DES MOINES - Each year in Iowa, millions of dollars, both public and private, are spent to control invasive plants, insects, animals and diseases. Invasive species threaten Iowa's lands and waters by competing with and destroying native plants and animals and by disrupting complex natural ecosystems.
Because awareness is an important first step in preventing the introduction and spread of invasive species, Governor Terry Branstad has proclaimed May Invasive Species Awareness Month.
"Several invasive plants, insects, and disease are threatening our woodlands," says Tivon Feeley, Forest Health Program Leader with the Iowa DNR.
Garlic mustard, an aggressively growing plant native to Europe, is spreading throughout the eastern and midwestern woodlands in the U.S.
"It is a real problem in Iowa," says Feeley. "Within a couple years it can completely dominate a woodland understory. It basically has to be removed by hand or with chemical treatments, which can be costly and very labor-intensive.
Emerald ash borer, an Asian beetle, is currently threatening Iowa's native forests and urban ash trees. The pest was first discovered in Michigan in 2002 and has recently been discovered in Iowa.
Feeley reminds campers particularly, that they can do their part to prevent continued spreading by not carrying in firewood to their campsites. Instead, campers should use or purchase firewood available at their destination.
Beginning this year, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship has required all firewood sold or acquired in Iowa to have the county and state of harvest location on the label of packages and the delivery ticket for bulk firewood. The rules were added to prevent the spread of invasive species. The rules only apply to firewood sold and acquired in Iowa. The rule also requires the Iowa DNR to collect firewood from campers that does not have a label.
Most of Iowa's waters are not infested with aquatic invasive species, but they can be spread between waterbodies by hitching a ride with anglers, boaters and other water recreationists. Fortunately, a few simple precautions can prevent their spread. Before leaving a waterbody:
Inspect the boat, trailer and equipment, and remove any visible plants, animals or mud
Drain water from the boat, motor, live well and bilge.
Dispose of unwanted bait in the trash. Never release fish, animals or plants into a waterbody unless they came from that waterbody.
Rinse or dry the boat, trailer and fishing equipment to remove or kill species that were not visible when you left a waterbody. Before transporting to another waterbody, rinse with high pressure and/or hot (104 degrees) water or dry for at least five days.
Learn to identify aquatic nuisance species and report any suspected sightings to the nearest DNR fisheries station.
Iowa's natural areas and waterways draw hundreds of thousands of tourists and recreational users each year. They are an important factor in the economic health and quality of life for all Iowans.
For more information on Iowa's invasive species and what you can do to help, visit the www.iowadnr.gov and visit the fisheries and forestry web pages.