How to prevent invasive species

Outdoor Adventurers: Beware Invasive Species

Enjoying a local park trail or nature reserve? Be careful: it could mark the beginning of a non-native species introduction. 

The moment you brush past a plant or set down your pack in a meadow, you’ve invited seeds to cling on to your belongings. Then, while on your next adventure, you accidentally disperse the seeds, spreading invasive species into a new ecosystem. Those invasive species can outcompete native species for food and habitat and sometimes even cause their extinction. 

People help transport these invasive species in a number of different ways:

Seeds can be found on your boots, socks, and clothing: they may be lying dormant in the mud between your boot treads, or caught in between your shoes and socks, or they may have simply attached themselves to your clothes like velcro. 

What’s more, those same species caught within the treads of your shoes can be in the treads of your bike, ATV, and stroller tires.

The Many Paths Invasives Take

Spreading invasive species doesn’t stop at seeds or plant pieces.

Dangerous forest pests and diseases can be found in the firewood you take camping with you or use to heat your home. On its own, emerald ash borer will generally move less than four miles a year. But with help from people, it can cover 55 miles per hour in firewood, nursery stock, or personal belongings.

It's not just us humans that can contribute to the spread of invasives. Seeds and plant pieces can attach to our unsuspecting pets' fur, and can be spread when livestock, especially horses, eat hay that isn’t certified weed free.

With all of these different invasive species pathways it can be easy to feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But for outdoor adventurers, there's good news about the unique role we can play in solving the problem.

The Good New About Invasive Species

Preventing invasive species from spreading or being introduced is very simple. Below, you'll find the steps you should take to prevent invasive species from spreading to the spaces and places you love.

What activities do you love to do outdoors? Scroll below to find them — and see how you can prevent the spread of invasive species while enjoying the great outdoors!

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Download 'How to Prevent Invasive Species'

HIKING OR WALKING

 

  • Start the day with clean shoes and gear by using the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush to ensure there were no missed seeds or plant parts from your last adventure.
  • Stay on marked and/or designated trails to keep invasive species populations localized for easier management and prevent introduction to new areas.
  • Keep the PlayCleanGo hand held boot brush in your backpack or attached to gear for  on the spot removals while on the trails.
  • When you’re adventure is done and before leaving a location, CLEAN your:
    • Footwear at a boot brushing station or with the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush you have packed if a station is not available along the trails.
    • Clothes and gear by picking off seeds and burrs and brushing off extra dirt.
    • Pets by removing mud and seeds. For tough burrs on pets use a little coconut oil on the burr and pinch it break it up into pieces and comb them out of fur.

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BACKPACKING

 

  • Start the day with clean shoes and gear by using the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush to ensure there were no missed seeds or plant parts from your last adventure.
  • Stay on marked and/or designated trails to keep invasive species populations localized for easier management and prevent introduction to new areas.
  • Keep the PlayCleanGo hand held boot brush in your backpack or attached to gear for  on the spot removals while on the trails.
  • Clean your tent and hammocks before packing up by brushing off any plant parts, seeds, and dirt.
  • Sweep out or shake out the interior of the tent prior to packing.
  • When you return home setup tent, tarp, and hammocks to allow them to dry out and remove and remaining organic material.
  • When you’re adventure is done and before leaving a location, CLEAN your:
    • Footwear at a boot brushing station or with the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush you have packed if a station is not available along the trails.
    • Clothes and gear by picking off seeds and burrs and brushing off extra dirt.
    • Pets by removing mud and seeds. For tough burrs on pets use a little coconut oil on the burr and pinch it break it up into pieces and comb them out of fur.

 

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TENT CAMPING

 

  • Never bring firewood from home to your campsite. Buy it where you burn it.
  • Don’t move firewood further than 10 miles from where it originated. 
  • Leave any remaining firewood at the campsite or leave it with the camp host.
  • Learn more about firewood rules and regulations in your area by visiting The Nature Conservancy’s Firewood Map.
  • Clean pets by removing mud and seeds. For tough burrs on pets use a little coconut oil on the burr and pinch it break it up into pieces and comb them out of fur.  
  • Clean your tent and hammocks before packing up by brushing off any plant parts, seeds, and dirt.
  • Sweep out or shake out the interior of the tent prior to packing.
  • When you return home setup tent, tarp, and hammocks to allow them to dry out and remove and remaining organic material.

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RV CAMPING

 

  • Never bring firewood from home to your campsite. Buy it where you burn it.
  • Don’t move firewood further than 10 miles from where it originated.
  • Leave any remaining firewood at the campsite or leave it with the camp host.
  • Learn more about firewood rules and regulations in your area by visiting The Nature Conservancy’s Firewood Map.
  • Clean pets by removing mud and seeds. For tough burrs on pets use a little coconut oil on the burr and pinch it break it up into pieces and comb them out of fur.
  • Clean tarps and mats before packing up by brushing off.
  • Sweep out RV interior prior to leaving.
  • Spray down your vehicle with water or compressed air to remove mud and plant parts from tires and fenders.

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HORSEBACK RIDING


  • Feed your horse certified weed-free hay 3 days before going on public lands.
  • Before and after you ride, check the mane, tail, legs and gear and remove seeds and plant material.
    • For tough burrs apply a small amount of coconut oil on the burr and surrounding hair. Pinch the burr between fingers to break it up into pieces and comb out of.
  • Clean your horse’s hooves with the PlayCleanGo handheld brush before leaving the site.
  • Spray down your vehicle and trailer with water or compressed air to remove mud and plant parts from tires and fenders.

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BIKING

 

  • Start the day with clean shoes and gear by using the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush to ensure there were no missed seeds or plant parts from your last adventure.
  • Stay on marked and/or designated trails to keep invasive species populations localized for easier management and prevent introduction to new areas.
  • When you’re adventure is done and before leaving a location, CLEAN your:
    • Footwear at a boot brushing station or with the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush you’ve packed if a station is not available along the trails.
    • Clothes and gear by picking off seeds and burrs and brushing off extra dirt.
    • Pets by removing mud and seeds. For tough burrs on pets use a little coconut oil on the burr and pinch it break it up into pieces and comb them out of fur. 
  • Spray down your bike with water or compressed air to remove mud and plant parts from tires and fenders.

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ATV / UTV / OHV RIDING

 

  • Start the day with clean shoes and gear by using the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush to ensure there were no missed seeds or plant parts from your last adventure.
  • Stay on marked and/or designated trails to keep invasive species populations localized for easier management and prevent introduction to new areas.
  • Keep the PlayCleanGo hand held boot brush in your backpack or attached to gear for spot treatments while on the trails.
  • When you’re adventure is done and before leaving a location, CLEAN your clothes and gear by picking off seeds and burrs and brushing off extra dirt. 
  • Spray down your vehicle with water or compressed air to remove mud and plant parts from tires and fenders.
  • Spray down your trailer with water or compressed air to remove mud and plant parts from tires and fenders.

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BOATING: MOTOR BOAT

 

  • Clean off visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from watercraft, motor, trailer, and equipment before leaving water access. 
  • Scrub hull using a stiff brush. 
  • Rinse watercraft, trailer, and equipment with high pressure hot water when possible. 
  • Flush motor according to owner’s manual.
  • Jet Boats and Personal Watercraft (PWCs) users: Clean off visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from hull, trailer, intake grate and steering nozzle, etc. Run engine 5-10 seconds to blow out excess water and vegetation from internal drive before leaving water access.
  • Sailors: Clean off visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from the centerboard, bilge board wells, rudder post, trailer and other equipment before leaving water access.
  • Drain water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell, and portable bait containers before leaving water access.
  • Dry everything for five days or more, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
  • Learn more steps you can take by visiting the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers page.

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Boating: Non-Motorized Watercraft

 

  • Clean off visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from watercraft, gear, paddles, floats, ropes, anchors, dip nets, and trailer before leaving water access. Scrub hull using a stiff brush. Rinse watercraft, trailer and equipment with high pressure hot water, when possible.  
  • Drain water from watercraft, sponges, bailers, and water containing devices before leaving water access.
  • Dry everything five days or more, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
  • Learn more steps you can take by visiting the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers page.

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FISHING

 

  • Clean off  plants, animals, and mud from gear and equipment including waders, footwear, ropes, anchors, bait traps, dip nets, downrigger cables, fishing lines, and field gear before leaving water access. Scrub off any visible material on footwear with a stiff brush.
  • Drain water from watercraft, motor, bilge, bladder tanks, livewell and portable bait containers before leaving water access.  Replace with spring or dechlorinated tap water when keeping live bait before leaving water access.
  • Dry everything five days or more, unless otherwise required by local or state laws, when moving between waters to kill small species not easily seen OR wipe with a towel before reuse.
  • Dispose of unwanted bait, fish parts, and packing materials, in the trash; do not dump them in the water or on land.

Other key actions:

  • Use non-felt soled boots to further reduce the risk of spreading aquatic invasive species.
  • Fish caught for eating or taxidermy should be cleaned at designated fish cleaning stations or placed on ice.
  • Never dump live fish or other organisms from one water body into another.
  • Learn more steps you can take by visiting the Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers page.

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Gardening

 

  • Buy plants native to your area at a reputable nursery.
  • Avoid nonnative plants that self-seed because they have the potential to move outside of your garden.
  • Minimize the amount of plant splitting/sharing with other gardeners to avoid spreading invasive worm castings. 
  • Clean your tools between uses as to not spread disease from plant to plant.
  • Dispose of any clippings or yard waste that could contain invasive species properly.
    • If composting, ensure the pile has 30 days of exposure to temperatures of 145 degrees or more to kill seeds from tougher weed species.

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CLIMBING

 

  • Start the day with clean shoes by using the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush and clean clothes
  • Before leaving scrape off dirt and debris from anything that touched the ground, wall, or other surfaces and, if possible, place in plastic bags.
  • Wash hands, clothes, footwear, and anything else that may have touched the ground, wall, or other surfaces and wash as soon as possible with hot water and soap.

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CAVING

 

  • Start the day with clean shoes by using the PlayCleanGo handheld boot brush and clean clothes
  • Before leaving scrape off dirt and debris from anything that touched the ground, wall, or other surfaces and, if possible, place in plastic bags.
  • Wash hands, clothes, footwear, and anything else that may have touched the ground, wall, or other surfaces and wash as soon as possible with hot water and soap.


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watch and learn


Watch these videos for easy ways to prevent the spread of invasive species while you enjoy the great outdoors:

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Download 'How to Prevent Invasive Species'