Area residents learn to recognize and report forest threats REED CITY - Anyone who has ever enjoyed sitting in the shade of a maple tree has reason to take action against invasive species like the Asian Longhorn Beetle, which could mean the end of maple-dominated forests in Michigan. A number of area residents recently spent time learning how to recognize and report invasive species such as the Asian Longhorn Beetle and Oak Wilt. About 40 people were expected to attend the North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area community partners meeting at the Reed City Depot. Instead, NCCISMA had close to 70 people arrive interested in joining the fight against invasive species. The group was so large organizers were concerned they would not have enough pizza to go around for lunch. NCCISMA, housed in the Wexford Conservation District Office in Cadillac, covers five counties, including Lake, Mason, Missaukee, Osceola and Wexford, with the objective of inventorying and strategizing control of high-priority invasive species, and preventing the introduction of new invasive species. During the community partners meeting on Jan. 21, a number of NCCISMA representatives and conservation experts discussed how to recognize some of the high-priority invasive species and how to stop their spread. The Asian Longhorn Beetle is of particular concern because it has already infected areas on three sides of the state, Manistee and Mason Lake Forester Josh Shields said. If you were to draw a triangle from the infected areas in Toronto, Chicago and Ohio, it would cut right through the Lower Peninsula, he added. "Further north, the concern with Asian Longhorn Beetle is we have maple-dominated forests," he said. "There are thousands and thousands of acres, if ALB starts spreading in those areas it could damage a significant component of those forests." Shields discussed the longhorn beetle during a presentation he gave on Michigan Eyes on the Forest, a program which allows residents to participate in the care and keeping of the state's vast forest system by creating a network of sentinel trees. Those who participate in the program use the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) to confer information about the health of a specific tree over time - reporting declines, diebacks and the presence of any invasive species. MISIN is a free web-based application accessible from cell phones or desktop computers. Users can identify an invasive species and mark the infection point using the GPS function of their phones or indicate on a map to indicate where the invaders are. The application includes descriptions and photos of invasive species as well as showing where they have previously been reported. Some residents may not be comfortable with using the application, but they should not hesitate to report the presence of an invasive species, according to Vicki Sawicki, NCCISMA program coordinator. "If it's an invasive species, you can always call me and I will report them on MISIN for you," she said. "I have several landowners within the five counties of our CISMA who are not comfortable with reporting online - it's just not their thing. They call me regularly." In the past few decades, public knowledge about invasive species has grown to the point where the average individual is aware of the danger an invader poses, Shields said. "Before 15 or 20 years ago, when there was an invasive species, some people would think, 'Big deal, just let them do what they are going to do,'" he said. "We were not very good at predicting what species would become invasive. There are invasive species now that 50 years ago people would have laughed at you for suggesting they could be a problem." Early detection is key when it comes to controlling a forest pest, because most of the time you have to remove all the trees of that species from the affected area, said Rick Lucas, Mecosta Conservation District forester. "We were so far behind the game with the emerald ash borer. We still haven't thrown in the towel. It's still a high priority in Michigan and the United States, but we were behind the game," he said. "That's why if we can find a single tree that's being attacked by one of these pests - and I hope we don't - but the sooner we find it, the sooner we can control it in a much smaller area." Anyone interested in downloading the free MISIN app can visit misin.msu.edu to learn more. To report a suspected invasive species, contact Sawicki at (231) 429-5072 or email@example.com.