Maine Natural Resource Agencies Call Attention to National Invasive Species Awareness Week, State's Efforts

February 27, 2012

CONTACT:
Jeanne Curran, Maine Department of Conservation Public Information Officer, jeanne.curran@maine.gov or (207) 287-3156 or Samantha DePoy-Warren, Maine DEP Spokesperson samantha.depoy-warren@maine.gov (207) 287-5842 (office) or (207) 592-0427 (cell)

AUGUSTA– While many Mainers think about invasive species only during the warmer months when they’re boating or fishing or lugging firewood to camp, the state is working year-round to prevent the spread of invasives and protect our natural resources and the economy that relies on them.

Invasive bugs, plants and animals continually threaten Maine’s unique natural resources, its tourism, recreation and economy, and the livelihood, traditions and health of thousands of Maine people. Because of that fact, Maine’s five state natural-resource agencies are encouraging all Mainers to observe and participate in National Invasive Species Awareness Week from Feb. 26-March 3.

Staff members from the Maine departments of Conservation (MDOC), Agriculture (MeAg), Environmental Protection (DEP), Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIF&W) and Marine Resources (DMR), are promoting activities throughout the state during the nationwide observation week. They also are telling Mainers where to find important information to help everyone learn about, identify and avoid dangerous invasive species.

“Maine has been a national leader in the protection of our precious waterways from invasive aquatic plants like milfoil and hydrilla thanks to our proactive prevention protocols,” said DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho. “In honor of National Invasive Species Awareness Week and the lakes we love, we encourage all boaters to join us in these proven prevention efforts by committing in 2012 to inspecting their boat and related equipment before entering and after leaving a water body. A simple but careful inspection lasting just a few minutes has a huge payoff in the preservation of our waters, and the native species, recreational opportunities, property values, businesses and communities that rely on the health of these invaluable natural resources.”

“Invasive species definitely can have an economic impact on agriculture in Maine,” said Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb. “The department works diligently to minimize diseases of potatoes, insects impacting maple trees, and weeds in the hay fields, as these can affect the quality of our potato crop, limit the amount of maple syrup produced and impact market for our hay crop. As a result of our efforts, we are helping to protect our state’s local food supply and our important agriculture economy.”

“Our state is fortunate to be blessed with an abundant variety of natural resources,” DIF&W Commissioner Chandler Woodcock said. “The residents of our state, and those who journey to Maine, both benefit from the unique variety of outdoor pursuits which we offer. Unfortunately, Maine’s significant outdoor resources and economy have been negatively impacted by invasive introductions. Our coldwater fishing heritage has been altered by illegal introductions, and invasive plants have affected many lakes and ponds. Maine’s waters represent a critical part of our state and are a vital contributor to our economy. I urge everyone who values Maine to focus on the invasive discussion. Together, we will make a difference.”

Of Maine’s nearly 6,000 lakes, only 23 lake systems, consisting of 46 water bodies, are known currently to be infested with invasive aquatic plants. These plants can hijack the habitat of native flora and fauna; degrade water quality; diminish property values; and reduce water recreation opportunities, including fishing, boating and swimming. The aquatic plants now in Maine include two types of milfoil, plus hydrilla, curly-leaf pondweed and European naiad.

DEP and DIF&W combined spend more than $1 million annually fighting these invasive plants. Derived from the Maine Lake and River Protection sticker required to be affixed to all inland powered watercraft, these funds in 2011 supported 76,105 Courtesy Boat Inspections, 15 plant control projects and have led to 2,800 citizen scientists trained to identify and respond to invasive plant threats.

Invasive terrestrial plants also threaten Maine’s ecology and can hurt humans. There are currently about 2,100 plant species recorded for Maine, with about 20 plant species known to be invasive and 20 more in the Maine landscape likely to become invasive. These plants can change Maine’s landscape, such as purple loosestrife which degrades wetlands and destroys habitat, and hurt people, such as giant hogweed, a noxious weed whose sap can cause blisters and burns. All these plants are monitored by MeAg, Maine Forest Service (MFS) and the Maine Natural Areas program, under MDOC, which also provide technical assistance to Maine landowners.

Maine’s forests are threatened by numerous invasive insects and tree diseases, including hemlock woolly adelgid, an insect that kills hemlocks and is now present in Maine and spreading; browntail moth, which is established in Maine and causes blisters and allergies in humans from their irritating hairs; and Asian longhorned beetle and emerald ash borer, two invasives that will destroy Maine’s forests but are not yet in Maine, rather in neighboring states and provinces.

Maine has implemented an out-of-state firewood ban, and the Maine Forest Service is taking steps to enforce this ban. MFS and MeAg, collaborating as the Maine Bug Watch, are working to monitor and control these invasive insects.

The spread of invasive fish species within Maine continues to be a significant problem. Northern pike, black crappie, and bass are found in new waters each year. These fish compete with native fish species for food and habitat. The impacts of illegal fish introductions are difficult to assess, and reversing these effects are always costly.

DIF&W continues to be involved in a number of projects that monitor and attempt to reverse illegal introduction of non-native fish species. Each year, the department trap nets Pushaw Pond to remove invasive pike and monitor population growth. In September 2010, a reclamation project began on 90-acre Big Reed Pond to save an existing population of native Arctic char. The reclamation project is almost complete, and 2012 survey data will determine if the reclamation project is a success.

Maine DMR is keeping its eye on a number of marine invasive species that have been identified in recent years, including the Asian shore crab; Didemnum, a tunicate described as looking like pancake batter that spreads over the bottom and structures; and Codium, a spongy green algae that can completely cover and smother shellfish beds. Currently DMR staff participate in the Northeast Aquatic Nuisance Species Panel, the Maine Marine Invasives Working Group, and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute’s Vital Signs project. The MIT Sea Grant has conducted periodic surveys of invasive species at points along the Maine coast as part of a regional effort in the Northeast to identify and track the spread of marine invasive species.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week, now in its third year, is an awareness week that will be marked by national, state and local events, including a number of activities open to the public here in Maine.

Three major upcoming events include:

-Allison Kanoti, Maine Forest Service forest entomologist, will discuss hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), newly discovered on Mount Desert Island, at 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 28, at Jesup Memorial Library, Bar Harbor. The presentation is sponsored by the Bar Harbor Conservation Commission. For more information about HWA, go to: www.maineforestservice.gov/HemlockWoollyAdelgid.htm For more information about the presentation, contact: Allison Kanoti, 287-3147 or allison.m.kanoti@maine.gov.

-Maine Bug Watch will conduct a survey of trees at the campground at Bradbury Mountain State Park, Pownal, looking for signs of ALB, EAB, and HWA infestations. The survey will be held 10 a.m.-noon, Tuesday, Feb. 28. MFS District Foresters Mort Moesswilde and Ken Canfield will help with tree identification. To volunteer, contact Karen Coluzzi at MeAg: email (karen.l.coluzzi@maine.gov) or phone 287-7551. Alternate bad weather date is Thursday, March 1, at the same time.

-The 13th Annual Maine Milfoil Summit, which is free and open to the public, will take place 8:30 a.m.-noon, Friday, March 2, at the University of Southern Maine, Lewiston-Auburn campus. The conference will focus on the sustainability of Maine’s invasive-plant removal efforts. DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho will address summit attendees on the goals and direction of the department’s Invasive Aquatic Plant Program, followed by a brief question–and–answer period. For more information, contact. Peter Lowell, 647–8580 or lakes@leamaine.org

For more information about Maine DEP's efforts to prevent and control invasive aquatic plants, visit http://www.maine.gov/dep/water/invasives

For suggestions on how to observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week, go to: http://www.maine.gov/doc/mfs/downloads/10waysto_observe.pdf

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