Ottawa County News

Earth Day PSA: Overharvesting Harms Natural Areas

Did you know? If you’d like to incorporate native trees and plants in your yard, you can purchase them in the spring and fall while supporting your local conservation district!

Most of us have done it. Sneak some seeds from a flower. Take a few flowers home to our mom. All because we love nature and want to bring a piece back with us.

Others, discover the wonders of wild edibles, like delicious wild leeks and morels.  What better way to connect to our natural world than through our stomachs?!

As naturalists, we believe these connections with the natural world are important. As more land is developed and the number of natural areas decrease, many yearn for a deeper connection to nature. But sometimes, we love our parks and open spaces… to death. Even those who use cloth bags when shopping and purchase energy efficient appliances often unknowingly using natural areas in an unsustainable way.

“I only took a few.”

Paw paws are a native fruit tree that staff has worked hard to nurture in our parks. They can be difficult to transplant and we rely on the seed of the fruit to propagate the plant. In the fall, we spoke with an individual who was harvesting paw paw and heard what we often do, “I only took a few.” When sharing our concern of paw paw harvesting with others, we learned many people were also, “just taking a few.” This could be a reason that the parks have very few paw paw trees compared to adjacent private lands.

Paw paw fruit

This spring, a concerned park visitor reported people harvesting (a.k.a. poaching) wild leeks, as well as other spring wildflowers. This is especially disappointing since most spring wildflowers like wild leeks and trout lilies can take seven or more years to reproduce. Trout lily colonies can be hundreds of years old, yet they are disappearing; there is concern that unsustainable harvest of wild leeks could lead to their gradual extinction.

**Please note, we are referring to the removal of native plants, not invasive plants that threaten wildflower populations. You can pull all the garlic mustard you’d like!**

hole in ground
This was to be a patch of Yellow trout lily at Hager Park

What can you do to help?

Today is Earth Day and we know many of you are planning to give back to your natural areas (because you love them!). This year we challenge you to think beyond pulling garlic mustard and picking up litter. Think about how we can live in a sustainable way, with an ever-shrinking natural world. Consider how even small actions like pulling a bag of garlic mustard (positive) or picking a pretty flower in a park (negative) adds to the collective impact humans have on the environment.

Here are some things you might consider in addition to the removal of invasive plants and trash:

Please remember, when you visit the parks to take only photos and leave only footprints.


Visit these websites for more information: