Invasive species week is Feb. 26-March 2, so we’re taking this opportunity remind everyone about the importance of keeping invasive species – including diseases, insects and plant pests – out of our water, fields and forests.
If you travel anywhere, you’re at risk of transferring invasive species. That can make the problem seem overwhelming, but there are ways you can make a difference.
Know before you go:
Permit requirements often exist to help keep invasives contained, or stop the spread of disease. For example, firewood cut in Gold Beach Ranger District on the Rogue River-Siskayou National Forest must remain within the Sudden Oak Death quarantine area – an area of 519 square mile area in southwest Oregon. The disease, caused by the introduced water mold hytophthora ramorum, causes disease in more than 120 species of trees, shrubs, herbs and ferns and threatens the timber trade, the floral green industry, Christmas tree production and plant nurseries throughout Oregon.
To prevent the spread of Port-Orford cedar root disease (Phytophthora lateralis) and invasive weeds, firewood permits require vehicles be washed before entering the forest during the wet season, and be free of soil, seeds and plant parts that could transfer during the dry season.
A best practice for all firewood cutting is to cut local, buy local, and burn local.
Invasive plants are often introduced as ornamental flowers, trees, shrubs or vines that grow unchecked by predators or beat out competing plants in a new environment.
Knapweed, oxeye daisy, and butterfly bush are just some of the flowering plants on Washington’s top 100 invasive plants list.
Other invasive species “hitchhike” vehicles, trailers, or boats and personal watercraft. This is especially true of invasive species that affect aquatic environments.
Zebra mussels are a freshwater mollusk that can form large colonies that block water pipes and damage underwater equipment. New Zealand mudsnails, water hyacinth, and several varieties of milfoil are also dangerous to local aquatic ecosystems.
Boaters can help by cleaning, draining and drying boats after each use to prevent introducing an invasive species from one area to a new body of water.
The fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans causes “white nose syndrome” in bats. The disease disrupts their winter hibernation, causing them to burn more calories. It also damages their wings. The combined effect is fatal to more than 90 percent of bats who contract it, for some species.
It’s been found on a limited number of bats in the Pacific Northwest so far, and the Forest Service is among the many agencies and organizations helping to monitor for signs the disease has spread, and educate those visiting the outdoors about the disease and risks.
One way you can help when visiting the outdoors is to make sure you’ve decontaminated your clothing and gear before entering an area where bats might roost, such as caves.
How we can help
The Forest Service works with state and local partners to help combat invasive species across our landscape. For example, in 2016, one of our projects treated 400 acres at Sandry River Delta and the Horsetail wetlands in Oregon to remove blackberries and reed canary grass.
For more information:
Oregon Invasive Species Council
Washington Invasive Species Council
USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS)
USDA Forest Service National Invasive Species Program
USDA Forest Service Region 6: Invasive Species Program (Forest & Grassland Health)