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News / Clark County News

Inslee: ‘Invasive species and noxious weeds are already a big problem in Washington’

Insects, critters, weeds pose danger to state’s ecosystem; state offers webinars to educate residents

By Chrissy Booker, Columbian staff writer
Published: February 26, 2024, 5:49pm
4 Photos
The Washington State Department of Agriculture has used traps to monitor the Lymantria dispar moth, also known as the spongy moth, around Clark County as part of its 50-year effort to stop the invasive species from doing more damage in Southwest Washington.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture has used traps to monitor the Lymantria dispar moth, also known as the spongy moth, around Clark County as part of its 50-year effort to stop the invasive species from doing more damage in Southwest Washington. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Washington officials are asking residents in Clark County and the rest of the state to keep their eyes out for spongy moths, zebra mussels and other invasive species that threaten ecosystems here.

The Washington Invasive Species Council this week is offering a webinar series to educate the community about invasive species, the threat they pose to the environment and how to become part of the solution.

“Invasive species and noxious weeds are already a big problem in Washington and species that have yet to reach our state could pose even greater challenges in the future,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in a news release. “If we want to protect our economy and environment, we all need to do our part to prevent the further spread of invasive species. There are simple things we can do in our everyday lives to protect the natural resources we hold so dear.”

The series began Monday with a session on Washington’s spongy moth program, which has prevented the invasive species from establishing here for the past 50 years.

The series will conclude Friday with a Zoom presentation by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agriculture specialists about their program’s work to intercept invasive species at borders.

Washington Invasive Species Council Executive Director Stephanie Helms said boosting public awareness is key to decreasing the presence of invasive species in Washington.

“The role of the public can’t be understated,” Helms said. “Many past detections have been reported by residents, further supporting the importance of public awareness in protecting our economic, ecological, agricultural, and recreational resources and opportunities and everything we hold dear here in Washington state.”

Helms encouraged the community to use the mobile app WA Invasives and the InvasiveSpecies.wa.gov website.

According to the council, people can take simple steps to stop the introduction of invasive species, such as cleaning off hiking gear before going outdoors, reporting the presence of noxious weeds and using weed-free certified forage, hay or mulch.

Invasive species are a problem that has cost the U.S. more than $1.2 trillion in the past 50 years. Human-introduced organisms such as fish, bugs, plants and other wildlife can damage agriculture, recreation, forests and other important resources. A study from 2017 estimated that some species not yet in Washington, such as invasive freshwater mussels, would cost the state more than $100 million annually in damage and loss.

The Washington Invasive Species Council was created in 2006 to provide policy level direction, planning and coordination for combating invasive species throughout the state.

To register for the webinar series, visit invasivespecies.wa.gov.

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This story was made possible by Community Funded Journalism, a project from The Columbian and the Local Media Foundation. Top donors include the Ed and Dollie Lynch Fund, Patricia, David and Jacob Nierenberg, Connie and Lee Kearney, Steve and Jan Oliva, The Cowlitz Tribal Foundation and the Mason E. Nolan Charitable Fund. The Columbian controls all content. For more information, visit columbian.com/cfj.

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