Conservationists are trying to slow the spread of invasive species. - Pressure Washer
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Conservationists are trying to slow the spread of invasive species.

Conservationists are trying to slow the spread of invasive species.

It’s a plant that’s been around for a while, but we only learned about it. Before it becomes any worse, we ought to put a stop to it.

The Phragmites Working Group Lake Bernard, headquartered in Sundridge and Strong, has launched an education initiative to raise boaters’ awareness of the importance of cleaning their vessels before leaving lakes.

Environmental group works to stop spread of invasive species

For this reason, they have lately sought the aid of Jeff Berthelette, a representative from the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters (OFAH).

According to Berthelette, who is the OFAH’s outreach liaison for the Invasive Species Awareness Program, the Ontario government mandated in January that boaters clean, drain, and dry their vessels after leaving a body of water.

Berthelette took his tools to Sundridge’s Lion’s Dock to help clean yachts coming from Lake Bernard for a day. He was on the lookout for any microbes that might be stuck to a boat, kayak, canoe, or even dive gear that, if not removed, might be transferred from one lake to another.

What Berthelette just mentioned is exactly what we don’t want to happen.

When you get out of the water, that’s when you want to start hunting for invasive species. And get rid of any invasive species on your yacht before putting it back in the sea.

Berthelette used a high-pressure hose to destroy everything floating in the boats that were leaving Lake Bernard. All of the floating targets were successfully hit by him. Even though Berthelette had a pressure washer do the work for him, he insisted that anyone could handle the cleaning on their own.

He explained that you should “start at the bumper and just feel” for any foreign materials, such as mud, debris, or plant matter.

“Watch out for the set piece; that’s where the slashed plants will be hiding. Do not put anything back into the water after you have taken it out; doing so will not solve the problem. Toss it in the trash.

According to Berhelette, the whole thing only needs a few minutes. He continues by saying that exposing the boat to the sun’s heat helps sterilize it.

With funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Berthelette, who is based out of the OFAH Peterborough office, is able to offer the invasive species cleanup service. Berthelette has been implementing the education program throughout multiple towns over the past few weeks, and he reports that many of the people he has spoken with were unaware of the Clean, Drain, and Dry Act.
He also said that many people appreciated his advice on maintaining their boats.

According to Berthelette, the OFAH Invasive Species Awareness Program is having “a positive impact” because many boaters are responding positively to the news of the new legislation.

In Lake Bernard and the surrounding area, phragmites plants are a major invasive species.

Phrag Fighters is the name given to the local organization that is battling this invasive plant. Abby Flynn, a member of the Phrag Fighters, has stated that their efforts to remove phragmites in the Lake Bernard area are currently in their sixth year.

In the meantime, the Phrag Fighters are focusing on the phragmites stalks on land. On July 15th, once fish spawning season has over, they will enter the lake to begin their task.

The arrival of phragmites in the Almaguin region is thought to have occurred in the 1990s. It’s possible that the plant was picked up in one place and unwittingly moved to another by boats, ATVs, or even construction trucks.

Phragmites, according to Flynn, “can overrun an entire wetland very quickly.”

They also alter the soil’s chemical and physical properties to make it more conducive to their needs. It eliminates all local flora and fauna and renders the environment uninhabitable.

According to Flynn, a member of the Phrag Fighters and an Invasive Technician with the OFAH Invasive Species Awareness Program, Japanese Knotweed is the newest invasive plant the group must combat.

“This one’s a land plant, and it’s spreading all over Sundridge,” she explained.

It may cover a mile in an hour, and it grows so quickly that it chokes out natural plants. We have begun informing the public about the dangers of this and why they should be on the alert for it. This plant has been in the area for some time, but our team is just now learning about it. We want to put a halt to it before it becomes worse.

Flynn gives the example of the United Kingdom, where Japanese knotweeds are such a problem that laws have been passed making it impossible for homeowners to obtain property insurance due to the risk of the plant-eating through their foundations.

North Bay Nugget reporter and Local Journalism Initiative fellow Rocco Frangione. Canada’s federal government supports local news outlets through the Local Journalism Initiative.