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W.Va. DNR seeks public help with invasive species

Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo courtesy of Great Lakes Fishery Commission  Asian carp have become a dangerous nuisance in the Ohio River and other waterways. The aggressive fish damage local ecosystems and are highly agitated by the sound of boat motors, wildly leaping out of the water and sometimes hitting watercraft and boaters.
Parkersburg News and Sentinel photo courtesy of Great Lakes Fishery Commission
Asian carp have become a dangerous nuisance in the Ohio River and other waterways. The aggressive fish damage local ecosystems and are highly agitated by the sound of boat motors, wildly leaping out of the water and sometimes hitting watercraft and boaters.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Department of Natural Resources is asking the public for help in combating invasive species.

The DNR has placed its Invasive Species Strategic Plan and Voluntary Guidelines on public comment until Oct. 22. The plan gives guidance on how individuals and businesses can help stop the spread of invasive species which threaten native plants and wildlife.

West Virginia is one of the most bio-diverse states in the U.S., said Whitney Bailey, conservation planner with the DNR.

“We have a high concentration of bio-diversity. Due to our topography and location, we have a wide variety of species,” she said. “We have high elevations, low elevations, rivers, streams, expansive forest blocks. We have a very high concentration of native wildlife, and that is a great thing. It also means we have more to protect.”

Because the state shares borders with so many other states, and since West Virginia has such a wide variety of terrain and habitats, protecting the state’s wildlife can be a challenge.

“It’s certainly a problem for all 50 states,” she said. “It’s almost like a quarantine. We are trying to keep species from moving from place to place.”

West Virginia has documented 270 invasive species of plants as well as dozens of invasive insects, fish and terrestrial animals. Species can range from common animals such as feral cats to more exotic threats such as the yellow lily which severely damages and destroys limestone wetlands.

“The DNR has biologists that are out there throughout the year tracking a wide variety of species,” Bailey said. “It is a lot of ground to cover, and it does mean there are fewer boots on the ground and it can go longer without notice.”

The DNR hopes to cover some of the gaps in production by enlisting the help of the public. Bailey said the strategic plan includes guidelines for individuals and businesses to follow to help stem the flow of invasive species.

For example, officials have run commercials in recent years warning of the emerald ash borer beetle which kills ash trees. Officials have urged campers to not move firewood between different sites, because the beetles often can be transported in the firewood to uninfested areas.

“That is a perfect example of how people can change their habits just a little bit to help stop the spread of an invasive species,” Bailey said. “It’s a set of strategic guidelines anyone can implement at any level.”

Most of the steps are relatively simple, but require some thought and time. For example, a person boating in one area should thoroughly wash their boat before taking it to another body of water to prevent the transfer of creatures or diseases. Bailey said companies that transport goods should frequently wash their trucks to keep non-native seeds from transferring between locations.

“Especially in West Virginia where there is less easy access to some areas, invasive species tend to spread along corridors of human traffic,” she said.

The strategic plan is available for download at www.wvdnr.gov under “Top News Stories.” Comments can be submitted to Bailey either by email at [email protected] or by postal mail to the WVDNR Elkins Operations Center, P.O. Box 67, Elkins, WV 26241. Comments are due by Oct. 22.

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