Statewide Program Needs Your Help To Fight Invasive Species

Apr 21, 2016

Japanese knotweed pushing up through concrete on South Westnedge Avenue in Kalamazoo.
Credit Hannah Hudson

As invasive species continue to pop up in Michigan, the state is organizing to fight them. With the help of a $3.6 million grant, Michigan has created regional programs to battle invasive species. They’re called CISMAs or Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas. They aim to find and treat invasives, but they can’t do it alone. State environmental stewards need everyday people to help stop the spread of invasive species. 

Dru Fontaine of Cripps Fontaine stands next to a row of Japanese knotweed that has sprung up between Cripps Fontaine and Cooper Cafe in Cooper Township.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

Ryan Koziatek is the stewardship field director for the Kalamazoo Nature Center and coordinator of the new invasive species management area covering Barry, Calhoun, and Kalamazoo counties. The CISMA wants to form a kind of neighborhood watch - basically a team of residents to spot and report invasive plants. 

Koziatek says that team will help the CISMA survey about 9,000 acres for invasives in Southwest Michigan.

“So we can not only inform people but actually give them to do with that information so that they’re not leaving a workshop feeling that, ‘Ok, information is great. Now what?” he says.  

The CISMA also plans to educate about 100,000 residents through fliers and mailers about invasive species in their area. 

Japanese Knotweed: Kalamazoo's Enemy Number One

The middle of Japanese knotweed is hollow. That's why it's often referred to as "Michigan bamboo" or "Mexican bamboo," even though it's not bamboo at all.
Credit Rebecca Thiele, WMUK

Dru Fontaine works for the excavating company Cripps Fontaine on Douglas Avenue in Cooper Township. When a tall, woody plant sprung up along the border between Cripps Fontaine and Cooper Cafe next door, Fontaine says he didn’t think anything of it.

“I had no idea. Nope. And it’s not ugly. It’s kind of a nice barrier,” he says.

That plant turned out to be Japanese knotweed. An invasive species so tough, it can push through volcanic rock.

“So you can imagine what it can do to sidewalks and foundations. There’s been pictures of people finding the plant growing through their foundation and into their basement,” says Ryan Koziatek of the Kalamazoo Nature Center.

Japanese knotweed is almost impossible to kill. Koziatek says cut it down and it only grows larger.

“It really enjoys the haircut,” he says. 

Koziatek says knotweed isn’t a huge problem in Southwest Michigan yet, but it could become one.

Hannah Hudson is the tallgrass and weed inspector for the City of Kalamazoo. She says the city is pretty worried about knotweed. It doesn’t want to have a situation like Alpena - a city in the northeast corner of the Lower Peninsula.

“Someone brought it in as a decorative, took clippings from it, and then put it in the city compost. And then people came to the city compost to get compost for their yards and unknowingly moved the plant into their yards. And so from what I read the City of Alpena - or it might be a smaller section of Alpena - basically it’s growing everywhere. And so they had to have a third party come in and say, ‘Well, because the city kind of distributed it, well take care of it for you’ - which is a really expensive procedure and it takes a really long time,” she says.

The problem is even worse in the United Kingdom. According to British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, the U.K. spends more than $230 million a year removing Japanese knotweed. 

How To Get Involved

  1. Attend upcoming workshops and talk about invasive species in your area through the MInvasives Community page. 
  2. Contact your local conservation district to report invasive plants and animals.
  3. You can also report invasive plants and animals through the invasive species smartphone app or through the Midwest Invasive Species Information Network site.