Have you been noticing giant black plumes of smoke in the sky around Lake Erie lately? The local Pheasants Forever chapter and the Ottawa Soil & Water Conservation District have been conducting prescribed burns as a fundamental part of the Lake Erie Cooperative Weed Management Area program. This program aims to protect, restore, and enhance the Western Lake Erie Basin landscape and wetlands by coordinating efforts to identify, prevent and control invasive species.
The main target species is Phragmites australis, also known as the common reed. Phragmites is a non-native, invasive wetland plant that has a very complex root system and spreads quickly by means of underground rhizomes that produce new shoots. Phragmites can grow to be 15-feet tall and is very tolerant to changes; however, there is no modern day use for this reed and it chokes out any other native vegetation that would otherwise be beneficial to wildlife and the condition of the wetland.
The process of eliminating this invasive plant is to apply water-safe herbicides for two seasons to ensure that all the Phragmites in that location has been killed. Afterwards, a site-specified prescribed burn is conducted to rejuvenate the soil and activate the native seed bank. In some instances, seeds may be planted into the burned area to increase the survival rate of native vegetation.
Since the start of this program in the fall of 2010, nearly 2,500 acres of Phragmites has been treated and more than 100 property owners have been a part of the solution. If you are aware of Phragmites growing on your property, contact the Ottawa Soil & Water Conservation District at 419-898-1595 to begin eliminating the invasive plant and help restore your wetland.
Thanks to grants received through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, this program is available free of charge to landowners in Lucas, Ottawa, Erie and Sandusky counties.