Have you seen any of your favorite waterbodies in Vermont become infested with invasive species? Perhaps you have seen water chestnut form dense mats over your favorite place to fish, boat, or swim? This is the reality of invasive species – once introduced to a system they are very difficult to eradicate and control. HOWEVER, do not feel helpless! There are many steps that can be taken by individuals, towns, and organizations to stop new aquatic infestations as well as manage current infestations.
Early detection is crucial in managing aquatic invasive species and can be the deciding factor in whether or not a waterbody is able to overcome an infestation. The presence of variable-leaved watermilfoil in Halls Lake was first confirmed in 2008. After a quick response, and early control efforts (search and removal of the new species of nuisance plant), Halls Lake has been reported variable-leaved watermilfoil-free since 2011. So, how can you contribute to efforts like these that help protect Vermont waterbodies from invasives?
The Vermont Invasive Patrollers Program (VIPs) is a great way to get involved in lake/pond surveys across Vermont. Volunteers for this program can attend a free workshop to learn how to properly survey, and correctly identify, aquatic invasive species (as well as some native species). During the summer, volunteers survey their local lake/pond for invasives and can send any suspect samples they collect to the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) for a positive identification (hopefully, these samples will end up being a native lookalike!). If you are already an experienced aquatic botanist/surveyor, feel free to perform surveys of your own! Another great way to get involved in protecting your local waterbody is by assisting the Vermont Lay Monitoring Program, a program that utilizes volunteers to assess water quality across Vermont.
Hands-on Volunteer Days
Want to see management in action, and visualize the results of your aquatic invasive species control efforts? Volunteer water chestnut harvest days are a great way to get involved. This past field season, VT DEC coordinated (with the help of others) multiple volunteer harvest days. Many hands make for light work, and these volunteer days, open to anyone and everyone, are a great way to put a sizable dent in a water chestnut population at a specific field site. This past year, a harvest day at Black Creek Marsh (adjacent to St. Albans Bay) contributed greatly to control efforts on a newly discovered water chestnut population – remember that bit about early detection and management?
Apply for Grants
Invasive species management is not only time consuming but can be expensive - a major deterrent in some cases where a municipality or lake association may not have the necessary funds for invasive species management. Luckily, State assistance for these projects is available! Funding for invasive species control projects, such as Eurasian watermilfoil harvesting and spread prevention and education projects, is available through the DEC’s Grant-in-Aid Program.
Greet and Educate
Becoming a part of the Public Access Greeter Program is another great way to see your spread prevention efforts in action. Greeters interact with those utilizing water resources, inspect watercraft, provide educational material regarding aquatic invasives, and collect data at fishing access points. Every year, greeters are responsible for intercepting hundreds of instances of invasive species transport. Without the service of public access greeters, many more Vermont waterbodies could be infested with species such as Eurasian watermilfoil or zebra mussels. If your local waterbody does not have a greeter program, feel free to contact statewide AIS program coordinator Josh Mulhollem for more information on how to start a new program (Josh.Mulhollem@vermont.gov).
Lead by Example
The easiest way to become involved in invasive species spread prevention is to spread the message: Clean, Drain, Dry. Cleaning watercraft, draining water from them, and drying all equipment used while on a waterbody is the easiest way to stop the transport of, and manage, aquatic invasive species. Despite the bad news surrounding invasive species, there ARE ways to manage aquatic invasive species as well as resources to support the efforts of individuals, municipalities, and non-profits in doing so. Thank you for your efforts in helping to protect Vermont’s waterbodies!
Article and photo credit: Joseph Taft, Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation