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Conservation district urges invasive species awareness

Sarah Nelson, executive director of the Barry Conservation District, discusses invasive species with Barry County commissioners Tuesday. (Photo by Rebecca Pierce)

Rebecca Pierce


Thirty-nine right-of-way sites throughout Barry County are host to invasive species.

Sarah Nelson, executive director of the Barry Conservation District, informed county commissioners of the issue Tuesday and discussed ways to combat these threats to property.

According to The Nature Conservancy, estimated damage from invasive species worldwide totals more than $1.4 trillion.

Although the list of invasive species is long – with 32 widespread in Lower Michigan and 31 are defined as emerging threats – Nelson focused on two in Barry County: Phragmites and Japanese knotweed.

Phragmites are a common reed introduced on the East Coast in the 1700s. Its dense, fluffy seed heads are purple in the spring and turn straw color with age. They grow to be more than 15 feet tall and spread thickly, crowding out native plants.

They can destroy wetlands, increase fire risk, block lakefront views and cause property values to plummet, she said.

Nelson showed before and after photos of the impact of phragmites on lakefront property.

Japanese knotweed is another invasive species she identified; a species so tough it can withstand volcanic lava flow. The plant can invade structures, sometimes forcing demolition of houses. It is difficult to stop the spread, she said, since cutting, mowing, burning, digging and using chemicals with glyphosate will not deter its spread.

One of the best weapons that can be used to fight these invasive plants is information.

Nelson said the Barry Calhoun Kalamazoo Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area – BCK CISMA – can provide free educational programs. The website offers more information.

Nelson said prevention is the best approach. Treatment of well-established populations of invasive species can take years. In those areas where invasive species are widespread, long-term management is aimed at population suppression and asset protection.

In other business, the board:

• Unanimously approved a resolution supporting Thornapple Manor's exploration of the addition of independent and assisted living units as well as adult day care services.

• Reminded that there will be no county board meeting Tuesday. The meeting will take place at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 21, due to the Michigan Association of Counties Conference next week.

• Approved paying the $2,260 cost of a trip to the White House for Chairwoman Heather Wing and Commissioner Ben Geiger.

• Heard compliments from Judge Michael Schipper, who stopped by to praise the performance of Kerri Selleck in her work as the county's chief public defender. She is making a major difference in county's indigent defense program, he said.

• Heard from Sheriff Dar Leaf who said a Middleville woman complained of receiving a call from someone who identified himself as a process server for the sheriff's department. The caller had demanded that she pay money or face arrest. The woman immediately called the sheriff's department to report it. Leaf said the call was a scam. Any call like this should be reported to the sheriff's department, he said.




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