OLYMPIA – Gov. Jay Inslee declared the week of Feb. 26 as Invasive Species Awareness Week in Washington State, noting that invasive species cost the United States more than $137 billion annually in crop damage, loss of fish and damage to forests.
In his proclamation, Inslee urges residents to help prevent the introduction and spread of non-native, invasive species that are harmful to the state’s economy, environment and recreation resources.
“I encourage citizens to be vigilant in looking for invasive species and noxious weeds, and to report their sightings to the Washington Invasive Species Council,” Inslee said. “Furthermore, all residents should play an active role in protecting our state’s resources, by remembering to clean, drain, dry watercraft and other equipment, to not release unwanted pets into the wild and to clean boots and equipment before enjoying the outdoors.”
A 2017 study commissioned by Washington State agencies illustrated that the introduction and spread of 23 species alone could cost more than $1.3 billion a year in Washington and a loss of 8,000 jobs.
“Invasive species and noxious weeds are problems no one in Washington can afford to ignore,” said Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Recreation and Conservation Office which provides support for the Washington Invasive Species Council. “They are two of the largest threats to the state’s natural resources.”
The awareness week is held in conjunction with National Invasive Species Awareness Week. Invasive species include non-native plants, animals and insects that cause economic or ecological harm to a new environment in which they have been introduced.
You Can Help
Residents can take simple actions to help prevent the introduction and spread of noxious weeds and invasive species:
- Clean your hiking boots, bikes, waders, boats and trailers, off-road vehicles and other gear before you venture outdoors to stop invasive species from hitching a ride to a new location. Visit the council’s Washington Invasive Species Education (WISE) Website to learn more about preventing spread.
- On your next walk, watch for noxious weeds. Visit the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board’s Website to learn about noxious weeds and if you spot some in your yard or while walking in your neighborhood, notify your county noxious weed control board.
- Download the WA Invasives mobile app so you are ready to report sightings of invasive species.
- Check out the Top 50 worst invaders. Dispose of aquarium plants or water, science kits, unwanted pets, or live bait the proper way and NOT by dumping them into waterways. When it comes to unwanted pets or live bait, letting them loose is never the right thing to do. Visit the WISE Website to learn the proper ways to dispose of unwanted pets and plants.
- Going camping? Buy firewood where you'll burn it, or gather it on site when permitted. Visit the WISE Web site to learn about the potential dangers of moving firewood or the council’s education campaign.
- Use forage, hay, or mulch that is certified as weed free. Visit the Washington Department of Agriculture Web site to see details of its certification program.
- Plant only non-invasive plants in your garden, and remove any known invasive plants.
- Volunteer as a Citizen Science Invasive Plant Monitor with the Pacific Northwest Invasive Plant Council. Read the details of the program.
- Become a Master Gardener and help your community identify, report and properly manage exotic and invasive pests. Read details of the program.
· Volunteer to help remove invasive species from public lands and natural areas. Contact your local state or county park, city parks and recreation department, or county WSU Extension office to learn more.
“Simple actions,” said JT Austin, natural resources policy advisor for Inslee, “such as citizens reporting invasive species they see in their local communities can save our state and the region a large amount of money, jobs and ecological damage.”