New invasive species volunteer stewardship program coming to Michigan

National Invasive Species Awareness Week, Part 4: Michigan Sea Grant receives funding to start program for paddlers.

The Paddling Detection, Reporting and Public Awareness Program will be conducted statewide on and around 12 established Michigan water trails. Map Credit: Land Information Access Association
The Paddling Detection, Reporting and Public Awareness Program will be conducted statewide on and around 12 established Michigan water trails. Map Credit: Land Information Access Association

National Invasive Species Week 2018 is Feb. 26 to March 2. Invasive species are plants, animals, and other organisms that are not traditionally found in a given location (in this case the Great Lakes) AND they have a negative impact of some kind, whether ecological, economic, social, and/or a public health threat. To increase awareness of Michigan’s invasive species, Michigan State University Extension and Michigan Sea Grant are publishing a series of articles featuring resources and programs in our state working on invasive species issues.

Today’s article features the “Michigan Invasive Species Paddling Detection, Reporting and Public Awareness Program” a new initiative funded by the Michigan Invasive Species Grant Program.

Fastest-growing outdoor activity

According to recent studies by the Outdoor Industry Association, paddlesports are among the fastest-growing outdoor activities in the United States, and that enthusiasm is reflected in a rapidly developing system of water trails all over Michigan. Along with fantastic recreational opportunities, the increased availability and use of water trails also brings challenges including concerns over the possibility of these activities becoming a more prevalent vector for the introduction or spread of invasive species.

Invasive species can be hitchikers

Many aquatic invasive species (AIS) are spread through movement of boats between impacted areas and non-impacted areas. Much has been done in Michigan to educate motorized boaters on how to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by properly cleaning, draining and drying motorized boats. A network of volunteer inspectors also exists for motorized boat launch locations throughout the state. However, less effort has been put into non-motorized boater education and outreach. While some paddlers may encounter these volunteer inspectors, these interactions are serendipitous. This new program will be a targeted education and outreach campaign for paddlers to “adopt” stretches of a water trail to detect and report aquatic invasive species, helping to fill the current void in paddler engagement and helping to prevent the introduction and/or slow the spread of invasive species from recreational paddling activities.

Water trail users are key

The new AIS Paddling Stewardship Program aims to help water trail users identify and map invasive species along sections of at least 12 water trails throughout Michigan. It will also offer education on best practices for preventing the introduction or spread of invasive species through paddlesport activities.

By working directly with paddling groups and other volunteers, and by using proven and established campaigns and tools such as the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program; Clean. Drain. Dry.; Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!; and the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) smartphone app, we can provide new opportunitieA yellow kayak is seen beached on the side of the lake near a pier. A stand of invasive purple loosestrife is nearby.s to assist in monitoring and reporting the presence of invasive species in areas that may otherwise go unmonitored. In addition, through educational signage, videos and a volunteer-based public awareness program, we can provide greater awareness about how to limit the introduction and spread of invasive species among paddlers as well as non-paddlers.

Program materials, training resources and volunteer tool kits will be developed in 2018 and paddling workshops will be offered beginning in the spring of 2019.

Those interested in enrolling in the 2019 training workshops should send their name and city of residence to Mary Bohling at who will notify them when workshops in their area are scheduled.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

Read the entire 2018 National Invasive Species Awareness Week series:

Additional Invasive Species Resources

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