BILLINGS — On Tuesday, an interactive seminar was held at Riverfront Park in Billings to educate middle school kids on how to identify and eradicate invasive plant and animal species.
“We’ve got birds, we've got insects, we've got plants, we've got animals that are nonnative, and they have been brought here by human interactions and they’re really starting to wreak havoc,” says Megan Hoyer, Yellowstone County weed district education specialist.
Larry Padden, the natural resource specialist for the Bureau of Land Management, says that most of these invasive species have no natural predators, and they reproduce quickly, which makes them thrive when left untreated.
Treatment and removal for these invasive species can be expensive and time-consuming, which is why it is so important to catch them early, says Padden.
“Identifying every invasive species, even just in Riverfront Park, is nearly impossible even for professionals,” says Hoyer. For this reason, the BLM has free identification booklets that can be obtained at the Billings visitor center.
“It’s crucial for people to stop at the watercraft inspection stations to help prevent the spread of these invasive species,” says Liz Lodman, the aquatic invasive species information officer for Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
The invasive species Asian clams are the reason Lake Elmo is being drained this fall. In 2019, Asian clams were discovered inside the lake, which could reproduce and clog off the food supply for other natural species, reducing the water quality of the lake.
Lodman says some aquatic invasive species can live up to 30 days out of water, so draining and inspecting your watercraft after each use is important.
As outside travel increases for the summer, Pam Schwend, the assistant coordinator for Carbon County Weed District, wants you to keep one thing in mind: “All summer long, let's everybody think about play, clean, go. Go outside and play have a good time, clean your clothing and gear before you go somewhere else, and then go have fun”.
"A good rule of thumb is if you don’t know what it is, leave it alone," says Hoyer.