Invasive Species Week

Illustration of Vin Vasive (a creature comprised of many invasive species), with text: "'What a beautiful state you live in. I could just eat it up.' Understand what you can do to stop me."

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:

Firewood

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.

Plants

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.

Aquatic invasives

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.

Wildlife

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.

In 2017, the national forests in Oregon and Washington cooperated with more than 100 different partners to control more than 52,000 acres of invasive plants that threatened to replace native vegetation, reduce forage for wildlife and livestock, and increase wildfire risks.

With so many invasives to defend against, you might wonder how effective these efforts are. The answer? Very! For example, rapid detection of and response by the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture prevented and infestation following  introduction of citrus longhorn beetle (CLB), Anoplophora chinensis, in 2001. The beetles, which arrived in Tukwila, Wash. via a shipment of bonsai trees, were eradicated through the application of insecticides and a 1/2 mile, 5-year quarantine area from which potentially infected plants could not be removed without a permit.

Gypsy moths are one of the most destructive forest pests in the United States, where the moths have defoliated millions of acres and killed thousands of acres of trees in northeastern states. A single egg mass can produce 1000 catepillars, and each catepillar can eat more than a square foot of foliage each week before it pupates into an adult moth.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Forest Service has helped combat new gypsy moth infestations for decades, providing technical expertise and financial support to statewide monitoring and eradication efforts of Asian and European gypsy moths that have prevented the moths from becoming established in Oregon and Washington for decades.

How you can help leave hungry pests behind!

  • Don’t transport living plants, cuttings, or fresh produce before checking if a quarantine area is in effect or a permit is required. Moving? Consider gifting your houseplants to a local friend instead of taking them with you, especially if they’ve been stored outside.
  • Make sure any hay and animal feed you buy is certified weed-free.
  • Clean shoes, clothes, gear, vehicles, trailers, and boats after every use, before introducing these items to a new environment.

For more information:

Oregon Invasive Species Council 
https://www.oregoninvasivespeciescouncil.org/

Washington Invasive Species Council
https://invasivespecies.wa.gov/

USDA Animal and Plant Inspection Service (APHIS)
https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/resources/pests-diseases/hungry-pests/?utm_keyword=home

USDA Forest Service National Invasive Species Program 
https://www.fs.fed.us/invasivespecies/

USDA Forest Service Region 6: Invasive Species Program (Forest & Grassland Health) 
https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/r6/forest-grasslandhealth/invasivespecies

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