ST. GEORGE – Invasive plants and animals are threatening Dixie National Forest and forest managers are asking the public’s help in preventing the spread of harmful species.
“National Invasive Species Awareness Week” runs Monday through March 3, providing local land managers a good opportunity to educate the public about some of the invasive species found in the Dixie National Forest.
Invasive species are plants, animals and insects that are not native to the ecosystem, Dixie National Forest spokesman Bode Mecham said in a press statement.
Nonnative species are often brought from one place to another as seeds or larvae and then grow in their new environment unchecked due to a lack of natural predators. They can pose a serious threat to the economy, environment and human health.
Plants such as the invasive musk thistle and scotch thistle are two examples, Mecham said. Plant pests, invasive insects, mussels and fish are also potential threats to forest ecosystems, he said.
“Invasive thistles are especially problematic because they are difficult to distinguish from some of our native thistles, which are a beneficial part of the ecosystem,” he said.
Left unchecked they can become detrimental monocultures that hinder recreation and displace wildlife and native plants.
If members of the public see what appears to be an invasive plant, they should take a photo and location point, preferably with GPS coordinates, and report it to the land managing agency where the plant was located, Mecham said in an emailed response to questions.
Managing agencies include the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs and Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration.
“We ask the public to not dig up or spray what they perceive to be an invasive plant found on public lands,” Mecham said, “simply report it.” Mecham said.
“We greatly appreciate the public’s help to help us limit the spread of invasive species,” he said.
The public can help limit the spread of invasive species in several ways.
Help in the forest
- Use firewood found where you are camping or use firewood bought at a local store close to where you’re camping as transporting firewood can lead to larvae or beetles being transported from an infected forest to one not currently infected.
- Be careful not to transport seeds, plants or aquatic species from one place to another.
- Stay on designated roads and trails.
- Power-wash vehicles – including off-road vehicles and boats – by thoroughly washing the undercarriage and overall vehicle with hot water, which greatly reduces the spread of invasive weeds and nonnative aquatic species.
- An example of invasive nonnative aquatic species is the quagga mussel, a problem in some of Utah’s water bodies. Read the “Clean, drain and dry” section of the 2013 St. George News report linked here for instructions on how to decontaminate your water vessels.
Help at home
- Avoid planting invasive ornamental plants on your property.
- Learn how to control invasive plants around your property and what tools to use to properly remove them.
- Report invasive plant infestations to your local land management agency.
- Do not dump aquariums or houseplants in the wild or in water, such as lakes, streams, rivers or ponds.
- Contact your state or county department that deals with natural resources to learn about invasive species in your area.
Help when traveling
- Make sure to clean your clothes, boat, animals and gear off after recreational activities.
- Do not collect invasive plants, their seeds or reproductive bodies.
- Do not carry firewood long distances. Burn it where you buy it.