Trying to keep up with the constant spread of more and more invasive plants can be overwhelming as a landowner. But it is important to do for the health of your wetland, and prioritizing the species and locations you work on can help you be more effective and efficient. Importantly, it can also help prevent burnout. Here are some tips to help you get started.
Prevent invasives from the start
The most efficient way to deal with invasives is to prevent their introduction in the first place. You can’t keep birds from depositing seeds in your woods but you can minimize what comes in on people and equipment. Get in the habit of cleaning your boots, gear, and dogs after being in a part of your property where invasive species are growing. If you hire contractors like loggers or others with heavy equipment, make sure they clean all of their equipment before they come to your property. Be careful of materials you might bring onto your land, especially soil, mulch, compost, and plants. They may come with unseen roots, seeds, or invasive earthworms.
Assess your property and map invaders and priority protection areas
To determine where to spend your time and money on invasive species management, carefully assess your entire property. Also, make time to get to know what invasives occur in your area, learning about their different life stages and what they look like in each so you can identify them easily (see below for suggested resources to help with this). If you see a plant growing on your land that you can’t identify but is concerning you, take photos and submit these photos through an on-line reporting system such as the Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System (formerly the Great Lakes Early Detection Network) or iNaturalist or to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) at email@example.com.
Create a map of your property and mark where you’ve found invasive plants. This map can be as simple or as detailed as works for you. Do your best to indicate the abundance of each invasive species on the map (the size or extent of the population). You’ll want to focus your initial control efforts on any new arrivals and on smaller infestations, as you have the greatest likelihood of success with new and small populations.
Be aware that the WDNR maintains a list of species that are legally prohibited in the state. If you think you have any legally prohibited species, contact WDNR for assistance. On your map, also note areas that are a priority for you to protect from invasive species. This may be an area with rare species, your favorite wildflower patch, or the bluff where you like to sit and enjoy the land. Think about how you want to use specific areas of your land and how different invasives might limit your use (because they might block your view or make access difficult, for example). Also note areas where disturbance is more likely, such as trails, roadsides, dying trees, and stream beds, as these are the locations where new invasives are likely to invade and from which they might spread. Look at your neighbor’s’ properties and nearby roadsides to see what species might be moving towards your land.
Most importantly: hang in there. Any invasive species management work is a multi-year effort. Bite off the chunks that are reasonable to do each year so you learn as you go. Don’t burn yourself out. Look beyond the reed canary grass and take time to appreciate the beauty of your land.
Adapted from ‘Prioritizing Invasive Plant Control’ by Kelly Kearns, published in WDNR’s Natural Heritage newsletter.
Photo by Nancy Aten