Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Plan for removal of nonnative phragmites, an invasive plant, open for comment

MADISON - A plan to treat with an herbicide up to 200 acres of an aggressive invasive plant in Wisconsin's Lake Michigan basin counties to prevent it from spreading to inland lakes and wetlands is available for public comment through March 24.

Department of Natural Resources received $200,000 from the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative fund to implement the starting in 2014 of a new project within Wisconsin's Lake Michigan basin to find the leading western edge of the phragmites invasion and "push" it back toward Lake Michigan. The plan is patterned after an earlier project on the western shores of Green Bay and parts of Lake Michigan, which showed an average 90 percent reduction in phragmites abundance after treatment. Nonnative phragmites can decrease wildlife habitat and shade out native plant species.

"In many Wisconsin counties, especially in the western Lake Michigan basin, the non-native strain of phragmites is a newly establishing invasive wetland or lakeshore plant," says Stacy Schumacher, a DNR water resources management specialist. "We are hoping we can build on the success of an earlier project to prevent phragmites from getting established and spreading to many of our inland lakes and wetlands and causing problems there."

This project will focus first on eliminating nonnative phragmites in those counties in the far northwestern part of the Lake Michigan basin, then move south and east through the counties along the western edge of the basin, as funding allows. The goal is to treat at least 200 acres of nonnative phragmites, beginning in late summer 2014, with follow-up treatments in 2015.

Appropriate formulas of imazapyr or glyphosate will be applied by certified personnel to prevent the herbicides affecting non-target plants. The herbicides are nontoxic for fish, wildlife and humans. In areas where this treatment method has been used, phragmites populations have decreased by up to 95 percent and allowed native vegetation in the seed bank to recover, Schumacher says.

The proposed DNR action is not anticipated to result in significant adverse environmental effects and DNR has made a preliminary determination that an environmental impact statement will not be required for this action.

Copies of the environmental assessment that led to the DNR's preliminary determination can be found on the Wisconsin Environmental Policy Act page of the DNR website, or obtained from Stacy Schumacher, Water Resources Management Specialist, 608-264-8955, stacy.schumacher@wi.gov.

Public comments, either written or oral, on the environmental assessment are welcome and must be submitted to Stacy Schumacher no later than 4:30 p.m. on March 24, 2014.

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