Everyday leadership

Recently in one of my Master Naturalist classes, I learned of the many invasive plants that are choking our countryside. I realized several of these plants are invading my half-acre of backslope from my yard to the Little Hocking River. I had known that some honeysuckle plants lined my path to the river but did not know they were non-native and invasive. They are called Japanese honeysuckle.

With my newfound knowledge, I decided to cut the thumb-sized vines that were encircling many of my hardwood saplings to the point of choking them to death. At some point I chose to pull one of the unwanted plants up by the roots. I found that it came up quite easily. I pulled another and another and realized that there was a net of roots covering the whole hillside. If I grabbed one of the larger roots, I could dislodge strands 5 or 6 feet in all directions. It was almost like a horror movie, The Honeysuckle that Ate Little Hocking. Soon, I had eight trash bags full of the hateful plant.

Now what to do with these bags of vegetation? I couldn’t let my trash service take them because that would probably just transport the problem to another location. It was such a succulent plant that burning it would take a bigger fire than I wanted to build. So I left the plants in the black garbage bags hoping that being deprived of sunlight would kill the plants and once they were dead, I could burn them.

A week or so ago I built a small fire on the riverbank to cook a couple of smoked bratwursts for supper. Once my meal was cooked and eaten, I checked the bags of honeysuckle to determine if they were dry enough to be burned. Part of them was, but a great deal was wet from condensation within the bag. So I had to dump them out on the ground in order to let them dry. Last Friday, I made another fire and easily burned half of the dry plants.

I have only gathered about 10 percent of the honeysuckle on my hillside. It will take me years to eliminate the plants. In the meantime I also keep an eye on and cut Russian olive and multiflora rose plants. I cut or spray poison ivy, which is native but gives me a painful rash. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry (“http://www.ohiodnr.com”>www.ohiodnr.com) says that there are 60 species of invasive plants in Ohio. The main problem with invasive plants is that they are so prolific that native plants are being overwhelmed.

I learned from experts about the problem of invasive plant species. Previously, I read about other non-native plants in the area, but thought little about the impact on my property. Finally, I decided to take action and bring my property closer to a natural state. Similarly, when good leaders learn of danger to their organization, they seek more information and then create a plan of action. Ignorance is an excuse many of us use. Seeking education on the important issues facing us is the path of the successful leaders.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s new book, “Tons of Stone above my head: Coal Mining Stories with Leadership Lessons,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.