We all live in a forest. Whether you live in a city condo, a rural area, or a desert, you live in a forest. Trees are all around us, wherever we live. That is why we need to practice safe travel habits to protect the trees in those forests where we all live.
We cannot live without trees. Trees are an integral part of the balance of nature. Further, products made from wood are all around us. Our economy depends on sustainable forests. Invasive plants and insects are invading our forests and threatening the trees we depend on.
We have imported ornamental plants from their native environment only to find they are destructive to our native forests. Many of these grow out of control without the controlling force of their original native environment. Kudzu was thought to be a good ground cover now we cannot eradicate it.
Ornamental plants like the Buckthorn, Honeysuckle, and Japanese Barberry were imported to enhance our gardens. Now their seeds have spread into our forests and have become a threat to our native trees. Other invasive plants like Garlic Mustard were brought over by the early settlers for its supposed medicinal purposes. Even the Kentucky Bluegrass we love so much on our lawns is now invading and harming our forests.
Non-native insects also create problems for our forests. We live in a global world with products being shipped from ports all over. These ships come into the heartland of America through the Great Lakes, unloading their cargo and invasive species. Two of these are the Gypsy Moth and the Emerald Ash Borer.
These insects are particularly harmful to our forests since they have no natural predators in this country. The Gypsy Moth is indiscriminate and will defoliate any tree. The Emerald Ash Borer attacks just the Ash tree. And according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, in their pamphlet, “FAQ About The Emerald Ash Borer, 20% of our city forest is made up of Ash trees and there are approximately 717 million Ash trees in Wisconsin’s forests alone.
All of us can help to stop spreading these invasive species and start protecting our forests. Here is how to practice safe travel. The first thing you have already done and that is to become aware of the problem. Along with this article the Wisconsin State Department of Natural Resources publishes several good pamphlets on invasive species and plants. For a list of these publications visit the Wisconsin DNR web site, at Invasivespecies.wi.gov.
Invasive species plant seeds are often very tiny. You can easily pick them up in the treads of your hiking boots, car tires, or even your pet’s hair. If you are traveling from one area to another wash off your shoes, thoroughly clean your car and brush your pet.
When I pack up my camp site I’ll wash all chairs, tables and storage container so I will not carry any travelers to my next camp site. Species like the Gypsy Moth like to hide on the bottoms of chairs and the creases of bags during the day since they only feed at night. I have found them on the awning of my trailer, and inside the wheel rims. Learn how to recognize these species so you can remove them before you travel onto your next location.
The Emerald Ash Borer is spread by moving firewood. It is always a good practice to gather or purchase your firewood where you are camping or picnicking. What is left over leave for the next camper or picnicker. Don’t move firewood from one spot to another.
When you are hiking do not leave the designated trails. Stay out of undeveloped areas and do not hike through plantings or growth areas. Do not disturb flora or fauna. Those beautiful wildflowers might look nice in a vase on your dinning room table but don’t pick them. They also have seeds which will spread and you just might be spreading Canary Grass or Garlic Mustard.
Never buy plants or seeds while on vacation. Every location has its own ecosystem with its own predators. When we introduce a foreign plant into a new ecosystem we do not know how it will behave.
We all enjoy our forests and cannot live without the many products they produce. By practicing safe traveling habits each of us can do our part to help keep our forests safe from invasive species. Best of all our forests will be around for the next generations to enjoy.
Sources- FAQ About the Emerald Ash Borer, Wisconsin Department of National Resources Bulletin, Madison, WI