I received this information from Ted Ritter who is Vilas County’s Invasive Coordinator:
To: Vilas County AIS Partners
From: Ted Ritter, Invasive Species Coordinator
Sub: Wetland invasive plants
Date: February 19, 2014
You are no doubt aware that Vilas County is home to over 1,300 lakes. The more than 100,000 total acres of lake and stream surface waters accounts for approximately 16% of the county’s landscape.
Our local AIS Partnership has worked diligently on many fronts over the past nearly 10 years to minimize the effects of aquatic invasive species. Our collective accomplishments are impressive. Our work has been beneficial. Unfortunately it will likely never be finished.
While we ponder what battles lie ahead in the war on AIS, I encourage you to expand your horizons beyond the shorelines of your favorite surface waters and pay attention to the area’s wetlands. Whether you refer to these areas as marshes, swamps, bogs, fens or wastelands waiting to be filled, be aware that their total area in this county slightly exceeds that of surface waters. At more than 120,000 acres, wetlands account for approximately 19% of the county landscape. About one third of Vilas County is covered by either surface waters or wetlands.
As a youngster growing up in the northwoods in the 1950s and early 60s, I barely had a proper appreciation for lakes and much less so for wetlands. My favorite term for such places was “swamps” and I typically used it derogatorily. Only in my later years have I come to understand the importance of wetlands. For anyone wanting a taste of the same enlightenment, I have placed a WDNR publication titled Wetlands, Wonderlands on the Vilas County Land and Water Conservation Department website. It can be found at the following link. We also have a limited printed supply of the publication available at no cost from this office.
Wetlands are incredibly complex, intriguing and arguably beautiful. They are capable of handling and neutralizing many environmental stresses. They typically perform best if left to do so without human intervention. In fact, human activity in and around wetlands is often their greatest threat. But one of their enemies is invasive species. Certain plants capable of causing considerable harm to wetlands are showing up across the state. The northwoods is no exception.
You are hopefully familiar with and watching for purple loosestrife, a non-native shoreline / wetland plant that has been in WI for decades. Groups in a few areas of Vilas County have been successfully engaged in biological control of purple loosestrife in recent years. With ongoing diligence, the damage this plant is capable of can be minimized.
But are you familiar with plants such as garden loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris), yellow iris (Iris pseudacorus) or common reed grass (Phragmites australis), all of which can now be found scattered throughout Vilas County, or flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus) which has recently been found in northern Oneida County, but not yet reported in Vilas.
We need to be on the lookout for these wetland threats and more that are heading in our direction. Some are not yet regulated in WI as invasive plants, but likely will be upon passage of an update to WDNR administrative rule NR40 (Invasive Species Identification, Classification and Control) anticipated later this year.
The accompanying document provides guidance for select wetland plant identification and monitoring. I encourage our AIS partners to spread this information far and wide this spring and summer in the hopes of our collectively getting a handle on how well established these plants are becoming.
Thanks for all your efforts to protect our area lakes from invasives. I hope you’ll accept the challenge to do the same for our wetlands. Findings of these or any suspicious plants (aquatic, wetland or terrestrial) can be reported to this office for investigation.