Volunteers to remove invasive species, improve wetlands

Have you heard about all the non-native invasive species in Lake Champlain?

There are at least 50 of them, including species of plants, animals and pathogens introduced to the Lake Champlain Basin.

Some were planted because they had pretty flowers. Others got here through ballast or bilge water from boats.

These non-native species (species that were not present at the time of European settlement) can, in some cases, spread and take over (becoming invasive) because they have no natural predators.

Roberta Nubile helps clean up aquatic invasive species. Photo by Kate Kelly
Roberta Nubile helps clean up aquatic invasive species. Photo by Kate Kelly.

This can cause a major problem for ecologically rich natural areas, not only for our native plants and animals that get choked out by these intruders, but also for people who like to recreate on the water.

Plants like water chestnut, European frogbit and Eurasian watermilfoil can grow so thickly that it makes it difficult, or impossible, to boat, swim or fish in. Some of the aquatic invasive species you’ve likely heard about (like zebra mussels) can be difficult to control. Others, like European frogbit, are more easily removed in order to limit their spread.

Lewis Creek Association has been working closely with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and the Lake Champlain Basin Program since 2009 to monitor and remove European frogbit, water chestnut, yellow iris and flowering rush in Town Farm Bay in Charlotte, and the LaPlatte Natural Area in Shelburne. These two areas are very diverse ecologically, and many people recreate there, making control of non-native invasive species critical.

When frogbit was first discovered in Town Farm Bay in Charlotte, there was over 50 percent covered throughout the wetlands. The LaPlatte Natural Area had lower frogbit levels to begin with, due to earlier detection.

With funds from the towns of Charlotte and Shelburne, the Lewis Creek Association organized groups of volunteers, such as the Charlotte Land Trust and boat launch stewards, to rake frogbit off the surface of the water in these areas. Through this work, the percent cover has been reduced from 50 to 5 percent or less annually, and held there.

This spring, the Lewis Creek Association will be leading volunteers again to remove frogbit, leading groups in June and July to remove frogbit in Charlotte and Shelburne. These expeditions are great fun — all the equipment is provided, so all you have to do is show up and be able to paddle in a canoe or kayak, rake plants off the water surface and put them into a bucket or laundry basket on your boat.

While paddling, your leaders will help identify as many animals and plants as possible — you’re almost sure to learn something new out there.

If you’re interested in joining the Lewis Creek Association for an enjoyable paddle while making a difference in the health of your local wetland, contact program manager Kate Kelly. Even better, get a group of friends together and sign up as a group to make a difference.