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Controlling Invasive Species

Invasive species are species that are not native to our region and cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Species that grow and reproduce quickly, and spread aggressively, with potential to cause harm, are given the label of “invasive”. Invasive species pose one of the greatest threats to Illinois’ natural areas, native communities, and natural resources. Compared to other threats to biodiversity, invasive introduced species rank second only to habitat destruction, such as woodland clearing and wetland filling.

Invasive species are a major threat to our environment because they:

  • can change an entire habitat, placing ecosystems at risk
  • crowd out or replace native species that are beneficial to a habitat
  • damage human enterprise, such as fisheries, costing the economy millions of dollars

Winnebago County’s natural resources and forest preserves are threatened by a number of invasive species such as common buckthorn, garlic mustard, purple loosestrife, reed canary grass and emerald ash borer. Invasive species can occur on land or in the water. Forest Preserves of Winnebago County works to help prevent the spread and promote the management of invasive species within the forest preserves. Staff work year-round, using a variety of methods, to control undesirable and damaging plant and animals species. Burning, cutting and herbiciding are common methods of removing invasive plant species to enhance growing conditions for native species.

Since 2007, FPWC has worked with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to monitor and control white-tail deer density in the forest preserves. Uncontrolled deer herds accelerate the spread of chronic wasting disease, lead to unhealthy deer populations and negatively impact forest preserve plants and trees from over browsing. Each winter, specially trained sharp shooters cull deer from the southeast area preserves in order to attain healthy deer density levels as recommended by the IDNR.

There are many things you can do to help slow the spread of invasive species on your own property.

  • Verify that the plants you are buying for your yard or garden are not invasive. Plant native plants and remove any invasive plants in your garden. There are many good native plant alternatives to common exotic ornamental plants.
  • Clean your boots before you hike in a new area to get rid of hitchhiking weed seeds and pathogens.
  • Don’t “pack a pest” when traveling. Fruits and vegetables, plants, insects and animals can carry pests or become invasive themselves. Don’t move firewood (it can harbor forest pests), clean your bags and boots after each hike, and throw out food before you travel from place to place.
  • Volunteer at your local park, refuge or other wildlife area to help remove invasive species. Help educate others about the threat.
  • Identify and eradicate invasive plants and insects  from your back yard.

The Center For Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health offers this easy-to-read list of invasive species and photos to help identify problem organisms in Illinois.