Stop the Invasion

Invasive species are taking over our parks and natural areas, making it difficult to enjoy nature and drastically changing our wild lands. Invasive species are often spread inadvertently by people simply enjoying the outdoors - hiking, biking, hunting, fishing, boating, or general recreation activities. The seeds and plant materials of invasive species can effortlessly work their way into clothing, shoe and tire treads or stow away in gear or in a pet’s fur, and thus manage to travel far from their original infestation and begin a new invasion wherever they land.

Invasive species are non-native plants, animals and diseases that can cause harm to the economy, environment and human health. Invasive plants tend to reproduce and grow quickly making trails impassable. They can harm wildlife and replace precious wildflowers. Furthermore, invasive insects and diseases can also kill trees. It is very easy to spread living organisms into new environments. When we explore the wild places of our country, we need to be aware of how we may accidentally disrupt the ecological balance by transporting species in our travels.

There are several very simple practices that can be done to prevent movement of invasive species and each of us can begin to make a big difference by following these small steps:

1. Plan ahead and learn what species are non-native to the area you recreate in. Learning to recognize invasive species helps you prepare to fight the problem.

2. Prepare for your outdoor activity by selecting clothing and footwear that does not attract seeds. Avoid bulky knits as your external layer, try to wear gaiters to prevent seeds from sticking, and wear low tread shoes or boots wherever possible to avoid buildup of seeds and debris in the tread.

3. Travel on designated trails, rock, gravel, dry grasses or snow. Attempt to stay on established trails to minimize soil disturbance. Disturbed soil is a prime habitat for invasive species.

4. Camp on durable surfaces in order to avoid areas that may be infested with invasive species. Not only can species be spread by contact with humans or animals, but some can cause irritation or damage to skin; “When in doubt, stay out!”

5. Clean your equipment before you bring it in to or out of an activity location, making sure to remove seeds and other living material. This can include your clothing and footwear, your vehicles (including boats, trucks, cars, ATVs), trailers, tents, the fur and feet of any animals you brought along as company, and bags used to carry any gear or equipment.

6. When you do remove seeds, soils, insects or other organic materials from your clothing and equipment, dispose of objects properly in the trash. Do not do so in or near a waterway; this can increase the spread of invasive species.

7. Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them and be respectful of any wildlife you may encounter. Control your pet and keep animals on a leash. This will decrease the possibility of introducing and/or transporting non-native species to the area. 

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As we continue to enjoy our outdoors, our diligence in preventing the intrusion of invasive species becomes more and more important. If we do our part to prevent the spread before it occurs, we can drastically reduce the growth of non-native species in the future. Educating others will engage more people in the efforts to stop further invasions. Take the extra few minutes on a hike, fishing trip, or backpack trek to check for unwarranted hitch-hikers and leave the inhabitants in their rightful habitats.

Ninjas for Nature - dani and roland