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Tribes in Wisconsin removing invasive species through Forest Service grant

February 9, 2024

A tractor mowing
A tractor equipped uses a rotary mower to control wild parsnip at Silver Creek Trail. Photo courtesy of Michael Arce, Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Committee.
A man and a woman standing near the water's edge. The man is taking notes on a clipboard and the woman is using an electronic device.
Devin Metoxen-Hamilton (left) and Alaina Noll collect water samples checking for dissolved oxygen and other water quality factors. Photo courtesy of Michael Arce, Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Committee.

WISCONSIN—Several tribes in the Midwest are making progress removing invasive plant species through a USDA Forest Service Eastern Region Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant.

The Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council, a unique organization focused on the management of natural resources for all tribes in Wisconsin, is coordinating the multi-pronged effort. 

The council is working with Oneida Nation to partner and implement the project, including on-the-ground controls, outreach and education to the 11 Tribal Nations in Wisconsin.

Project staff and partners use innovative species control technologies such as drones, slope mowers and an Argo amphibious XTV, or Extreme Terrain Vehicle — a special purpose vehicle used to access hard-to-reach locations to remove invasive plants on terrestrial land and wetlands.

To date, project partners and staff have removed 41.3 acres of invasive plants, including purple loosestrife, phragmites, garlic mustard, wild parsnip and teasel through the grant-funded project. Results of the plant removal efforts will be shared with partnering Tribal Nations in Wisconsin. Several tribes are working cooperatively to address invasive species issues.

A man and a woman on an aluminium boat
Alaina Noll (left) and Devin Metoxen-Hamilton collect water samples at Oneida Lake.  Photo courtesy of Michael Arce, Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Committee.

Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Council Executive Director Jeffrey Mears, with the Oneida Nation, tallied the project’s accomplishments. “Organizers have taken part in four youth and community engagement events including the 5th annual Garlic Mustard Pull in Oneida, Oneida Nation Farmer’s Market informational booth, Oneida Nation High School Demo Days, and Green Bay Botanical Gardens Fall Family Festival. They also conducted training on chainsaw safety, invasive woody plant management and spotted lanternfly identification through the project. WTCAC gave a presentation to the Upper Midwest Invasive Species Conference about removing purple loosestrife.”

WTCAC held an invasive species subcommittee meeting in Green Bay, Wis., on the Oneida Nation Reservation in November. The subcommittee meeting included training on common invasive species in Wisconsin and pesticide use, regulation and safety. The training was open to all tribal staff across the state. WTCAC used Forest Service grant funding to support travel to the meeting. Outreach specialist Matt Wallrath presented with Wisconsin First Detectors Network. University of Wisconsin Pesticide Application Training program manager Glenn Nice with the Division of Extension also presented at the subcommittee meeting.  

WTCAC’s project began March 31, 2021. Due to COVID-related delays and workforce shortages, WTCAC received an extension to the contract until May 30, 2025, to complete the project.

Work still to be done includes:

  • Planning meetings

  • Hosting an invasive species webinar

  • A field demonstration on invasive plant removal

  • Tribal invasive species worker orientation and training

  • Finishing inventory and control of invasive species on tribal lands

Dennis McDougall, a forester with the USDA Forest Service Eastern Region State, Private and Tribal Forestry, praised WTCAC for its leadership role in this project. “WTCAC provides the Forest Service and other federal partners, a one-stop shopping opportunity to engage all tribal entities in the state at one time, rather than engaging tribe by tribe,” he said.

An all terrain vehicle
An Argo amphibious vehicle is used to transport workers in difficult terrains, including wetlands. Photo courtesy of Michael Arce, Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Committee.


A remote vehicle mowing tall grass
Staff use a remote controlled slope mower to control phragmites. The vehicle safely mows vegetation on steep and uneven hillsides. Photo courtesy of Michael Arce, Wisconsin Tribal Conservation Advisory Committee