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DNR asks public to do their part to combat invasive species

Jun 14, 2020 03:25PM ● By Editor

Watch the Play Clean Go PSA here

Photo: Play Clean Go

By Jesse White, Outdoors Columnist, the Mesabi Daily Miner - June 14, 2020

At first glance I thought the headline I was reading was the end result of, yet another COVID-19 proclamation handed down from the throne of Gov. Tim Walz to his foot soldiers at the St. Paul office of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

It read: “Protect the forest using only clean gear.”

First, we can’t camp. Then we can’t fish. Now we are worried about infecting the forest with COVID?

It made no sense.

So I clicked on the link and read a little closer.

Upon further inspection I discovered that my inner conspiracy theory radar was off (again) and what they were referencing was a need to be aware of spreading invasive species of various plants and pests across the state of Minnesota.

That made a little more sense.

Kind of.

In a way, suggesting that man can control nature always seems laughable to me. The Earth was here long before I was born and will be here long after I’m gone. Things come and go and presuming I – or any individual for that matter – can alter what Mother Nature wants to do is a bit egotistical.

That being said, the truth is we can all do our part while we are kicking up dust on the back roads of northern Minnesota to slow down the spread of some of the more harmful concoctions she has bestowed amongst our pines and fields and waterways.

As good stewards it is our responsibility to at least try.

It’s not a new concept by any means. Many anglers and boaters have been cleaning their boats regularly in an attempt to stop invasive species from spreading for years.

But there are a lot more things out there that do more harm than good in the wrong situation that a lot of outdoors enthusiasts probably don’t know about.

For example, there are dozens and dozens of plants, grasses, trees, shrubs and vines listed on the DNR website that are no good for anything native when they find their way to a new section of backwoods real estate.

They carry names like butter and eggs, creeping Charlie, hoary alyssum, Japanese hedge parsley (watch that profiling), oxeye daisy, tree of heaven, and black swallow-wort.

I don’t know who names these things or what any of them look like (the DNR website does provide links and photos if you are so inclined to find out) but it became apparent to me after a little research that in order slow or stop these things, the best bet is to, as the headline said, keep things clean.

Wash your ATV and backpack. Check your trailer, or truck or boat for unwanted hitchhikers.

Pretty simple stuff.

While the DNR provides a nice overview of what’s out there, a good resource for what to look for and how to avoid trouble, the website, which has a ton of information on various invasive species across the state and country.

PlayCleanGo is an outreach program that was started in 2012 with partial funding from the USDA Forest Service and the Minnesota DNR and has since expanded across North America. The goal of the campaign is to “protect valuable natural resources while encouraging folks to enjoy the great outdoors. Using community based social marketing to build brand recognition, our objective is to slow (and where possible to stop) the spread of invasive species by changing public and worker behaviors at risk of spreading harmful pests living on land or in water.”

According to PlayCleanGo officials, invasive species are plants, animals, and microorganisms that are not native to a particular area. They are also species that are capable of causing severe damage in areas outside their normal range, harming the economy, the environment, or human health once they become established.

Every species evolves in its home territory to have one to several ways to expand its range. They may be wind-blown, rain splashed, carried by animals, or moved in soil or water. Almost all short-distance spread is through these natural dispersal mechanisms.

In their home territory, short distance spread is rarely a problem because the resident plants and animals have evolved to coexist more or less peaceably.

On the flip side, long distance spread is almost always human assisted. Because long distance spread takes the species a long way from home, the resident plants and animals are not often prepared to cope with their new neighbor.

Natural enemies are missing, and host species often lack the natural defenses necessary to survive an attack by the introduced species. Once introduced, aggressive species are free to expand their range using their short distance dispersal mechanisms with a competitive advantage over native plant and animals due to the lack of natural enemies.

A number of insect and disease pests of trees can move in cut firewood, pallets, or solid wood packing material.

The web site features action plans for people who take part in everything from ATV riding to camping, hiking and even gardening.

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