CATSKILLS COMMUNITY RESTORATION
The Catskills Community Restoration project supports critical riparian ecosystems by removing itadori (aka “Japanese knotweed”) and planting varieties of the Salix genus (willow), while exploring experimental uses of both plants through a network of designers, craftspersons, artisans, and producers. We aim to show that long-term, non-chemical knotweed management can become self-sustaining and scalable through innovative uses of plant biomass in local circular economies, while restoring riparian buffers, sequestering carbon, and helping communities become more resilient.
Knotweed is a widespread problem, transforming landscapes and threatening water quality, bridges and critical infrastructure, and the wider ecology of the Catskills and Hudson Valley region. Standard management relies on harmful chemicals, expensive interventions, and wasteful burning or burying. But new research shows promising uses for knotweed as food, medicine, dyes, paper, biocomposites, and more, as well as willow’s potential for biomass and biofuel, flood mitigation, and carbon sequestration, and knotweed can be rendered non-viable and safe for transport via simple, scientifically proven methods. Our project restores forgotten stewardship practices of human-willow cohabitation, using a rich eco-cultural heritage to inform management practices for a new fixture of the landscapes, knotweed.
Through our partner Toolshed tool lending library and its emerging labor cooperative and other community partnerships, we hope to offer opportunities for employment and income generation for communities of recent immigrants and those threatened with displacement in the gentrifying rural communities of upstate New York, asking broader questions about migration and ecological / cultural conceptions of “invasiveness.” We hope to demonstrate and share methods that are scalable as well as applicable to other introduced species and regions. practicing a form of biocultural restoration, which SUNY”s Center for Native Peoples and the Environment defines as “attempt(ing) to restore not only ecosystems, but also human and cultural relationships to place, such that cultures are strengthened and revitalized alongside the lands with which they are inextricably linked.”
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