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There's Now An App To Report Sightings Of Invasive Species

Martin Jambon
Yellow starthistle is one of 50 plants and animals that the Washington Invasive Species Council is trying to keep track of.

Sightings of invasive thistles, moths and wild pigs can now be reported using a smartphone app launched this week by the Washington Invasive Species Council. The idea is to get more eyes and ears on certain plants and animals that are considered destructive to the local environment.

Users of the Washington Invasives App will be able to take a photo of plants and animals that they think might not belong here. Experts will then identify the species before uploading the photos to a statewide map.

Kaleen Cottingham, director of the Washington State Recreation and Conservation office, says the goal is to track the spread of the state’s 50 priority species, and to keep extra eyeballs out for those that appear to be creeping this way from other states, like the zebra and quagga mussels that have clogged pipes and damaged boats in the Great Lakes.

It's starting to show up on boats that have been brought in from other places.

"We're very nervous about that," said Cottingham. "We don't have some of the other invasive species that they see in the Great Lakes, but we have our own problems here, whether it's Japanese knotweed choking out salmon recovery areas, or English ivy taking over our parks."

They cause millions of dollars in crop loss, out-compete native vegetation, and are expensive to control. The Washington Invasive Species Council hopes the app will help people learn to identify and report invasive species, and maybe even shave off some of the millions of dollars that the state spends each year dealing with some of them.