SPRINGFIELD, IL – Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn has issued a proclamation declaring May to be “Invasive Species Awareness Month.” The proclamation will promote awareness of the damage caused by invasive species and encourage Illinois residents to become more involved in combating invasive species and preventing new ones from being introduced.
Invasive species usually are non-native species that can invade an ecosystem causing ecological or economic harm. Without the factors that kept them in check in their native environment, invasive species can multiply rapidly, displacing native plants and animals and degrading habitat. Habitat loss and competition from invasive species are the primary reasons plants and animals become threatened or endangered.
“Invasive species threaten prairies, woodlands, lakes and streams in all corners of Illinois,” Quinn said. “We must fight to keep these invaders from damaging our natural areas and our economy.”
This year’s theme is “Invasive Species Affect Everyone.” Anyone who lives, works or spends time outside in Illinois is affected by invasive species. All citizens can help combat the introduction and spread of invasive species in the state.
“Everyone is aware of the devastating effects Asian carp have on our river systems,” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller. “What many people may not know is there are many more invasive species of plants and animals that threaten the natural character of our state.”
Invasive plant species like garlic mustard, bush honeysuckle, Japanese stiltgrass, autumn olive and buckthorn compete with native species and reduce biodiversity. The emerald ash borer, a tiny metallic green beetle native to Asia, is responsible for killing millions of ash trees in the U.S. and Canada.
The zebra mussel, round goby and Eurasian water milfoil have a negative effect on aquatic systems, while feral swine (wild hogs) damage wildlife habitat and spread disease. Learn more about these and other invasive species at: www.illinoisinvasives.org.
The IDNR Division of Natural Heritage reports that animals and plants not native to Illinois at the time of European settlement are considered exotic species. Many species of exotic plants are harmless and very useful in windbreaks, landscaping, and in preventing erosion. However, a handful of exotic species do have the potential to invade natural communities and displace highly desirable native species.
“Employees of local, county, state and federal agencies assisted by volunteers throughout Illinois work together to eradicate, manage or control invasive plants and animals on the ground and in our waterways,” Miller said. “Gov. Quinn is committed to working with conservation groups and state agencies to make all Illinoisans aware of the impacts of invasive species – and the environmental and economic costs we face if we lose the battle to control them.”
Increasing public awareness of invasive species is an essential goal because prevention and early intervention are the most effective and cost efficient approaches to address the economic and ecological impacts of exotic invasive species.
About 100 events are planned statewide to allow citizens to participate in Invasive Species Month Awareness Events. For more information, and to see a list of events, visit: www.illinoisinvasives.org.