Tattle taling on exotic species can show that you care

Reporting exotic species observations is a good practice, even though many of us are reluctant to do so. Increased knowledge, for the both the reporter and the recipient, may be the greatest benefit.

The impacts of invasive exotic pests are increasing. These species include plants, insects, pathogens and other life forms. They infect everything from terrestrial to aquatic habitats and everything in between. Some can be serious game-changers in the management and integrity of our natural systems. All of them spread with the help of humans.

Is that important? If you believe it is, then please consider learning more about these invaders and report what you see.

The professional community that spends much of their time working on exotic pests is not usually the group that makes new discoveries. Most new observations are made by someone who sees something a bit unusual and is curious enough to find out what it is.

Nearly every professional associated with pest management would rather field a contact that ends with, “Oh, that’s one of our native species and it’s perfectly normal.” It’s a sigh of relief because we all know, that one day, the nightmare call will come.

What can you do? Learn and watch. Then, maybe, modify your behavior.

Arguably, the best online resource is the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN). The Network has good thumbnail sketches of hundreds of species, as well as a way to report observations. To report, you will need to create an account with a username and a password. It takes a little patience to learn how to navigate the MISIN site, but it is not too bad for those at least a bit familiar with using the internet. The MISIN website also provides account access to several citizen science programs, including the Sentinel Tree Project where you register, monitor and report on a tree or trees of your choice.

Both the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) have a watch list that has information about some of the most sought-after pests that we do not want to see. The DNR has an annual Forest Health Highlights, but their staffing is down and the 2017 report might be on hold. The USDA has a couple of websites, the National Invasive Species Information Center and the Plants Database. There are also a group of Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) that cover nearly all of Michigan. County Conservation Districts are often allied with the CISMAs.

Regarding our forest resource, the current headliners include Heterobasidion root disease, Asian long-horned beetle, beech bark disease, emerald ash borer, hemlock woolly adelgid, balsam woolly adelgid, oak wilt, 1000 cankers disease of walnut and the pine shoot beetle. Some of these species are already well established in Michigan and we need to manage forests with them in mind. Others are either not here yet, or are in the early stages of establishment.

Eradication success stories are possible with early detections. That is why it is important to have as many informed eyes in the landscape as possible. The Lake State’s forests were forever changed by the historic logging and wildfire era and the subsequent human development pressures. However, these may look like minor events compared to what exotic invaders are capable of inflicting.

If you care enough, then listen, learn, report and act. It is both interesting and rewarding.

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