Forest Insect and Disease Newsletter

PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks

 

image: PlayCleanGo brand markGreen is good, right?

Not if you're fighting Eurasian water milfoil or curly-leafed pond-weed. By now most Minnesota boaters and other outdoor recreationists realize that when it comes to aquatic species, green isn't always a good thing. Aquatic invasive plants are a huge pain in the neck for property managers, landowners and recreationists, and a huge pain in the pocket book. So why do folks still thinkthat green is good when it occurs on land? Did you know that invasive species can cause as much damage to our forest, prairie and wetland resources as they can to our water resources? And yet, the huge strides we've made in preventing the spread of aquatic species and the messages behind them get little attention when it comes to protecting our other natural resources. In order to address this issue, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and its partners have launched an outreach campaign to parallel Stop Aquatic Hitchers! while encouraging recreationists to enjoy our vast array of trails and camping sites. The program is called PlayCleanGo: Stop Invasive Species in Your Tracks.

 

What are invasive species?

They are plants, animals and micro-organisms not native to a particular area, capable of causing severe damage in areas outside their normal range. Not all non-native species are bad—take corn, a plant native to Central America, for instance! Fewer than 10 percent of the non-native species that become established actually become pests. But those that become invasive cost our state millions in management and lost revenue.

 

How do invasive species spread?

photo of a highway crew pulling weedsEvery species has one to several ways to expand their range, such as being blown by the wind, carried by animals, or moved in soil or water. In their home territories, these forms of spread are rarely a problem because the native plants and animals have evolved to co-exist. Long distance spread to a new location, most often with human assistance, can be problematic because the resident plants and animals cannot cope with their new neighbor. Natural enemies are missing and host species often lack the natural defenses to survive an attack by the introduced species.

 

How can recreation spread terrestrial invasive species (those that live on land)?

photo of the dirty bootInvasive species have many pathways that may take advantage of human activities. For example, weed seeds move in soil, so they can be transported by muddy boots or vehicles. Other weed seeds have hooks that help them catch a ride on shoes, socks, clothing and pets. Insects and pathogens that attack trees can be easily moved in uncured firewood. Recreationists can spread an invasive species across the state or from state to state much more quickly than the species would spread on its own. Being aware of the various pathways of spread can help reduce the risk of accidentally moving harmful invasive species.

 

Why care about terrestrial invasive species?

Nationally, costs associated with detecting invasive species, management once an infestation is discovered, and associated losses to industry, recreation, forest health, and water quality are in the billions of dollars each year. Like other disasters that have been in recent news, invasive species could have a direct impact on you, your guests and your livelihood. Preventing the spread of invasive species has been shown to be far more cost effective than managing pests after they move in. By getting involved now, property managers and landowners can protect their assets and the state's natural areas for the enjoyment of future generations.

 

What can you do?

image of PlayCleanGo home page of the Web siteFirst, learn the basic steps to prevent the accidental spread of invasive species and share these steps with your friends and family. We recommend that you start with this simple list:

  • Clean your gear before entering and leaving the recreation site.
  • Remove mud and seeds from clothes, pets, boots, gear, and vehicles.
  • Burn only local or certified firewood.
  • Use only local or certified weed-free hay.
  • Stay on designated trails.
  • Have a great time and share your love of the outdoors with your kids.

Second, you could talk to your association or club about becoming a PlayCleanGo partner. All we need is a web-ready copy of your organization's logo and your website URL to post on our Partners page. In return, we give you access to our graphics, photo and media library. We can also provide basic graphic services to customize our ads to reach your particular audience.

For those interested in more action, watch our PlayCleanGo Website, for announcements about our PlayCleanGo Day to be held in early June. We hope to get a number of recreational organizations out on the trails talking to folks about how they can make a difference. If your association is interested in participating, please contact Susan Burks, Forestry Invasive Species Coordinator.

Third, to support statewide efforts to protect our natural resources, you can become familiar with the terrestrial invasive species that could impact your area and help report and map invasive species occurrences. A good place to start is the "Resources" page on the PlayCleanGo Web site. It contains links to identification and management tips on a variety of terrestrial invasive species, including emerald ash borer, gypsy moth, Asian longhorned beetle, and invasive plants such as Oriental bittersweet, buckthorn, and garlic mustard. Under "Take Action" you'll find links and instructions on reporting those you find in the field. While you're on the site, take a few minutes to browse through the materials and explore how you might PlayCleanGo.

For questions on or suggestions for our outreach campaign, or information on how to participate in the 2013 PlayCleanGo Day, contact Susan Burks.