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Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest combats invasive species with the help of the public

Story By Meghan Mamlock
Local News Published 07/19/2021 5:42PM, Last Updated 07/20/2021 7:15PM
Phillips - The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest staff has been combating invasive plants for more than 25 years.

Botanist Marjory Brzeskiewicz said they've been successful thanks to new technology and the public's help finding invasive plants.
Invasive plants such spotted knapweed, buckthorn, and garlic mustard wreak havoc in the forest because they lack natural predators, which makes it easy for them to take over and essentially choke out the native plants and disrupt ecosystems.

"They can out compete some of our native plants and they're not palatable to a lot of our animals like deer, and so they don't get eaten by the deer so then they become even more dominant," Brzeskiewicz said.

Brzeskiewicz said invasive plants can be hard to remove from a forest once they get started.

"The plants may be more aggressive, they put out more seeds, they have toxins in their roots that can prevent other plants from growing, even trees," Brzeskiewicz said.

Studies have been conducted on the best way to get rid of the invasive plants without damaging the native ones.

"The analysis involved looking at where the plants are growing, what's growing around them," Brzeskiewicz said. "If we were to rip them out or put herbicide on them, was that going to have an effect on the land around it or the plants around it?"
Another key to their strategy is education, including work with local lake associations and ATV clubs. Officials say they need lots of people to help since the plants can pop up at any time.

"Our strategy is pretty much the same every year. We go to known sites and some of the high-priority sites, and the high at-risk sites like recreation areas, trail heads, and campgrounds," Brzeskiewicz said.

Park officials said you can stop the spread of non-native plants by wearing clean sneakers free of any mud when you enter sensitive areas. You should also clean your car tires and pets before entering one of the sites to ensure the seeds are not transplanted. 

Another best practice is to make sure you always speak up when you encounter invasive plants.

"You know, if you find something let us know," Brzeskiewicz said. "Or report it on an app. We have Wild Spotter that you can download for free. It's a real easy way to say, 'Hey, I have spotted knapweed here. I have buckthorn here' and take a picture of it and send it in and somebody will verify it."
For more information combating invasive plants, you can visit the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest website and social media pages.

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