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Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest Updates Invasive Plant Control Strategy

Erin Gottsacker/WXPR

At a trailhead in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest, hundred-year-old pine trees tower into the sky, while monarch caterpillars crunch on milkweed.

These native plants are thriving in this spot, partly because botanists like Marjory Brzeskiewicz have been controlling non-native invasive species in the forest for years.

The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest recently released its 2021 plan to control invasive plants.

According to the plan, the most common invasive species in the area are buckthorn, spotted knapweed, garlic mustard and wild parsnip.

Brzeskiewicz says these plants don’t have natural predators, so they can quickly take over native plants.

“They can physically crowd out other plants,” Brzeskiewicz says. “They can often have chemicals in their roots that keep other plants away. A lot of them are not palatable to native animals so the deer won’t eat them.

Marjory Brzeskiewicz pulls out buckthorn along a trail in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest

But the good news is the forest’s invasive plant control strategy seems to be working.

“First and foremost is that it’s not so bad up here, we don’t have that many [invasive] populations,” Brzeskiewicz says. “So the first strategy is to keep them out.”

In 2020, resource specialists found 100 fewer new invasive plant sites in the forest than the year before. The same thing happened between 2018 and 2019.

To keep that trend up, Brzeskiewicz says it’s helpful to have public buy-in.

She says hikers can help by brushing off their shoes before starting a new trail, and they can use smart phone apps to identify invasive plants and report them to the forest service.

It’s all part of the effort to make sure those Monarch caterpillars can keep turning into butterflies, and to help today’s seedlings become tall trees a hundred years from now.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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