Keep the invasives out

The Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance continues to hold events to educate the community about invasive species in the area

Most individuals in Big Sky enjoy the outdoors right? Many of us enjoy things like hiking, biking and seeing wildlife in the summertime. Big Sky is truly a place unlike any other and most of us would like to keep it that way. However, there is a serious problem that could threaten all of these things, invasive species. No, the effects will not happen overnight but they could be monumental in time. The Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance(GISA) works to combat this problem in our ecosystem. One of the many ways they do so is through their educational Wildflower and Weed Hikes.

GISA will be holding their second Wildflower and Weed Hike of the summer on July 15 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Specimen Creek. The next Wildflower and Weed Hike will take place on August 19 at Beehive Basin. Members of the community can stay up to date with future events put on by GISA by subscribing to their newsletter.

The purpose of the Wildflower and Weed Hikes put on by GISA are multifaceted. The hikes aim to showcase the natural beauty of Big Sky, instill appreciation for native plants in our ecosystem and educate the community about clean recreation practices and the effects that invasive species can have. The hikes also include time to help identify invasive plants, so community members know what to look for. As of now, the most common invasive plants that the GISA are fighting are the Hoary Alyssum, Houndstongue and Oxeye Daisy(according to the Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance). GISA encourages community members to help out and pull these plants if they see them.

A few of these invasive plants are admittedly very beautiful, however that does not make them any less invasive. “It’s been pretty hard to convince people that pretty flowers can be bad actors in the ecosystem,” Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance Executive Director Jennifer Mohler said.

Invasive species such as the three discussed above can have devastating impacts on the ecosystem. They can replace native plant communities, increase soil erosion, degrade water quality, damage fish and wildlife habitat, decrease the value of land, reduce recreation and hunting opportunities and increase trail maintenance costs, according to the Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance. While these impacts are not blatantly seen as they are with aquatic invasive species, the impacts can be significant.

“Impacts of noxious weeds are very silent, until the ecosystem is at the point of no return,” Mohler said.

To combat this problem Mohler asks all recreators to, “Be aware of how you can spread noxious weeds,” Mohler said.

Mohler then went on to discuss that noxious weeds and other invasive plants are spread most frequently by trail users. This is why Mohler and the Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance ask that all recreators in our community practice Play, Clean, Go. The Play, Clean, Go technique entails coming clean and leaving clean. This means cleaning your gear and clothes both before and after you recreate on any trails. Like the Clean, Drain, Dry technique to help stop aquatic invasive species, the Play, Clean, Go technique is incredibly effective for preventing the spread of invasive species.

The invasive species problem is a matter of personal responsibility. The Gallatin Invasive Species Alliance encourages everyone to “volunteer” by helping to stop this problem. By following the Play, Clean, Go technique this problem can be put to rest. We are the reason this problem is upon us and we can be the ones who put a stop to it.

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