UW-Green Bay staff and students participate in Phrag Fest wetland restoration project

On Tuesday, July 13, 2021, a group of 17 UW-Green Bay staff, students, and volunteers gathered to cut and remove the invasive Phgragmites australis from the marsh study area at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve. Phragmites is a very aggressive wetland grass that has taken over many wetlands throughout our region, outcompeting vital native species. The marsh study area is used for environmental education programs for visitors and is part of the Green Bay west shore wild rice restoration project. Managing the invasive species at this site not only slows its spread, but it also frees up critical space and nutrients within the habitat for native plant species.

Wild rice is of particular interest, as it used to be naturally prevalent throughout this region. Habitat degradation over the years unfortunately caused wild rice to be lost from many ecosystems, and the goal of the Green Bay west shore wild rice restoration is to help it return to the plant community. Protecting the wild rice is of great importance due to its important role in Native American culture, as well as the high nutritional value and habitat that it provides for waterfowl.

The Phragmites removal efforts began near the observation deck and moved North, as the newly seeded wild rice is prominent in this area. The majority of the volunteers used shovels to spade the Phragmites just above and below the shoreline, while others performed underwater cuttings and post-cutting herbicide treatments. This treatment consisted of ~16oz of 5% Polaris (active ingredient: imazapyr) applied by certified applicators under a permit through the Aquatic Plant Management program at Wisconsin DNR. Volunteers worked hard for 3.5 hours to help restore the area, while being cautious to not disturb the wild rice.

Despite the humid and buggy conditions, the group successfully managed to cut and remove 17 large garbage bags worth of Phragmites plant material, which were brought back to UW-Green Bay. They will be left out in the sun for around three weeks before a dry weight will be taken once the plant material is no longer viable. Overall, around 0.3 acres of the wetland were either cleared or reduced the density of Phragmites, which will have a significant impact on the wild rice and the marsh study area as a whole. Special thanks to the volunteers who participated!