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      Students learn about invasive species

      Eurasian milfoil, garlic mustard, Asian carp, and zebra mussels. All are things that appear in the Upper Peninsula, and all are non-native invasive species.

      This is what fifth and sixth graders from Ewen Trout Creek Elementary and Ontonagon Elementary learned today at Ottawa National Forest on Courtney Lake.

      Ian Shackleford, botanist with the forest service, said these invaders choke out native plants and ultimately harm the environment.

      â??When you go in the woods, most of the plants and animals that you see have been here for thousands of years, and theyâ??re here naturally, but some have been introduced by people from other countries, other parts of the world,â?? he explained. â??Some of them like it very much here and are spreading aggressively crowding out our native plants.â??

      Students played actors in a reader theater and even took a hike in the woods to make the lesson more interactive.

      Though some of the invaders they heard about are spreading into the U.P. like Asian carp, they learned about others across the U.S., too.

      â??We got to learn a lot about two different animals, and they were the long-horned beetles and the snakehead fish,â?? said Ontonagon Elementary fifth grader, Jordyn Wallace.

      Not only did they hear about different kinds of invasive plants and animals, they learned how to prevent the spread of these invaders as well.

      â??When you put a boat into a lake or take it out, you need to check your boat before you get in and after you get out, remove any aquatic plants that are attached,â?? said Shackleford. â??Children can learn that message very easily, to clean your boat, clean your trailers. And the same goes on land, clean your camping gear. Clean the wheels, the tires of your ATV to keep spreading plants from one place to another artificially.â??

      Shackleford said itâ??s good to teach the kids about wildlife while theyâ??re still young so they can grow up to be good stewards of the land we have available to us.

      â??Teaching people how to prevent the spread of these non-native invasive species can save a lot of trouble,â?? he said. â??It can keep whole forests from getting infested because keeping them from getting here is a lot simpler than getting rid of them once they get here.â??