RHINELANDER (WAOW) -- Lakes in the Northwoods are in danger, according to DNR officials.
As plants that don't belong threaten the lakes' health, concerned Rhinelander residents met Saturday with DNR officials and specialists to discuss the invasive species.
"The species that are normally here and have been here for centuries are threatened by these invasives because, first of all, they don't belong here and secondly, they have characteristics that are stronger than the native species," said Scott Eshelman of the Rhinelander Flowage Association.
Invasive species are a problem being taken seriously in the Northwoods.
"A lot of these species come from other areas, other countries, and there are no predators so there's no control on them," said Jim Jung, a DNR conservation warden.
Experts compare the growth of the foreign plants to a cancer in the lake.
"It can actually create a huge mat of weeds on the lake where you can't boat, you can't fish," said Jung.
The spreading of these species takes a toll on more than just recreational activities.
"It will displace the whole ecosystem," said Stephanie Boismenue of the Oneida County Land and Water Conservation Department. "It's a bully."
"It's going to affect all the native plants and then it's going to affect the fishery because they're not going to be able to grow and feed," Jung said.
Founders of the newly created Rhinelander Flowage Association say informing people about the problem is the first step in combating it.
"Some invasive species we should just pull out by the roots," Eshelman said. "Some invasive species need different types of treatment. There's just too much at stake and too much water for any one individual to monitor."
With awareness growing through the community, this fight will be a team effort.
DNR officials say boaters can do their part to prevent the spread of invasive species by cleaning their hulls when leaving the water. If they don't, they could face up to $400 in fines.