Local organizations work with forest service to inventory, map, treat invasive plant species

Two local organizations are assisting the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service in mapping and eventually treating invasive plant species on the Pere Marquette River.

In conjunction with the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District, the Lake County Riverside Property Owners Association and Pere Marquette Watershed Council have co-funded a scholarship for a college intern to work with the district this summer to inventory and map non-native invasive plant species on the river from the forks south of Baldwin to the Upper Branch Bridge. The ultimate goal is to develop a comprehensive control strategy.

Throughout the summer, intern Matt Duvel will work with part-time invasive plant bio-technician, Vicki Sawicki – who is working on the project through grant funding from the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative – on the project under the direction of Pat McGhan, USFS botanist at the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District.

The district is focused on mapping and inventorying the species because the Pere Marquette River is classified as a wild and scenic river. As such, it has a higher status and priority to keep it pristine and preserve the characteristics which resulted in the designation, McGhan said.

“Invasive (species), by their nature, form a monoculture and that affects the aesthetics of going down the river; you are not seeing the beautiful diversity and that type of thing,” McGhan said. “You end up finding acres of one thing.”

There are 45 known non-native invasive plant species in the Huron Manistee National Forest. The initial surveys of the species of concern on the river include garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, buckthorn, phragmites, autumn olive, multiflora rose, Japanese knotweed and barberry, non-native honeysuckle and others.

Non-native invasive plant species are characterized as aggressive, weedy plants that have been introduced to an area and are likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Harms include reduced fish and wildlife food sources, altered soil chemistry, soil erosion, reduced aesthetic value, blocked shoreline access, limited native species habitat and more.

Invasive species can spread during shipments of goods, because they are introduced by an individual and by human movement, among others, McGhan said.

The LCRPOA and PMWC both got involved with the project after one of LCRPOA’s members noticed an invasive species on his property. After notifying the forest service, the organizations agreed to partner with the district to study the Pere Marquette River. The organization’s funding provided for an intern, and their cooperation helped the district expand their current work on federal land to participating private lands.

“We enjoy doing joint projects with the watersheld council, and this is one of our major ones this year,” said Nancy Ryan, president of the LCRPOA Board of Directors.

McGhan estimates the forest services has been taking inventory, mapping and treating invasive species on the Pere Marquette River for five years. However, that was only on federal land. With the cooperation of the two local organizations, letters were sent asking property owners if they would like to participate in the project.

“We got a really nice response (from those who would like to participate),” McGhan said.

While some of the inventory and mapping is done from the water, it also requires those working on the project to walk along the riverside. Once the invasive species are inventoried and mapped, the forest service will treat what is on federal land. Those homeowners who participated will receive a map and a letter describing how to treat the invasive species on their land if they choose to do so.

The project consists of several phases. The first phase will stretch from the river’s forks south of Baldwin to Bowman Bridge. The second phase will stretch from Bowman Bridge to the Upper Branch Bridge. McGhan hopes the first phase will be completed this year, but did note this is a new project and may need to be modified. It will also be considered a living document that the forest service continues to use and add to.

“This is a good opporuntity for area people to learn more if they are not aware of invasive plants and some of the damage they do to their own property and the environment,” McGhan said.

For more information on the two organizations that work on behalf of the Pere Marquette Watershed, visit www.lcrpoa.org and peremarquette.org.