Opportunities / Progress

Appreciating the Natural: Prevention vs. Remedy

Vermont’s lakes and ponds are characterized by a plethora of biota. While boating on the south end of Lake Champlain (heading toward lock 12), my colleagues and I are greeted at the Lake’s Narrows by a juvenile bald eagle standing guard atop a white cedar. Moments later, squawks and screams erupt from a great blue heron flying overhead while an osprey continuously chirps from its nest (positioned carefully on a boat marker) which is noticeably home to at least one juvenile. Parents generally get protective of their young when the Aquatic Invasive Species Management team rolls through their part of town.

As Lakes Appreciation Month continues, it is important to address ways in which we can maintain healthy, usable lakes and ponds around the state of Vermont. The saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” was mentioned in a post earlier this month—this adage is especially applicable in the realm of aquatic invasive species spread prevention.

A green frog, one of the many organisms that characterize Vermont's waters, sits on a stump throne above native duckweed.

A green frog, one of the many organisms that characterize Vermont’s waters, sits on a stump throne above native duckweed. Photo by Joe Taft

Those giving their time to programs, such as the Vermont Invasive Patrollers, VIP, and the Vermont Public Access Greeter Program form the first lines of defense against the spread of aquatic invasives in Vermont. Often going unnoticed for some time after introduction (unless detected early by VIP or Greeter Program staff), aquatic invasive species’ can colonize quickly and leave bodies of water almost unusable. Consequences of invasive species are evidenced by mats of water chestnut too thick to kayak through, and invasions of watermilfoils rendering boat motors virtually useless. Remedies for these invasions fall just short of monstrous in scale—thousands of hours (and millions of dollars) have been invested in mechanical/hand removal of water chestnut and Eurasian watermilfoil. Other invasive species, such as spiny waterflea in Lake Champlain and starry stonewort in Lake Memphremagog, do not yet have a practical management plan developed to combat their deleterious effects.

In this month of celebrating Vermont’s water bodies, another phrase, also relatable to stopping aquatic invasive species spread, should be noted: “CLEAN. DRAIN. DRY.” These simple steps can prevent new infestations of lakes and ponds by non-native species, and will save immeasurable amounts of effort required to curb the problems that invasive species present to lakes and ponds in Vermont. Invasive species spread prevention will also allow Vermont’s natural flora and fauna to flourish in their natural environment, and will hopefully ensure the presence of iconic species, like the bald eagle or the regal green frog, for many more years.

More information, including invasive species identification materials, current spread/control efforts, and other ways you can volunteer to protect Vermont’s waterways (such as becoming a VIP) can all be found on the DEC Aquatic Invasive Species webpage.