Summer is a great time to get outside and enjoy the nature we have in Minnesota, and many of us have hobbies that get us into the woods or onto the trails.

Think back to the last time you went hiking, horseback riding, biking, camping, ATV riding, or whatever it is you like to do outside – did you remember to clean your equipment, clothes, or pets before heading home or off to your next adventure? It may not be on your radar yet, but invasive plants can be spread accidentally as we recreate.

Invasive plant species move into our local ecosystems disrupting them and outcompeting the native plants. This impacts wildlife that rely on those native plants for food and habitat. Invasive plants are problematic in many ways, including increasing erosion, damaging infrastructure, and being harmful or toxic to wildlife, pets or humans.

You may or may not recognize the plants you pass by, but there’s a good chance some of them are invasive. When we hike or ride through an area with invasive plants, seeds and pieces of plants can get stuck in mud in your bicycle treads, on or in your shoes and clothes, or on your pet’s fur. By hitch-hiking along with your equipment, seeds of invasive plants can be moved to uninfested areas.

You can make a difference to prevent the spread of invasive plants. Cleaning equipment, pets, and clothes before leaving an area are simple methods that can have a big impact on preventing the spread of invasive plants. And leave those ‘wildflower’ bouquets where you find them. You wouldn’t want to purposely carry invasive plants back to your house.

Boot brushes are a simple tool to clean shoes or other equipment.

PlayCleanGo.org (https://info.playcleango.org/how-to-prevent-invasive-species) has great resources and information about stopping the spread of invasive species and helps you learn what you can do, including using a boot brush, washing equipment, cleaning pets, picking seeds off of clothes, sweeping out the RV or tent before leaving, and spraying down vehicles, trailers and bikes with water or compressed air.

Besides preventing the spread of noxious weeds and invasive plants, we can also prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species by cleaning boating and fishing equipment, and stop forest pests by not moving firewood.

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