Treating High Island

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Winds kept us off Lake Michigan and away from our task on Sunday, but Monday dawned with warm sunshine and calm waters.

We set out to treat invasive Phragmites on High Island.


As you can see on this map, High Island sits on the west side of Beaver Island (that’s the top portion of Beaver Island in the lower center), and is a much greater distance to travel from our good harbor, than it was to Garden Island the other day.

Weather is always a concern on the great lakes. Last year – and possibly the year before that, too – the treatment on this island was not completed due to inclement weather and travel concerns. We wanted to be sure to attend to it this year..

Dave Blanchard, who had helped us on Garden Island, couldn’t make this trip. Stan Eagle agreed to come along.

[Stan Eagle – a part-time resident of Beaver Island, eighty years old with a history of skin cancer – was willing to help, and greatly appreciated. Still, I have almost twenty years on him, and I know how my bones ached after this endeavor. Where are our young, strong residents? This problem affects all of us: our land values, the natural features and wildlife that we care about, our jobs and our economy are at stake. You can bet I’ll have more to say about this in the future!]

We divided into three groups of two: one to handle the herbicide application; the other to document the location (per GPS readings) and size of each stand of invasive Phragmites. We set off in various directions with instructions on where and when to meet for our return trip.

Christine and I came upon several areas where the invasive reed had been successfully treated, where the dead stalks had been sheared off by the ice.

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Unfortunately, we also noticed areas where this tenacious plant was sending out new growth.

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We saw previously treated areas where – in just two short years – invasive Phragmites was able to assert it’s presence with frightening audacity…

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…and areas that had not been treated in recent years where it threatened to take over.

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We saw seed heads pushed over by the recent winds and rain…

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and runners shooting out over the sand.

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Christine treated…

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and treated….

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and treated…

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while I took pictures, documented locations, assisted where I could, and mainly tried not to slow down the operation!

One dense stand of Phragmites was 160′ long, and extended in from the shoreline at least 40 feet! Another band was estimated at thirty feet wide, but scattered stalks stretched inland almost two hundred feet. One stand was so dense, the stalks (20′ or more in height!) were actually holding Christine up in the water (which was still to her waist!) as she applied the herbicide. She noted that minnows, trying to swim away from her, were trapped by the tangle of thick growth.

It was quite overwhelming, and reaffirmed everything I have learned about the necessity of keeping this plant under control.

Every now and then, I just had to remind myself to pause, breathe, and pay attention to the beautiful surrounding.

That’s what we’re working to save, after all.

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  1. Such a daunting task. I wish all of you lots of stamina and faith that eventually the noxious plants will be eradicated and or controlled. The scenery is beautiful and such a shame that it is no longer pristine.

    • I know, isn’t it? We are one of the success stories, even as bad as we saw it yesterday…so many areas have it much, much worse. We just have to keep plugging away at it. Thanks for reading, Yvonne, and for your thoughtful comments!

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