Eroded forest road due to poor planning
Non-Harvest Best Management Practices

Recognize and control exotic vegetation

This web article explains the best approaches to exotic vegetation removal as a means of improving forest conditions.


One of the most subtly harmful impacts of humans on New York forests is the introduction of non-native plant and shrub species. This vegetation, though green and aesthetic, is overwhelming forest ecosystems, reducing wildlife habitat, crowding out native species, and disrupting the delicate balance of natural forest ecology.

Best management practices for controlling exotic vegetation

Monitor for invasive species.
Several species of shrubs and plants have been identified as particularly harmful to woodlot health: autumn olive, glossy buckthorn, Asian honeysuckle, multiflora rose, and garlic mustard. There are many others. Learn to identify these plants and shrubs at all times of the year. Once you see how widespread they have become, you may appreciate the need to bring them under control.

Asian honeysuckle
Multiflora rose
Glossy buckthorn
Autumn olive
Garlic mustard


Select native species of vegetation for conservation.
Encourage friends and neighbors to consciously choose native vegetation for conservation projects, like attracting wildlife. Preferred native shrubs include viburnum and dogwood. Native trees include maples (expect Norway maple), cherry, birches, oaks, ash, pine and spruce. Ask your seedling supplier to recommend and carry native species.

There is some debate as to whether non-native, but non-invasive trees like Norway spruce, Austrian pine, or Scotch pine are desirable. There are some situations where it may be appropriate to use these species in your planting plan. Check with a forester or Extension agent for local advice on these species.

Seek methods of removal that do not involve herbicide applications.
If you wish to remove invasive species of vegetation from your woodlot, first attempt methods that do not involve herbicide applications. These methods include repeated cutting or mowing, pulling the plants or shrubs out by roots, or allowing goats to eat away species that will not harm them. Cornell Cooperative Extension can provide specific guidelines for these strategies. A combination of methods is sometimes necessary. Consult with Extension or other qualified advisors regarding exotic vegetation removal

If herbicides are used, follow label instructions.
It is important to read and follow herbicide labels precisely. There are dozens of herbicidal products available and each has a different treatment method, timing, and safety precautions. Federal law prohibits using a material to kill vegetation or pests unless it is specifically labeled for that use. Contact Cornell Cooperative Extension for advice about selecting the best herbicide for your forest management goals.

Establish a safe area for mixing herbicides.
Use protective materials, such as matting or basins, to catch spills and leaks from sprayers or other chemical containers. Designate one refilling area and keep the protective materials available, rather than scatted throughout the work site. When refilling a sprayer, it is better to use the bed of a truck than to have the chemical spill onto the ground.

Restricted use pesticides can only be applied by certified applicators.
These personnel have received training to chose and apply chemicals properly, avoiding drift and runoff that pollutes wetlands and streams.

Use markers to identify treated vegetation.
Because herbicides can be applied in forests over a large area, use flags or dyes to control your application. It is a waste of time and money, and a possible environmental hazard, to accidentally re-apply herbicides.

Home | Index | Tools for Planning a Harvest | Cornell Cooperative Extension ForestryCornell Cooperative Extension helps forest owners

Please cite source: Cornell Cooperative Extension, 2004
Written by James Ochterski, CCE - Schuyler County