North County Cooperative prepares to fight invasive species

Programs available to assist private property owners

Vicki Sawicki, program manager for North County Cooperative Invacies Species Management Area points out an example of an invasive species during the conservation district bus tour.

Vicki Sawicki, program manager for North County Cooperative Invacies Species Management Area points out an example of an invasive species during the conservation district bus tour.

Pioneer photos/Cathie Crew

MECOSTA COUNTY — Spring is right around the corner and that means it is time to start thinking about invasive species control.

North Country Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area program coordinator Vicki Sawicki told the Mecosta County board of commissioners during its meeting on March 2 that her office is prepared to assist property owners with control of invasive species.

“We have educational videos on YouTube. It is a great place to go for a lot of useful information,” Sawicki said. “We have eight videos on invasive species.”

The cooperative covers six counties, including Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Osceola and Wexford. It has three objectives: to educate the public on invasive species and the threats they pose; to facilitate the inventory and mapping of the invasive species in the area; and to plan, strategize, and enable control measures for inventoried high-priority invasive species.

Sawicki presented her annual report to the board, summarizing what the organization did in the county regarding ground control work during 2022.

“Most of our ground control work was on Japanese knotweed, Phragmites and wild parsnips,” she said. “Those were primarily on roadsides and in the parks.”

They also did several surveys to update their inventory of invasive species, she said.

“The largest number of acreage surveying was done in Mecosta County,” she said. “We surveyed for invasive species to update our inventory and plan for the future. A big part of that was surveying for European frog-bits, a watchlist species currently in the state. So far, that has only been found in Mason County.”

Sawicki said European frog-bits are spread mainly by waterfowl and waterfowl hunters, so they are surveying lakes and wetlands that are big hunting areas.

“EGLE (Michigan Department of Energy, Great Lakes and Environment) has given us funding for surveying the lakes,” she said. “Within Mecosta County we have surveyed, this year, the Martiny chain of lakes and Haymarsh. We didn’t find any, so that is good. In 2023, we will be surveying the Tri-Lakes, Blue Lake, Mecosta Lake and Round Lake for frog-bits.”

Another project they are working on is using the Michigan Natural Features Inventory Data to determine known vulnerable and high-quality habitats for the Karner blue butterfly, which is now listed as an endangered species, Sawicki said.

Additionally, they are forming a partnership with the Michigan Department of Transportation to manage the invasive species Phragmites in the rights-of-way.

“We haven’t been able to do anything with it because it is MDOT property, but they have decided to pay us to do the control in their rights-of-way,” she said. “We have also secured a grant through the U.S. Forest Service that will allow us to cross onto the private properties adjacent to the MDOT rights-of-way so we can address the Phragmites there. MDOT can only treat in their rights-of-way, so it is just getting pushed onto the private property, so you really have to treat both sides.” 

Sawicki said on private property it is up to the property owner to control the invasive species, but the NCCISMA has programs that can assist them.

“We have a strike team for hire to do control at cost,” she said. “Also, we provide instruction to private landowners and can work with them to get them started.”

To learn more about invasive species and which ones are considered high priority for your area, visit

To access the YouTube educational videos, go to and click on invasive species.