Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rowe removes invasive plants in the Everglades

It's a dirty job, and Mike Rowe's giving the rest of America a peek into the work that goes into removing invasive plants from our ecosystems. That glimpse into habitat restoration will air on Oct. 26 on “Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe” on Discovery Channel.

In "Wetland Warrior," Rowe visits Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge near Boynton Beach, Fla., to remove melaleuca, a non-native plant that negatively affects native plants. See a Flickr set from Rowe's April visit to the Everglades.


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Earlier this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service awarded a $1.25 million contract in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds – popularly known as stimulus funds – to a private company, Aquatic Vegetation Control Inc., to remove melaleuca from about 90,000 acres at the refuge.

AVC employees pull some of the melaleuca out by hand and chop some of it down with machetes. They “girdle” larger plants by chopping around the stalk, then spray it with pesticides. When the plants are dead, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service firefighters set fire to them using prescribed burn techniques.

Rowe got to do a little of everything on his day in the swamp. “We have poisons, we have knives, we have flames!” he joyfully proclaimed to the cameras.

For the cutting portion of the job, Rowe joined a crew of four AVC workers: Bobby Bishop, Jovany Garces, Carlos Rodriguez and Luis Sanchez. For the prescribed burn portion, he worked closely with Jon Wallace, prescribed fire specialist for Loxahatchee and Keys refuges.

“When a new guy comes in, the first problem they have is walking,” said Geovany Esteban, an AVC crew supervisor. “You don’t know the terrain, and you think everything is solid. You’ll just fall right in a hole.”

Sure enough, when Rowe got off his airboat and waded into an island of melaleuca, he had trouble getting his footing. But as always on the show, he persevered: “I could have spent a couple more hours in there, to tell you the truth.”

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