But we have our own garlic mustard challenge here in the Newaygo County area. To me, it represents one of the first big tests of our resolve: will we make a lasting & meaningful commitment to the problem of invasive plants? (At this point, I should invoke full disclosure about this post: it's less about garlic mustard and more about NIPP, its past, present and future. )
Garlic mustard was 'first up' on our list of invasive plants since when we first heard about it (mid-2008), we had not seen it anywhere locally and we could find no reported occurrences of it in any of the databases we knew of. The Midwest Invasive Species Information Network (MISIN) had no data points whatsoever and we pinned the first report of garlic mustard on their interactive map back in 2009. Eventually, we came to believe, based on our experiences here in dealing with the plant, that garlic mustard had actually been present in our area for much longer than we first thought.
At this point, it seems like a good time to reflect on our progress in dealing with garlic mustard and our vision of the future of NIPP. Regarding our garlic mustard challenge, I see the following:
- Garlic mustard is STILL at the low end of the invasion curve, at least when considering Newaygo County as a whole. (See our NIPP previous blog update for a graphic illustration of the invasion curve). This means the costs, the time, the materials and the manpower needed to remove it and slow its spread are all much lower. It also means the damage is less widespread at this point.
- Some locations, such as the Anderson Flats area in Garfield Township and Croton Township (and others to be sure!) are higher up on the invasion curve. Locations like these are quickly getting infested to the point where containment of garlic mustard is the most realistic goal. In other words, eradication is seeming less and less likely in these spots.
- Public awareness of garlic mustard as an invasive plant problem is much higher than before. The same is true for invasives generally and the specific invasives we have been talking about in our presentations. We are seeing much more interest and support for dealing with invasive plants. There has even been really great cooperation from organizations, such as the City of Newaygo, the Michigan Agricultural Commodities, the Newaygo County Parks Department, the Bills Lake Association, and some of the local townships.
- The Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) has come in as a valuable partner, thanks largely to Sarah Pregitzer's work with them and the classroom educators and students at Grant and Newaygo schools and the NC RESA AgSci class in Fremont. All of these groups are involved in removing invasives (though not all of them are working on garlic mustard specifically).
Our efforts have been successful to the extent that we see the potential for this whole effort to move beyond the project stage and transform into a sustainable, ongoing, community effort. In line with that hopeful vision, I want to mention a couple of developments that you might not be aware of.
When we began the Newaygo Invasive Plants Project, we not only put garlic mustard on the MISIN reporting map for the first time, our efforts led to Newaygo County becoming a part of the West Michigan Cluster of the Stewardship Network. We are now 'on the map.'
This has been beneficial to Newaygo County in many ways but maybe most importantly in that our county is included in the formation of a new 'cooperative weed management area,' an entity that will focus on coordinating efforts and bringing in funding and other tangible support to the problem of invasive plants in Newaygo County. This could come into effect within the next six months to a year!
Finally, NIPP has enjoyed the generous support of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan for the past four years but the time has come for our project to either continue as a community based effort, one that is able to last and that will firmly established with local organizational support. To do that, we need find fiduciary support (a nonprofit organization that can qualify for grant funding). And just as importantly, along with that we will need some guidance from interested stakeholders here in Newaygo County.
We think we have a potential for the fiduciary support. We have had the ongoing support of the Fremont Area Community Foundation and we believe they will continue to show support for dealing with invasive plants in our area. And we will continue to be part of the West Michigan Cluster, bringing more stewardship information and training to Newaygo County in the future. As mentioned already, that will also assure us a place in the cooperative weed management area that is about to be established.
We will be needing help from YOU -- those of you who we have been in touch with and working with here in our area. We are not looking to form a nonprofit of our own or to solicit donations. We ARE looking for people who would be willing to become part of a steering group that can guide our efforts through information sharing, advice and participation in the whole process of defining what our 'project' will continue to look like.
It's 'our' garlic mustard challenge, not 'the' garlic mustard challenge. The challenge is to mobilize our community into action and to sustain that effort over time.
We would like to hear from any of you who would be willing to join our efforts in this way, to become part of a group that will help define the future for our area, to define the future of NIPP.
Please get in touch with us soon to help with that challenge.