Fighting Invasive Species about Education, Promotion of What's Working

By KBJR News 1

September 9, 2013 Updated Sep 9, 2013 at 6:40 PM CDT

Superior, WI (NNCNOW.com) - In order to effectively stop, or at least slow, the spread of invasive species—whether terrestrial or aquatic—it takes efforts, and experts, from every state, and province, affected.

That was the theme of Friday's public forum at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College that brought together researchers from both the U.S. and Canada, like Ecologist Jack Greenlee of the Superior National Forest, who specializes in invasive plants, but also spoke about the problem bug the Emerald Ash Borer.

"People need to know about the emerald ash borer, and I'm sure they've been hearing about it a lot since it showed up in superior," said Greenlee, following Friday's forum.

Greenlee says it's important to understand that virtually nothing in an ecosystem is left untouched by invasives, and that even visibly appealing marsh plants like the Purple Loosestrife will kill off native sources of food for marsh life.

"Purple Loosestrife has very little value as food or as habitat for native waterfowl," said Greenlee.

Greenlee's presentation included talks on earthworms as an invasive species, and how they're altering forest floors throughout the Lake Superior Basin.

Just walking along Barker's Island it didn't take our crews long for us to spot an open tin of earthworms left alongside the beach by previous fishermen. Many people don't realize the worms are not only invasive pest, but are supposed to be thrown away in the trash instead of left out to the elements.

Those pushes for better education, says Doug Jensen of the University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program, are working.

"Through the 'Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers' campaign, boaters are doing the right thing; they're doing the 'clean, drain, dry' [method] everywhere, every time," said Jensen."Yes, there are a few people that haven't gotten the message, and that's why we have legislation... and enforcement—enforcement's a very important piece to this."

Jensen also says it's easy to become weary of the media attention that invasives get, and that it's imperative to remember to reinforce the programs that are working in an effort to bolster hope among the public.

"...so that they can continue to be motivated, just like our boaters and anglers are," said Jensen, adding that education efforts can be thanked for the stopping of any new infestation of an aquatic species in Lake Superior since 2006.

Jensen added that, in Minnesota and Wisconsin, only a couple of new aquatic plants have entered select lakes in the recent years, and that action is being taken to effectively stop or control their spread.

Billy Wagness

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