Blade-wielding volunteers planning to root out invasive phragmites
Deputy Mayor Barry Norris, top left, of Tay Township can be seen with members of Georgian Bay Forever and fellow councillors and volunteers, wading in Waubaushene waters to cut and drown invasive phragmites. |
From MidlandToday, July 12, 2023
By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
The best things in life are worth fighting for, and to many locals, that means protecting the environment against Canada’s worst invasive plant.
Invasive phragmites are a threat to the shoreline ecosystem, and an effort to eliminate that threat will take place in Waubaushene on July 20.
“Like any invasive species, if we don’t try and control this type of vegetation,” said Tay Township Deputy Mayor Barry Norris, “it gets out of control, eliminating the natural vegetation that is native to the area along with a significant impact to our ecological systems throughout our watershed.”
In 2005, invasive phragmites (pronounced frag-MY-tees) were recognized as this country’s worst invasive plant by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada. It is a tall perennial commonly known as the European common reed, found in wetlands, along roadside ditches, and in the shorelines throughout the Great Lakes.
Destruction of habitats for species-at-risk like turtles, nesting birds, and other native plants are just some of the ways invasive phragmites dominate the landscape. In 2022, approximately 300 sites were mapped in the waters of Port McNicoll, Victoria Harbour, Waubaushene, and Matchedash Bay.
Norris is just one of many leaders on Tay council who have appeared in previous years alongside the volunteers to tackle the problem, as guided by event host environmental charity group Georgian Bay Forever.
“(Tay) staff and council continue to be involved to show their support and appreciation to those volunteers taking the time to be involved in tackling the phragmites,” said Norris. “So far, it is the one way environmentally to remove this invasive species from our waterway.”
Working in pairs, an average of up to five medium-sized stands per day can be cut by Georgian Bay Forever staff, who use a special method to remove the plant. ‘Cutting to drown’ involves placing a bladed tool such as a cane cutter into the sediment of the plant’s base, and once severed it deprives the stalks of sunlight and nutrients, effectively drowning the crucial root system.
That means the participants wade into the waters for hours of labour in the heat of mid-summer, a tight window when the species is at its most vulnerable.
Previously, members of Tay council shared words of frustration that the municipality was the front line of defence for a problem which occurs on Georgian Bay waters under private waterfront property ownership or higher levels of government jurisdiction.
“Council has supported recommendations to both levels of governments on a resolution from The Township of Archipelago, as well as the Severn Sound Environmental Association informing all concerned,” said Norris. “Both upper levels of government are very much aware of the constraints that municipalities are faced with on the matter.”
Norris noted that manual elimination of the species is cost-prohibitive for municipalities due to the intense labour component, which is why organizations such as Georgian Bay Forever seek municipally-endorsed support for volunteers.
Georgian Bay Forever requests that volunteers contact the organization through their website if interested.
On Thursday July 20 at 9 a.m., participants will meet at the Waubaushene dock and parking area on Pine Street, with a rain date scheduled for July 27. Work equipment will be provided, but it is recommended that participants bring gloves, waders and/or water shoes, outdoor protection such as a hat, sunscreen and bug spray, as well as consumable water.
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