out our website, then call or email us to get involved and help remove non-native invasive species and plant native species.
What is IMA?
The Invasive Management Area (IMA) Volunteer Program is a community-based project designed to reduce invasive plants on our parklands. This unique, volunteer-led program gives residents an opportunity to connect with people while taking care of the natural resources around us. IMA enables community members to help protect the plants and wildlife of Fairfax County's forests while spending time outdoors, meeting new people and restoring natural habitats.
IMA is more than just pulling weeds. Key components of this program are habitat restoration and a long-term commitment to the park. Invasive plant species are difficult to remove and control, but with the help of IMA volunteers, undesirable non-native, invasive plants are removed manually and native plants returned to the habitat. The job of volunteers doesn’t end once the invasive plants are removed, often it is necessary to plant native species. Native plantings take place in the spring and fall.
- Focus community support and momentum to do something about non- native, invasive plants
- Garner more community involvement and support
- Educate the public about the effects of non-native, invasive plants
- Participate in outreach opportunities regarding non-native, invasive plants
- Develop healthy habitats such as meadows and forests that are free of invasive plant species
Currently, funding is provided by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in support of the Environmental Agenda. Grants were provided by REI in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Additional funding was provided by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grant Program in 2007 and a donation from the Biz World students of Westlawn Elementary School in 2008.
What are Invasive Plants?
Invasive species are, generally, non-native species that cause ecological or economic harm. They share certain characteristics, such as being able to mature quickly, generate many offspring and can tolerate a wide range of habitats. For example, Japanese stilt grass will produce seed in as little as 1% sunlight!
Because of the characteristics that allow a species to successfully establish in new territory, invasive species make terrible neighbors. They out-compete native species for the same resources, eventually reducing the populations of native species (and in some cases even removing species from a community altogether). Some invasive species have more complicated effects which have ramifications higher up the food chain, resulting in fewer native birds and wildlife. The third main effect of invasive species is that they have the ability to alter natural functions of communities and ecosystems by changing the soil conditions.
Species that IMA Volunteers may work on:
Although the prevalence of invasive, non-native plants throughout parkland is of concern, habitat recovery following an invasion is still a relatively new concept. There are over 200 different species of invasive plants found in Fairfax County. Below are species that many of the IMA volunteer sites focus on, as they respond well to manual control.