Michigan agencies step up invasive species fight

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- After years of planning, Michigan officials are ready to put in place a strategy for controlling the spread of invasive species in the state's waterways, according to a new state report.

The plan is described in the annual "State of the Great Lakes" report released Thursday by the Department of Environmental Quality.

The quagga mussel and other non-native species have caused great damage in the region, the report said.

"Aquatic invasive species cost the Great Lakes region an estimated $5.7 billion per year -- and that's just the ones that are already here," Sara LeSage, an invasive species program coordinator with the department, said in the report. "To keep that number at 'only' $5.7 billion, Michigan has focused not just on detection and management, but prevention as well."

The new strategy focuses on early detection of new invaders and a rapid response to rein them in.

"Finding the first colonies of an invasion enables a more efficient use of resources to control the organism in small areas before it can spread," LeSage said. "This requires strong stakeholder engagement, cost-effective methods and science-based decision-making."

The department this year began making invasive species surveillance part of routine monitoring activities in waterways, including rivers and streams. The department and Michigan State University are working to increase participation in a program to spot exotic plants in inland lakes.

"Over the past several years, our state has approached (aquatic invasive species) planning with a collaborative, 'all hands on deck' strategy to best protect our Great Lakes," LeSage wrote. "Now, with much of the planning complete, Michigan can devote more attention than ever to on-the-ground implementation."

Examples of efforts now underway are early control efforts aimed at the European frog-bit, an invasive plant that the report says so far has only limited presence in Michigan.

Working with Michigan State University, "the program has now launched control measures including physical removal (1,500 pounds removed beginning in mid-September) and trial treatments with herbicides," LeSage said.

As for the threat of Asian carp, the report said Michigan has carried out a large-scale test on the St. Joseph River to be read should the bighead or silver carp species reach Michigan waters.

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Online:

State of Great Lakes report: http://1.usa.gov/1e36fsf