Prevent the spread of invasive species

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Field of Leafy Spurge, photo credit: Terry Glase, Plains, Montana. From the Montana Weed Control Association website. One man’s flower is another man’s noxious weed.

Just ask any Montana rancher and they’ll tell you the yellow flowered plants that try to blanket their pastures are not to be marveled at.

Leafy Spurge (Euphorbia esula) can be found in every county of the Big Sky Country, including several other northern states.  The rangeland cattle carrying capacity killer’s vigorous root system can reach depths of 30 feet – allowing the plant to store enough nutrients to last through what might as well be a nuclear explosion.

Then there’s the Asian Longhorned Beetle (Anoplophora glabripennis).

This white spotted, black beetle bores into the heartwood of trees – killing them. It preys on Maple, Poplar, Birch and Elm trees, just to name a few, and can be found in Massachusetts, New York and Ohio.

What do these and other invasive species have in common? The need to take preventive action to stop them from infesting new regions of the country.  As tourism season warms up, traffic through all areas of the country and foreign countries increase chances of new invasive species being introduced to areas. Because of this, April has been named Invasive Plant Pest and Disease Awareness Month by the United States Department of Agriculture.

“Invasive species threaten the health and profitability of U.S. agriculture and forestry, and the many jobs these sectors support,” says Kevin Shea, Administrator of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).  “To protect that crucial value, USDA and its partners work hard every day to keep invasive pests and diseases out of the United States and to control those that may slip in.”

Invasive plant pests and harmful weeds can be spread in a number of ways. From animal manure and hair coats to camper’s firewood and vehicles.

On USDA’s Hungry Pests website steps are outlined for farmers and ranchers to keep in mind to prevent the spread of invasive pests.

Specific guidelines for farmers and ranchers include:

  • Learn to identify the invasive species in your area.
  • Report any sightings to your county extension agent or local USDA office. The sooner invasive species are detected, the easier and cheaper it is to control them.
  • Clean your boots, gear, truck bed, tires and harvesting equipment after working a site to make sure you are not spreading seeds, insects or spores to a new location.
  • Be sure to control invasive plants along fencerows, ditches and other areas adjacent to fields.
  • Always use weed-free hay and feed for your animals.

A study by Montana State University found that a vehicle driven through only several feet of spotted knapweed picked up around 2,000 seeds. While only 10 percent of the seed’s gathered remained in the vehicle after being driven for 10 miles, it proved how easily harmful weeds can be spread through vehicles and equipment.

The website also outlines seven steps for everyone to follow to prevent the accidental spread of invasive species.

These include:

Buy Local, Burn Local.

Invasive pests and their larvae can hide and ride long distances in firewood. Don't give them a free ride to start a new infestation. Buy firewood where you burn it.

Plant Carefully.

Buy your plants from a reputable source and avoid using invasive plant species at all costs.

Don't Bring or Mail.

Don't bring or mail fresh fruits, vegetables or plants into your state or another state unless agricultural inspectors have cleared them beforehand.

Cooperate with Quarantines.

Cooperate with any agricultural quarantine restrictions and allow authorized agricultural workers access to your property for pest or disease surveys.

Keep It Clean.

Wash outdoor gear and tires between fishing, hunting or camping trips. Clean lawn furniture and other outdoor items when moving when moving from one home to another.

Learn to Identify.

If you see signs of an invasive pest or disease, write down or take a picture of what you see and then report it to your state.Top of FormBottom of Form

Speak Up.

Declare all agricultural items to customs officials when returning from international travel. Call USDA to find out what's allowed.
Call (301) 851-2046 for plant questions.
Call (301) 851-3300 for animal questions.


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