ALLEGAN COUNTY, Mich. – Eight counties are trying to revive their ecosystems while eliminating invasive species in our lakes, rivers, and roadways.
Invasive species cause an estimated $120 billion in damages nationally, according to the Justin Burchett, the Executive Director for the Allegan Conservation District. Funded by a grant from the State Department, a new team put together by the Department of Natural Resources is looking to combat that cost by weeding out the invaders. It’s called the “Invasive Species Strike Team,” and their job is to get rid of these hitchhikers before they get out of control.
“I would say we’re behind the curve,” said Burchett. “There’s several species in the area that are invasive. It’s pretty much a lost cause.”
Lake Allegan is the first one being surveyed by the team. The team used a canoe to wade through the water during their initial assessment.
Asian and European species like Phragmites and Japanese Knotweed are the lakes main problem, and they’re suffocating the native ecosystem. Burchett understands these species decrease the value of the ecosystem’s services, including the value of the lake’s freshwater fishing, hunting, and water purification.
“It’s not only causing aesthetic damages, it’s especially damaging to our fisheries and takes away habitat from other species that would otherwise live in that area,” said Burchett.
The Invasive Species Strike Team first evaluates the level of invasive species in a given area before getting in touch with a property owner for permission to conduct treatment. Burchett tells FOX 17 invasive species are moving around, unknowingly assisted by gardeners and boaters.
“A lot of it is an education game for us, people who typically decline don’t understand fully what the invasive species can do to the environment,” said Burchett. “We always teach to clean, drain and dry your boats so you can get rid of materials like plankton and mussels.”
You can help the strike team by downloading the Midwest Invasive Species Network (MISIN) app. The MISIN smartphone app will track and record invasive species using GPS, helping the strike team with early detection and rapid response to new threats in the region.