Oneida County roads being surveyed for terrestrial invasives
If you will be driving on one of Oneida County’s highways this summer, chances are you may see someone in a high visibility vest zipping in and out of the ditch line holding a GPS unit. That person is part of the Wisconsin Headwaters Invasive Partnership (WHIP) Terrestrial Invasive Species Roadside Project. This project is the first step of a future management plan for invasive species along county highways.
The Right of Way on many roads has been known to harbor terrestrial invasive species. How many and what kind of invasive species present are not known. That is, until recently. This summer, Oneida County roadsides will be surveyed thanks to funding provided by Lumberjack Resource Conservation & Development (RC&D). WHIP, a local invasive species group comprised of 13 partners, serving Oneida and Vilas Counties, applied for funding through Lumberjack RC&D for a 600-hour Limited Term Position (LTE) to survey the roadsides.
But reaching this objective did not happen overnight. In addition to Lumberjack RC&D Council providing funding and WHIP’s coordination, there was cooperation between county and federal agencies. It all started several years ago when the previous County Highway Commissioner introduced the idea of surveying the county roadsides for invasive species to the Land & Water Conservation Department. At that time, no funding was available and the project was too time-consuming for county staff to assume the task. As time went on, WHIP was maturing into taking on bigger projects. In 2011, WHIP, Lumberjack RC&D, and Vilas County Land & Water Conservation Department funded the cost to conduct a survey for invasive species on large tracts of private forestlands in Vilas County for owners that had an existing forestry management plan. Later that year, a decision was made by the WHIP Steering Committee to pursue the county roadside survey. Lumberjack RC&D did the hiring for the Oneida County Terrestrial Species Road Survey position. Oneida County Land & Water Conservation Department is supervising and providing guidance to the employee performing the survey. Freeman Bennett, Oneida County Highway Commissioner, is instrumental in providing guidance, information, and safety equipment. The U.S. Forest Service, a partner of WHIP, purchased a GPS unit to be used for the project. Oneida County Land Information Department is assisting in GPS data and the creation of maps.
The survey position has been filled by Rosie Page. Rosie has a Bachelor of Science degree in Biological Sciences and a Masters of Science degree in Conservation Biology and Ecology. One of her goals is to be involved in the long-term effort against the spread of invasive species as well as educating others on the importance of conserving native species and ecological communities. Oneida County has 172 miles of county-owned roads and throughout the summer, Rosie will be walking them all looking for invasive species. When an invasive species is located, a GPS waypoint is taken. Rosie will be on the shoulder, in the ditch, and through the brush. Please use caution if you happen to meet her on one of our county highways.
Rosie’s part of the project will end in October but the data that is being collected now and throughout the summer will be invaluable in the future. The data will not only indicate what kind of species, but locations and densities will also be known. Field notes will be written and photos taken for further review. Management of Right-of-Way invasive species becomes imperative to prevent its spread. If mowing spreads or controls a certain species, decisions will need to be made on when and where to mow, or not to mow at all and whether or not chemical treatments could be useful. These decisions and more will be discussed and the cooperation of all groups and agencies involved is necessary to accomplish the goal of the project.
For more information on this project, call Jean Hansen, Oneida County Land & Water Conservation Department and WHIP Steering Committee member, at (715) 365-2750, or Ted Ritter, Vilas County Land & Water Conservation Department and WHIP Steering Committee member, at (715) 479-3747.