Michigan mobilizing to combat destructive invasive plant
Efforts are intensifying to combat non-native phragmites, one of Michigan’s most invasive plants, following a major symposium on the issue that was held recently in East Lansing, Mich.
Non-native phragmites, or common reed, is an invasive plant originating from Europe that has spread widely across Michigan and throughout the Great Lakes region. Commonly found in coastal areas and roadside ditches, phragmites is an aggressive invasive species that grows densely and crowds out native species, decreasing habitat quality for wildlife. At heights sometimes reaching over 15 feet, invasive phragmites poses a fire hazard, obstructs shoreline views and negatively impacts tourism, recreational access and property values.
According to Patty Birkholz, director of Michigan’s Office of the Great Lakes and member of the Great Lakes Commission’s board of directors, “Due to its mounting ecological and economic impacts, invasive phragmites has been identified as a priority invasive species for the state of Michigan. We must work together in targeting our resources and expertise across institutional and geographic lines to effectively deal with the phragmites problem on a large scale.”
To help meet this challenge, in March Phragmites Invasions in Michigan: A Symposium to Build Capacity for Management was held to share information and facilitate dialogue on phragmites management and control and innovative research. The symposium drew more than 120 attendees, including representatives from federal, state and local government, non-government organizations, research institutions, private firms and concerned citizens. With funding provided by the Michigan Coastal Management Program, the symposium was conducted by the Great Lakes Commission in partnership with the Michigan departments of Natural Resources (DNR), and Environmental Quality (DEQ) and the Michigan Natural Features Inventory.
The need for coordinated action to manage this aggressive and rapidly spreading invasive plant has also been championed by the state’s political leaders. In a pre-recorded video greeting screened at the East Lansing symposium, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow voiced her support for the effort and recognized the hard work of all those involved in ongoing invasive phragmites management.
The principal outcome from the symposium will be a strategic framework to advance effective, sustainable management of invasive phragmites throughout the state of Michigan. Executive Director Tim Eder says the project provides “a valuable opportunity for the Great Lakes Commission to work in partnership with the state of Michigan to improve communication and coordination on a priority invasive species issue.” He adds that “while a significant level of effort is being invested in the fight against invasive phragmites, there is a clear need for a more strategic approach to coordinate efforts in Michigan and across state lines in the Great Lakes region.”
The strategic framework will recommend key actions to advance phragmites management and control on a coordinated basis and will also identify roles, responsibilities and opportunities for implementation. A concerted effort will be made to integrate traditional management approaches with innovative technologies that are under development. Comments collected on the framework following the March symposium are in the process of being incorporated to reflect the broad-based stakeholder input.
“We look forward to completing the strategic framework to guide management of invasive phragmites in Michigan,” said Rodney Stokes, director of the DNR. “This effort will inform state and local actions to control phragmites as well as other invasive species and will provide an opportunity to work with other Great Lakes states also combating this harmful plant.”
The Michigan DNR plans to hold a meeting in Lansing later this summer to gather final comments on the strategic framework before it is completed.
For more information on this initiative, please visit www.glc.org/ans/phragmites/symposium2011-recap.html. Contact: Katherine Glassner-Shwayder, email@example.com.