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July 12, 2013

On the lookout for invasive plants

Although not native to Michigan, Eurasian watermilfoil has made itself right at home here. And it’s proving to be a big problem for people who play on the state’s lakes and the fish and other wildlife who live in them.

To curtail this invasive plant species and perhaps rid our lakes of it, teams of volunteers are spreading out across the state, wading and boating into more than 200 inland lakes to assess the damage and help plan management activities.

The more than 400 volunteers are part of the Michigan Clean Water Corps’ Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, a statewide initiative of which Michigan State University is an integral partner.

MSU is providing the technical science support, training the volunteers to identify Eurasian watermilfoil, as well as other invasive plants.

“We train them to monitor for the invasive weeds that grow beneath the surface of the water,” said Jo Latimore, a faculty member in MSU’s Department of Fisheries and Wildlife who is heading MSU’s part in the project. “These plants grow under the surface, like seaweed, and you might not even know you have an infestation until you have acres of the stuff.

“Control can be very expensive, so our focus is on early detection.”

Once the plants are identified, the information is loaded into a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality database, where state officials and local communities can access as they work to remove the species from the lakes.

The program has been in operation for several years. Latimore said most of the volunteers are people who live on or near lakes and have a vested interest in their health.

“The information helps people who care about the lake in their community better understand it and make good decisions on how to protect and manage it,” she said.

Invasive species such as Eurasian watermilfoil can not only push out native plants, but also have other ecological impacts.

“It can become so dense that fish can have trouble spawning,” Latimore said. “It also can have recreational impacts – boat motors get entangled and people can’t swim in it.”

One way invasive species get into inland lakes is on boats that have been in the Great Lakes. The plants get into the big lakes via ships that have picked them up while overseas.

More information on this project is available at

Below are some of the lakes and dates volunteers will be monitoring for the plants.

July 12 – Pleasant Lake (Washtenaw County)

July 15 – Lake Cora (Van Buren County)

July 22 – Crockery Lake (Ottawa County)

July 31 – White Lake (Muskegon County)

Aug. 2 – Kelsey Lake (Cass County)

Aug. 12 – Lake Diane (Hillsdale County)

Aug. 17 – Little Long Lake (Barry and Kalamazoo counties)

Aug. 27 – Upper Herring Lake (Benzie County)

Aug. 28 – Big Twin Lake (Kalkaska County)

Sept. 6 – White Lake (Oakland County)


By: Tom Oswald