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Take care to stop the spread of invasive species

Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition and PlayCleanGo have kicked off the third-annual PlayCleanGo Awareness Week, which extends through Saturday. A week dedicated to highlighting the importance of stopping the spread of invasive species, PlayCleanGo Awareness Week aims to educate recreationists on quick and easy ways to responsibly enjoy the outdoors without spreading invasive species or pests.

Throughout the week, WRISC will join PlayCleanGo to share information about invasive species and actionable steps the public can take, whether out on a hike, boating or enjoying a picnic in the park.

“Invasive insects and plant diseases cost the U.S. an estimated $40 billion annually in damages to trees, plants, crops and related management efforts. They can threaten the economy, food supply, environment and, in some cases, even public health,” said Lindsay Peterson, WRISC coordinator. “As people head outdoors, we want them to know that a little bit of prevention can go a long way, and we look forward to sharing easy steps everyone can take to prevent the spread of invasive species.”

Invasive species are a major threat to our native wildlife and ecosystems, with nearly 50 percent of endangered or threatened species at risk as the result of the spread. While often unintentional, people can spread invasive species with the items they move such as their boots, tires, boats, firewood, pets, horses and more.

Whether out on the trail or biking in a local park, here are six easy steps to stop the spread of invasive species —

— Clean shoes, clothes, packs and pets before and after exploring and stay on designated trails.

— Clean horse’s hooves and feed them weed-free certified hay in advance.

— Clean, drain, and dry watercraft and angling equipment to Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers!

— Don’t move firewood. Buy it where it will be burned, buy certified heat-treated firewood or gather it on site when permitted.

— Before traveling to new areas, inspect and clean trailers, off-road vehicles and recreational vehicles with water or compressed air to remove mud, plant parts and hidden pests.

— Take the PlayCleanGo Pledge and invite family and friends to do the same at PlayCleanGo.org.

Every little bit of prevention helps and organizations across North America are helping to spread the word about PlayCleanGo Awareness Week, including The Nature Conservancy, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA’s Forest Service, American Hiking Society, Leave No Trace, Bureau of Land Management, North American Invasive Species Management Association, U.S. National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Wildlife Forever, state parks, other federal land management entities, state and county land managers, outdoor retailers, Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas, County Weed Management Associations and Partnerships for Regional Invasive Species Management, or PRISMs.

For more information on what can be done to help stop the spread of invasive pests and to take the pledge, go online to PlayCleanGo.org. And follow WRISC on Facebook and Instagram @wildriversISC to see what boots-on-the-ground invasive species management looks like.

The Wild Rivers Invasive Species Coalition is a cooperative invasive species partnership operating in northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The coalition has a wide range of partners and members from local, state, tribal and federal agencies, land managers, utility companies, civic organizations, businesses and individuals, all interested in the education and management of invasive species in the five-county WRISC area.

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