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  Comments (0) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
 
Invasive Species?  They’re Already Here
COMMUNITY: Lakeside / Somers
If you enjoy Flathead Lake take note: this may seem alarming – and it is.

There’s an old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” So when I had the opportunity to review the work of Peter Rice of the University of Montana, and his research partner Virgil Dupuis of Salish Kootenai College, I thought I would learn how to better prevent invasive species such as zebra mussels or Euraisan water milfoil from fouling Flathead Lake and the Flathead River.

Instead, I became shockingly aware that we already have a much bigger problem with a lesser-known invasive species: Flowering Rush (butomus umellatus).

Flowering Rush isn’t just a problem affecting the south shore. In fact, it was first reported in Lakeside in 1964, in Peaceful Bay – and now threatens the very nature of the north shore (including the proposed Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) North Shore Wildlife Management Area) and dozens of places along Flathead Lake, especially shallow bays and backwaters.

Incidentally, Dupuis pointed out that while he receives grants from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation Noxious Weed Trust Fund and U.S. Department of Agriculture Tribal College Research, and support from the Salish Kootenai College, he spends most of his time in weeds and waters that lie far beyond the reservation, due to the pervasiveness of the Flowering Rush problem.

And Flowering Rush is a problem for many reasons – big reasons. First, there is no 100 percent effective method of treating infestations on a large scale. Second, Flowering Rush provides great habitat for invasive species of fish – a compounding problem whereby a non-native plant provides ideal habitat for non-native fish. Also, many waterfront landowners (thinking they are doing the right thing) – are actually doing the wrong thing trying to remove Flowering Rush, and may be causing it to spread.

Flowering Rush has affected more than 2,000 acres of Flathead Lake. That’s not a typo: more than 2,000 surface acres have already been affected by an invasive, non-native noxious weed. And that should sound alarming, especially since Flowering Rush has already taken over parts of the bay near Dayton Creek – waters that were once clear and clean are now marsh-like – and far more likely to gather silt and become marshland altogether. Likewise, waterfront property owners could lose valuable water access due to Flowering Rush, without proper treatment.

The ecological balance along the north shore in Somers is also at great risk thanks to Flowering Rush – a weed with a practically unmistakable triangle-shaped stalk, and rhizome roots (which are the only way this variety can reproduce, thankfully).

But there are three things you can do right now to help: 1) Get Smart: learn more about the invasive Flowering Rush and how it’s already affecting the waters of Flathead Lake; 2) Don’t Spread It: if you see Flowering Rush, it’s better to leave it alone (and contact local lake water authorities); and 3) Get Checked: support boat inspection checkpoints – they work (now that we have them). And if you take your boat or equipment into other waters, be sure to clean and inspect them before putting them into Flathead Lake and any local waters – not just your hull or prop, but also ropes, drainage systems, waders – anything that has been in some other body of water.

Like the old saying, if we had a little prevention, we wouldn’t have such a big problem. Unfortunately, Flowering Rush is a big problem. And it’s right here in Lakeside and Somers – and a threat to all of Flathead Lake.
 
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