Friday, October 28, 2016

Invasive species battle waged at park along Wisconsin-Michigan border

Another battle against invasive species recently took place at Cowboy Lake Park, just west of Iron Mountain, Michigan.

Taking out invasive plants at Cowboy Lake Park.
Students from Kingsford High School’s environmental science class partnered with the Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition (WRISC) to participate in an invasive species control day at Cowboy Lake Park. The students and adult volunteers manually removed buckthorn, exotic honeysuckle, Japanese barberry and other invasive plant species on Oct. 13.

Through our We Energies Mitigation and Enhancement Fund grants, we have supported WRISC’s operations in northeast Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for several years now. WRISC also partners with us on purple loosestrife control along the Menominee River.

In Southeast Wisconsin, we help support a similar initiative called the Southeast Wisconsin Invasive Species Consortium (SEWISC).

“Through the We Energies Foundation, we have supported the consortium for several years, providing funding for boots-on-the-ground invasive species management,” said Mike Grisar, principal environmental consultant at We Energies, who was involved with the inception of SEWISC as well as WRISC.

Grisar explained our company’s interest in the war against invasive species as a responsibility attached to being good stewards of the properties in and around its facilities throughout Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Meeting our regulatory requirements is one reason, but this type of work also is part of our larger environmental commitment to our customers and communities we serve,” said Grisar. “We want to be good stewards of the remarkable natural areas associated with our hydroelectric properties as well as many of our other power plants.”

Non-native species problems extend beyond plants. Emerald ash borers, zebra and quagga mussels are some examples. “These species and others can kill native species as well as damage property value of homeowners and businesses,” he said. “For example, the proliferation of zebra and quagga mussels can severely reduce efficiencies of our water intakes and other power plant equipment.”

Grisar also mentioned concerns about certain plants that pose a human threat in terms of skin burns that can be inflicted by contact with wild parsnip, or skin burns, scars and even blindness caused by giant hogweed.

Fortunately, those were not present at Cowboy Lake Park. The students and volunteers at the park targeted the thick and thorny wood invasives, which harm the forest ecosystem by spreading rapidly and growing quickly to overcome their native competitors.

The students also installed their sign for “Adopt-A-Spot,” a program that allows groups to adopt a favorite location – park, trail or other area – and monitor it for invasive species. 

Kingsford High School’s environmental science class with its
Adopt-A-Spot sign at invasive species control day.
Once a group decides to adopt a spot, WRISC conducts a survey of the property to identify invasive species that are present and later provides a workshop to help a group identify these species and to get started on controlling infestations. Groups get a sign for the property to let visitors know who monitors the location. 

Learn more about WRISC and its programs, such as Adopt-A-Spot:
Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition

Learn more about SEWISC and its programs: 

Learn more about We Energies environmental commitment:
We Energies - Environment

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