August 18, 2008

Battling Invasive Species in the United States

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, invasive plants and animals that have been introduced to United States from other countries are wreaking havoc on our national wildlife refuges.

Some efforts to slow the threat are already under way. But the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is recommending several other steps for people to take.

Fishermen, Service officials say, should never release excess bait - especially minnows or crawfish - into lakes or streams after fishing. This precaution will help curb the spread of invasive species like the Asian carp that have plagued the Mid-South for a decade.

Anglers should also inspect and thoroughly clean their fishing gear, boats, trailers and waders. This will help prevent the spread of invasive plants and critters like hydrilla and zebra mussels.

Gardeners can help fight invasive species, too. When looking for ornamental plants or ground cover for their homes or gardens, people should always use native plants.

The steps sound simple, but Service officials say they can help with a problem that is rapidly spiraling out of control.

Service numbers say 2.4 million acres of the 98-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System are now infested with invasive plants. Roughly 4,423 invasive animal populations have taken hold on refuge lands - from the brown treesnake to the more common nutria, a species that has spread to many states from South America through the fur trade.

In collaboration with the Center for Invasive Plant Management, the National Wildlife Refuge System has designed an online training course for volunteers and others interested in joining the fight against invasive plant species.

The course is available at volunteersTrainingModule.

Source: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

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