Chris Evans from the River to River Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) in Illinois, represented the Shawnee National Forest and worked with Teena Ligman from the Hoosier National Forest and Southern Indiana CWMA and Cheryl Coon from the Wayne National Forest and two Ohio CWMAs. The three of them decided on a project involving surveying for aquatic and riparian species along the Ohio River and its major tributaries. Inland lakes within the southern parts of the states were also surveyed.
On March 2, 2011, the three partners attended an awards ceremony in Washington DC. Lindsay Chadderton from The Nature Conservancy, Doug Keller from Indiana DNR, and John Navarro from Ohio DNR were also recognized. Chadderton developed the technique to do the aquatic surveys using a snorkeler with a kayak companion. His crew of graduate students from Notre Dame led by Erick Elgin did the surveys around boat ramps in each state.
The project will also be recognized at the regional level on April 21, 2011 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The project developed by the tri-state group was dubbed Central Hardwoods Invasive Partnership Network or “CHIP-N.” The partnership brought together four CWMAs and three national forests to work towards a common goal to extend the reach of individual efforts and determine the extent and distribution of aquatic and riparian invasive species along the lower Ohio River Valley. Funding was received from US Forest Service State and Private, the US Forest Service Eastern Region, and the Oberweiller Foundation. Surveys were done by a team of graduate students employed by Notre Dame University and supervised by Lindsay Chadderton (The Nature Conservancy).
Aquatic systems in the Ohio River Valley were mapped for aquatic and riparian invasive plants. Two aquatic invasive mollusks (zebra mussel and Chinese mystery snail) were also surveyed. The survey focused on boat ramps. Many aquatic invasive species are easily transported on boats or trailers. Infestations near boat ramps, and other high-use areas, serve as sources for introduction and spread of these invasive species.
The survey team also did a search for terrestrial and wetland invasive plants around each boat ramp and parking area. Across the three states, 329 ramps were surveyed and 513 infestations were documented for 15 different species. The data are being compiled and uploaded to the project website (http://www.rtrcwma.org/chip-n/), to promote public awareness of invasive species in the Lower Ohio River Valley.
The next step is to use the data to develop an interstate strategic plan for prioritization and treatment. These treatments should hopefully contain and prevent the spread of invasives beyond current locations and protect native aquatic and terrestrial vegetation in the Lower Ohio River Basin.