Do not release invasive species: Part 2

Water garden retailers, managers and enthusiasts should know that it is illegal to be in possession of, sell, offer to sell or introduce into the environment prohibited plants and animals. Hefty fines may be incurred.

More than 13 million homes in the United States have water gardens or aquaria. These industries generate more than $1 billion in our economy and often sell exotic, non-native aquatic plants and animals. When these organisms escape or are released into natural waterways, they can become established. Infestations diminish recreational opportunities, impact native species and cost billions of dollars to control. The cost of trying to control aquatic invasive species (AIS) in the U.S. is more than $100 billion per year—approximately $1,100 per household according to the national Habitattitude campaign.

Part 1 of this Michigan State University Extension article reported on last summer’s discovery of European Frog-bit (Hydrocharis morsus-ranae) in the City of Alpena’s Wildlife Sanctuary – a beautiful 500 acre coastal wetland adjacent to Lake Huron. Popular with water gardeners, Frog-bit is a small but attractive floating plant that looks like a miniature water lily with tiny white flowers. In reality, Frog-bit is an aggressive invader that appears on the State of Michigan’s prohibited species list. Unfortunately, this plant is available for purchase at many retail garden centers and over the internet.

Before purchasing non-native plants and animals, know which aquatic species are prohibited and restricted according to Part 413 of Michigan’s Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act 451 of 1994. Water garden retailers, managers and enthusiasts should know that it is illegal to be in possession of, sell, offer to sell or introduce into the environment prohibited plants and animals, and hefty fines may be incurred. In addition to European Frog-bit, Michigan’s prohibited aquatic plant list includes such popular plants as Fanwort, Parrot feather, Yellow floating heart and others—along with many fish and snails.

Habitattitude encourages enjoyment of water features and aquaria while protecting our lakes, streams and wetlands by offering responsible solutions to the disposal of dead, dying or unwanted aquatic plants and animals. The campaign also offers tips for thoughtful planning of your water feature to avoid heartache later AND the possible spread of AIS. Habitattitude is a national education campaign encouraging proper disposal of exotic plants and animals to protect waterways from AIS. It is endorsed by Michigan State University Extension, Sea Grant Michigan, and Michigan Lake and Stream Associations.

To report an AIS sighting, please visit the website of the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network.  The MSU Extension bulletin, A Michigan Boater’s Guide to Selected Invasive Aquatic Plants provides assistance in identifying and understanding the movement of these organisms. 

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