As witnessed by the growing number of cars with canoes and kayaks strapped on their roofs, paddling is becoming increasingly popular in the Lake Champlain Basin. With this growth in the sport comes a greater risk of the spread of aquatic invasive species. The Northern Forest Canoe Trail (NFCT), a Waitsfield, VT-based organization, recently completed an initiative to help prevent the spread of invasives along its 740-mile paddling route through northern New England.
The LCBP-funded project, which focused on the portion of the trail within the Lake Champlain Basin, took a multipronged approach: developing a spread prevention message targeted specifically at paddlers that could be used nationwide; developing compelling signage; prioritizing access and transition areas for signs and installing signage along the Saranac River, Lake Champlain, and the Missisquoi River; and creating an online map tool showing known locations of aquatic invasive species along the Northern Forest Canoe Trail.
NFCT worked with the River Management Society to survey existing AIS spread prevention messages aimed at paddlers around the country. They found that existing education efforts did not provide current detailed information. In consultation with the Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force and with the input of a project work group, NFCT incorporated the latest spread prevention protocols and developed appropriate text.
Once the signage was created, NFCT worked with the towns of Saranac Lake, Saranac, Plattsburgh, North Hero, Swanton, Enosburg Falls, and Richford as well as the Missiquoi National Wildlife Refuge and Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife to choose the most effective locations for signage. The Adirondack Park Invasives Plant Program, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation, and the VT Department of Environmental Conservation provided data and helped with development of the interactive map, which is included as part of the trip planning guidelines on NFCT website.