Wilderness areas like the Boundary Waters are preserves that, generally, are the last places to be affected by invasive species. However, the BWCAW is not free from invasive species and it will continue to be challenged by new species that spread through human influence. Some of these non-native invasive species seem innocuous, like dandelions at a campsite. Others, like zebra mussels, could dramatically alter the ecology of the BWCAW.
As a wilderness that is connected by lakes and rivers, the BWCAW is particularly vulnerable to the spread of aquatic invasive species. Some BWCAW lakes are already infested. For example, invasive spiny waterfleas are now present in Lac La Croix, Basswood, Crooked, and Iron Lakes. Motorized use in the BWCAW presents particular challenges, since motorboats are a primary vector for the spread of aquatic invasive species. However, all human travel in the BWCAW poses the risk to spread non-native species. Once a non-native species establishes itself, it can crowd out native species and alter the food chain in an ecosystem.
Since BWCAW visitors are the primary way that non-native species are spread, our outreach focuses on educating visitors. We have partnered with the Superior National Forest and REI to publish a booklet to help BWCAW users identify non-native invasive species and to prevent their spread.
The guide includes photos and descriptions of 22 of the invasive species of concern in northern Minnesota and describes why they should be a concern to everyone from anglers to gardeners. Each booklet also contains postcards for reporting observations of non-native species so the Forest Service can respond to outbreaks as early as possible. You can view, download, and print this booklet here.