Every year, Fort McCoy personnel conduct a wide array of efforts to combat invasive species plants at the installation, and the planning and work to do that effort is done year-round.
During National Invasive Species Awareness Week, which is observed in 2024 from Feb. 26 to March 3, it’s another chance to continue that effort.
According to the National Invasive Species Information Center of the U.S. Department of Agriculture at https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov, the awareness week “is an international event to raise awareness about invasive species, the threat that they pose, and what can be done to prevent their spread. Representatives from local, state, federal, and regional organizations discuss legislation, policies, and improvements that can be made to prevent and manage invasive species. … Across the country, partners hold public events to educate the public and elected officials about how they can help to stop the spread of invasive species.”
One recent, unique weapon Fort McCoy has been employing against invasive species is goats. Yes…goats. In fall 2023 at the installation, more than 100 goats were being used to combat invasive plant species at Fort McCoy, and they were very effective, said Wildlife Biologist Kevin Luepke with the Fort McCoy Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division Natural Resources Branch (NRB).
“It will help us save labor/equipment time, reduce costs, reduce pesticide usage, and hopefully give us better results,” Luepke said in a related news article. “The goats will be used in an integrated approach. I see our approach looking like this in the future — shred and mulch the invasive brush during the winter or fall, then allow the invasive brush to resprout the following growing season, introduce goats to the site during that same growing season to defoliate, and then treat with herbicides the following growing season after that.
“This will put a stressor on the invasive shrubs multiple times,” Luepke said. “In essence this will make the herbicide treatments more effective because we will be dealing with already stressed plants.”
Annually in June, too, Fort McCoy also hosts the Monroe County (Wis.) Invasive Species Working Group. In the June 2023 event, more than four dozen people participated in the event that included numerous briefings about invasive species and how to control them, and updates from landowners currently fighting invasive species on their lands, and more.
Event coordinators included personnel with the NRB, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), and others. The group is a cooperative effort led by Monroe County Land Conservation, WDNR Forestry, Fort McCoy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other agencies. NRB Chief Tim Wilder, Biologists Jessup Weichelt and Luepke also with the NRB, all participated in the event.
Luepke said in a story about the field day that the event has proven to be a great opportunity for sharing information on how to lessen the spread of invasive plant species in the county, and more. This event was where goats was introduced as an option.
“With the field day, demonstrations and information is passed along to the general public that attends in regard to managing invasive plants,” Luepke said. “One of the members of the group runs an invasive brush management company and utilizes goats to do the work. The group was interested in showing off this method at the field day.
“This is actually a method that we have discussed within the NRB,” Luepke said. “This opportunity allowed the public to see this method as well as allowing the NRB to see this method up close and personal and help determine if this is a route, we could incorporate into the management of invasive shrubs in the training areas at Fort McCoy.”
Wilder said in past articles that being a part of this working group is good for the post, and more.
“Fort McCoy is an active participant in the Monroe County Invasive Species Working Group for many good reasons,” Wilder said. “The more folks we can get involved in managing and controlling invasive species in the county, the better chance we have for success here on Fort McCoy. Government agencies — whether they are local, state, or federal — cannot do this alone. Getting private landowners involved is critical to success.”
Fort McCoy Fisheries Biologist Steve Rood has also been a part of another effort at Fort McCoy to remove aquatic invasive species. On June 15, 2023, he was out with another biologist diving in an installation lake removing Eurasian watermilfoil and curly-leaf pondweed.
“We have been managing these species in West Sandy Lake … and have been successfully able to keep the population under control with relatively minimal effort,” Rood said.
Rood, who is dive certified, is well skilled in looking for the plants and did the diving with Biologist Derek Maki. They are among many people who have been part of a diving program started by former Fisheries Biologist John Noble who started the program decades ago.
Rood said it helps to keep the invasive plants under control in order to keep the waterways healthy.
“If these species are left unmanaged, they out-compete the native vegetation and can result in extremely dense vegetation, which in turn can negatively affect the fish population in the lake and recreational activities on that water body,” Rood said.
The USDA defines invasive species in two parts. First, they state they are “non-native (or alien) to the ecosystem under consideration.” Second, they are species “whose introduction causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health.”
The USDA, at https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov/what-are-invasive-species, also discussed how invasive species are spread.
“Invasive species are spread primarily by human activities, often unintended,” the website states. “People, and goods transported, travel quickly around the world, and often carry uninvited species with them. Invasive species can be introduced to an area by ship ballast water, firewood, accidental release, and by people. Insects can be transported easily in wood, shipping palettes, and crates shipped across the globe. Ornamental plants can become invasive after escaping in the wild. Released unwanted pets are another way invasive species are spread.”
Fort McCoy’s battle with invasive species has been largely with invasive plants of many kinds, but they’ll continue to do all they can to mitigate what impact they have, Luepke said.
Learn more about the impact of invasive species by visiting https://www.invasivespeciesinfo.gov. Learn more about the Fort McCoy involvement in the local invasive species working group by visiting https://www.dvidshub.net/news/448142/field-day-invasive-species-working-group-holds-2023-event-fort-mccoy.
Learn more about Fort McCoy online at https://home.army.mil/mccoy, on the Defense Visual Information Distribution System at https://www.dvidshub.net/fmpao, on Facebook by searching “ftmccoy,” and on Twitter by searching “usagmccoy.”
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