Boundary Waters and Non-Native Invasive Species

     What’s wrong with leaving your bait behind at your Boundary Waters campsite? If you’re fishing with crawlers/earthworms then they are non-native invasive species that can destroy a healthy forest floor.  To help prevent earthworms from harming the BWCA be sure to pack out all bait and containers. 

     There are a number of non-native invasive species threatening the Boundary Waters.  These can be found in a booklet provided by the USFS and the Friends of the Boundary Waters.  Plumeless thistle, orange and yellow hawkweed and purple loosestrife are just a few of the non-native species identified in the booklet.  There are pictures and descriptions of 22 different ones to help you recognize them when you see them. 

     We all need to do our part in stopping the spread of non-native invasive species.  Learn about them so you can educate others and get rid of them on your property.  There are a number of beautiful native plants and flowers you can grow so find out what they are before you accidentally help non-native species survive and thrive in the BWCA.


Invasive Species in the
Boundary Waters—
A question of what, not if By Alissa Johnson
In July, University of Minnesota forest ecologist Lee Frelich and Doug and Peggy Wallace, coordinators
of a citizen’s monitoring group, bushwhacked up a ridge in the Wolf Lake inventoried roadless area adjacent to the Trout Lake area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). They poured a gallon ofwater and ground mustard seed over a square foot area of the ground and watched.
“Sure enough, even in that remote location, there were worms, including one of the most
destructive (L. Terrestris)—night crawler,” Doug Wallace said. Only one variety of earthworm found in theCarolinas is native to the United States. Europeans introduced the rest, and in northern Minnesota, worms strip the forest floor bare. They eat through the leaf litter and leave exposed, black mineral soil behind. They alsodrive out native beetles that aerate the soil.
“From my personal observation, earthworms are spreading quite rapidly and in a lot of different
places,” Frelich said. “Most of the invasive plants are pretty much dependent on the worms
because worms create the right germination environment. They co-evolved with the worms
on their home continent, so that makes sense.”
Doug and Peggy Wallace’s citizen’s group operates under an agreement with the Forest Service
to monitor the Wolf Lake roadless area for invasive species, rare and endangered species, bird
and raptor inventory, evidence of illegal motorized vehicle use, water quality and recreational use.
In 2009, they verified the presence of earthworms using techniques recommended by Frelich. Their July hike confirmed that worms are more widespread than they thought, and the group plans to continue the survey throughout the roadless area and into the Boundary Waters to keep track of changes.
Frelich also hopes to survey the Boundary Waters region. He has applied for funding through the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), which makes recommendations to the legislature on how to allocate funds from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund.
“People have done some small surveys here and there, but this will be a more systematic survey. We would look inside and outside of the wilderness to see if what is outside is ready to come in,” Frelich said.
Frelich has already observed Buckthorn in the Ely area, and suspects there are more invasive species. With funding, he and University of Minnesota PhD students would complete a three-year survey to better understand what invasive species are present inside and out of the BWCAW, and how they are responding toclimate change. The question then will be what to do about it. As Frelich points out, it may be too late for worms—the BWCAW does not have a live bait rule prohibiting its use as other wilderness areas do, and their presence is already clear. But for some species, it might not be too late.
“I have been looking myself whenever I’ve been there and I am seeing invasive species everywhere
that I go, at least worms and smaller plants. There’s no buckthorn in the BWCAW yet, so we need to get rid of it outside [of the wilderness] so it doesn’t spread into the wilderness,” Frelich said.