Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe
Environment Division
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Restoration and Creation

In order to restore our native wildlife, it's important that wetland habitats also be restored. Because of wildlife's needs for natural habitats, acquiring, developing and maintaining wetland habitats is a primary objective of the Wetlands Protection Program. Additionally, wetlands filter sediment and pollutants from disturbed landscapes. This makes wetlands extremely valuable in protecting water resources.

The wetland restoration task consists of attempting to recreate basins long ago drained for agriculture and other land uses. This can be accomplished by plugging drainage ditches or constructing low dikes behind which water is stored. It's always desirable to try to restore the historical configuration of the wetlands that formerly existed on any particular site. In some instances, however, land use has changed the topography so much that constructed, or "created", wetlands must substitute for a "natural" restoration.

Restoring native wetland vegetation is also an important part of the process, for plants offer food and shelter to the many wild creatures inhabiting a marsh. On some sites a residual seed bank survives to quickly repopulate a wetland with new plants once water is restored to the system. Created wetlands and natural basins drained for 50 years or more often require seeding or planting aquatic vegetation. In the end, only nature can hope to restore the complete natural plant and animal community in restored wetlands. And while some species quickly adapt to restored marshes, others may require decades before the restored wetland has properly "aged".

Akwesasne Freedom School

In 2000, the Akwesasne Freedom School took on a restoration project on their property located off of State Route 37, near the east end of the reservation. The project involved cooperation among school staff, parents and students, SRMT Environment Division, Akwesasne Task Force on the Environment, Natural Resources Conservation Service and NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. This area had wetland characteristics before being converted for agricultural uses. For all their hard work, the Akwesasne Freedom School received a national award from President Bush.

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Beetle Release as a Biocontrol

Invasion of non-native, Purple Loosestrife, has become a deep concern. In many areas of the nation, including New York State, scientists have successfully used biological controls (bio-control) to limit the spread of purple loosestrife. Bio-control uses one biological organism to control the spread or infestation of another organism. In this case, the use of host-specific beetles to control Purple loosestrife in wetland areas.

Beetle on leaf
There have been some concerns, however, of releasing host-specific beetles in Akwesasne. Since these beetles originate from Europe, alternative healers in the Mohawk community have been apprehensive about using this control without having information about the effects on medicinal plants in the wetland areas.

Several plants (over 40 species) have already been tested by the University of Michigan in prior studies. Additional plants (Table 1) were chosen based on at-risk medicinal species listed in a brochure printed by the Haudenosaunee Environmental Task Force (HETF). The plants were purchased during the winter and placed in a heated greenhouse. This was to allow the plants the opportunity to establish themselves in the pots. Multiple specimens of each species were infested with beetles to rule out any bias.

"No-Choice" Test on At-Risk Medicinal Plants

A "no-choice" test consists of specific plants grown inside mesh netting. Larvae and adult beetles are placed inside the netting on the plant. The animals then have the choice of feeding on the specific plant or starving to death. Table 1 shows some medicinal plants that have shown a negative response to feeding.

Table 1. Plants showing negative beetle feeding response
Common Name
Sneezeweed Butterfly weed Trillium Black Cohosh
Rough blazing star Common arrowleaf White Boneset Bloodroot
Black-eyed Susan Cardinal flower Wild Yam Goldenseal
Blue flag iris Lamb' quarters Arnica Green Dragon
Bee balm New England aster Calamus Lady's Slipper Orchid
Sage Purple coneflower Gentian Partridge Berry
Lupine Joe Pye weed Lobelia Sundew
Evening primrose Sunflower Spikenard Leatherwood
Wild rice Goatsbeard Culver's root Cattail

Releasing beetles in the Summer of 2005

beetles in container The Tribe's Environment Division worked in collaboration with Dr. Bernd Blossey, Cornell University-Natural Resources Department to release Galerucella spp. beetles. The adult beetles emerged in spring from hibernation in leaf litter and fed on the new leaves and shoots of purple loosestrife. The egg-laying phase lasts approximately two months in the spring and eggs are laid in clusters of two to ten daily on the plant stem and in the leaf axils. Larvae feed on bud, leaf, and stem tissue.
Adults are very mobile and successful in seeking out new stands of purple loosestrife. Once a host has been located, migration slows. The over wintered adults die by late June, soon after the reproduction phase has been completed. In other established plots, purple loosestrife was reduced (Blossey, 1994) by 90% over most of its present range. purple loosestrife plant


Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe Environment Division

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