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Natural Lakes Private Preserve works to rid area of invasive terrestrials

Beckie Gaskill/lakeland times

Ann Mawicke of the Natural Lakes Property Owners’ Association talked with the large group of attendees at the WHIP annual meeting last month.

Ann Mawicke gives presentation at WHIP meeting

Many lake associations fight against invasive species. Natural Lakes, however, has also taken on the fight against terrestrial invasives.

Ann Mawicke, who heads the invasive species committee for the Natural Lakes Private Preserve's Owners' Association near Presque Isle, gave a presentation at last month's Wisconsin Headwaters Invasives Partnership (WHIP) annual meeting on the group's successes, best practices and continuing work.

Mawicke also shared what she has learned about getting people involved in the fight against terrestrial invasives.

Rod Sharka, she said, had been working on the Guido Rahr Tenderfoot Forest Reserve with a honeysuckle problem. Honeysuckle is an invasive species that can take over large areas of land, robbing native species of habitat and creating a monoculture that is not conducive to supporting healthy populations of native bird and animal species.

"Rod Sharka contacted the president of our board. He said, you know, I've been working with honeysuckle for quite a while and we're just north, and I'm wondering if you might have some, too," she said.

This conversation led to a driving tour of the Natural Lakes are with Sharka.

Mawicke said they found several things on which the group should focus. From there an invasives committee was formed and they applied for a grant to tackle the invasives in the Natural Lakes area. Mawicke talked about the driving tour and Sharka's reaction to one entire cul de sac filled with honeysuckle.

"Wow," Sharka said. "That is a lot of honeysuckle." Not only was the entire cul de sac filled with the invasive, but the area around it as well as down the road, was thick with it.

"As a homeowner, and working with WHIP, Rod was our first partner who took the time to say, 'Hey, I think you may have a challenge. I will go look at it with you,'" she said. "And I think that's one thing people need to know about WHIP and Lumberjack and working with all of these different partnerships is that you're not in this alone. There was no way, no way that I knew that was honeysuckle."

She said other homeowners were just as clueless as she was about the invasive. They saw it as a good screen to block traffic and had no idea what else it meant.

What to do

According to Mawicke, there are four things people need to do to determine if there are any terrestial invasive problems in a particular area.

First, she said, is education. Landowners need to know not only what an invasive is and how to identify it, but what types of vegetation are on their property and what may be threatening from a nearby property.

"Just live your life," she said. "Walk down the road, drive by - believe me you'll never look at a roadside the same again," she said.

She told the group to take samples of possible invasives and tag them for identification, complete with the location from where they were taken. Alternatively, locations can be put into a GPS. The samples should then be taken to the DNR for identification. Once a sample is confirmed to be an invasive, the next step is knowing what to do, she said.

Knowing what to do when an invasive is found and creating a plan to deal with it puts everyone on the same page and gives not only a starting point but a direction, Mawicke told the group.

Getting people involved in the fight against invasives can be difficult at times. Many area lake associations know this all too well. The fight against terrestrial invasives seems even more obscure to many.

"You have to give them a reason why they should care," Mawicke said. "Honeysuckle. The number one thing that sold it for our people, that got them moving - tick infestations. They had no clue. It's one thing to say it crowds everything out, nothing will grow. But it causes tick infestation?"

This was the motivator for her group, she said. Garlic mustard and thistle are also a problem, she said, but people need to know why it matters to them.

While terrestrial invasives may not necessarily lower property values, if the back half of a property is full of honeysuckle or thistle it likely will not sell quickly, she added.

The inability to use part of a property due to invasives that have taken over is also a motivator. Once people understand the problem, Mawicke said, they learn to understand that early detection and control is always less expensive and not as difficult.

Once a landowner or an association is spurred into action, funding for projects becomes paramount.

There may be grants available to help offset costs from different partners. For Natural Lakes, however, the problem was bad enough that they decided to take the issue on themselves. Later, they applied for and received a grant to help cover expenses, but initially they took the project on themselves. With a dedicated core group of people, they were able to rid that entire cul de sac of honeysuckle.

They did not have lengthy work days or work numerous days in a row, she said, which was key to the group's success. With many of the volunteers being older, Mawicke wanted to ensure they did not get out of bed the next day so sore they did not want to come back and help.

Once the honeysuckle was removed, the group held a chipper day. They chipped all of the honeysuckle they had removed as well as any that neighboring landowners had removed on their own properties and set it next to the road for collection.

Success story

According to Mawicke, a number of lessons were learned. First was that grants were available. Partnering with WHIP or Lumberjack RC&D for help with grants, identification, control and even creating a plan to deal with invasives is a way to not only get funding for projects but also to learn best practices and avoid costly mistakes.

"Two-hour time slots worked really well for us," she said. "In ad hoc groups, like two or three people, volunteers are less tired. There is less risk of injury. Volunteers are less tired, and they actually came back."

Keeping work days short made it easy for others to get involved while still getting the work done that needed to be done, she said.

Mawicke also used email plant identification, an idea she got from Frontier Lakes. She used this as part of her educational process. Showing the homeowners what plants to look for kept them aware and thinking of those invasives. Many, she said, even started to clean up their own yards.

Working in high visibility or high-traffic areas is also a good way to get a conversation going and to get more people involved, she said. While the group was cutting the honeysuckle, neighbors would often stop to ask what they were doing and why. This is a great way to get more people involved.

Providing a local contact is helpful, too, she said. Because Natural Lakes Association members had the phone number and email of an invasives committee person to contact, the group also found garlic mustard that fall.

One thing that can be difficult to overcome is that people will often not want to ask for help. The invasives committee, as part of the grant, said they would walk all of the roads in the Natural Lakes preserve. By doing this, Mawicke was able to talk with landowners about what might be in their yard and offer services to do away with any invasive intruders.

Talking with people as a neighbor and giving that personal contact is important, and offering services has helped a great deal in their case, she added.

The story of Natural Lakes, while still ongoing, is a success thus far. The group has a dedicated core and is getting the word out to more and more people. In turn, these people are looking for invasives on their own properties as well. With education as the jumping off point, the group has been able to make great strides in ridding their land of terrestrial invasives.

Beckie Gaskill may be reached via email at bgaskill@lakelandtimes.com.


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