You recently underwent the transition process from being a cluster of the Stewardship Network to becoming a CISMA. What are your goals now?
Drew Rayner Coordinator, West Michigan CISMA
Currently we’re working on three different projects or grants. The first funding source, and my main project to work on, is our Michigan Invasive Species Program Grant. That’s a large grant and our focus is implementing on-the-ground work. In our eight counties here in west Michigan, we’re using a lot of the money for staff and to hire in-house strike teams. We’re hiring individuals to go out to survey for these plants, to map them, to treat them. In addition we’re also doing a lot of outreach, making educational materials and doing educational events and programs to educate and inform on what the issues are.
Our second big grant is a Sustain Our Great Lakes grant. That is a subaward through the Nature Conservancy. They set aside 15 county, state and local parks along the Lake Michigan coastline from Allegan County up to Ludington State Park and crafted a specific list of plants that were very high-threat, very important plants to deal with. We’re really getting into those parks and focusing on those dunes because they’re such a rare and special habitat.
Our third set of grants is through the Forest Service. They’re smaller grants but they’re kind of a catch-all. We’ve got some money in there to treat plants on private lands. We’ve got some money for educational booth displays and to attend conferences and speak at conferences, to network and learn what other groups are doing. There’s a lot in those Forest Service grants to kind of piece everything together.
What is your involvement with monitoring the Chinese yam population in west Michigan?
[DNR invasive species coordinator] Sue [Tangora] got a hold of me and told me she wanted me to go down to southwest Michigan with her to look at a new plant that had entered the state. It was the only site in Michigan where Chinese yam was known up to that date. We looked at the plant, looked at the site and became familiar with it because it’s on the watch list and it’s something we’re looking for.
A month and a half later, I was in the Holland area just north of Lake Macatawa, looking at some Japanese knotweed sites. We had done some treatments there earlier in the year and I went back out there to look and see how successful those treatments were. I was looking at these plants and I look over and there’s another plant I don’t recognize. I was like, “What is this? I know this. This plant’s really familiar.” I got in my car, I drove five minutes and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I know exactly what that is.” I went back the next day to follow up and it was in fact Chinese yam.
The next day I went back to kind of further survey. I knocked on doors, looked all around and found two or three little patches of it in the area. Unfortunately it was too late in the season to treat it, so we missed that window. But we plan on following up this year.
So do you stand to basically nip Chinese yam in the bud in your region, possibly the whole state?
That’s our goal.
What are the advantages to using CISMAs to combat invasive species?
I think CISMAs are really unique and really powerful for the fact of being local, and because of the partnership side of it. Obviously it’s easier to get work done if you know what’s going on in your backyard. If you drive down these roads every day, if you’re constantly out and about running errands and stuff like that, you’re very aware of what’s happening around you. I have people in my office that are connected to every landowner. I swear I can describe intersections and people can tell me, “Oh, this is the person who owns that land.” That local connection is really nice, being able to see everything everyday.
I think we’re currently working with 45 partners in eight counties. When you have that many people at meetings and at our planning sessions, available to you, there’s somebody who can help you with everything. You really get everyone working together and focusing on things instead of everyone doing their own thing and duplicating efforts in the same area.