A helicopter piloted by Rene “Sparky” Stimart, Skyline Helicopters, takes off after his mixmaster, Butch Black (in truck), fills his tank with Imazapyr, water and MSO (methylated seed oil, an adjuvant) Wednesday at Red Arrow Park in Marinette.EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
A helicopter piloted by Rene “Sparky” Stimart, Skyline Helicopters, takes off after his mixmaster, Butch Black (in truck), fills his tank with Imazapyr, water and MSO (methylated seed oil, an adjuvant) Wednesday at Red Arrow Park in Marinette.
EagleHerald/Rick Gebhard
MARINETTE - Getting the Green Bay shoreline phragmite free is an objective the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources knows is unattainable - at least at this point in time. Nonetheless, the DNR is again committing time and resources, engaging in what's become a yearly, late summer, aerial battle combating the spread of the invasive lakeshore grass.
Armed with the herbicide Imazapyr, a DNR helicopter sprayed phragmites from Seagull Bar south to Oconto all last week. This week, (weather permitting) the DNR will complete its annual operation, treating the Bay of Green Bay's phragmite-infested shoreline all the way south to Duck Creek in Brown County.
Heidi Springborn, a conservation biologist with the DNR, is the Green Bay area's phragmite project coordinator. A project that has, thus far, been successful, she says.
"In my opinion, the Marinette area went pretty well. We got the whole shoreline done in two days - we had pretty good winds toward the lake," Springborn said.
"The only hitch was there were certain areas that were mowed where we couldn't really definitively make out if there were phragmites there - so, some areas went essentially unsprayed because when the vegetation is so short, there's just not enough vegetation material there to absorb the herbicide."
The herbicide being applied (Imazapyr, brand name Arsenal) is absorbed by the phragmites and travels to the bulk of the plant, the roots, where it does its damage.
"The herbicide attacks the roots and kills phragmites as it goes into dormancy," she said. "Once plants are sprayed, they don't die right away, so with all of these hunting seasons that we're having - the vegetative material is still going to be there for cover - the growing season is when we're going to start to see effects," Springborn said.
And according to Springborn, despite the fact that the phragmite treatment coincides with the beginning of waterfowl hunting season, it shouldn't have an adverse affect on outdoorsmen in the field. In the end, it should prove beneficial to outdoorsmen.
"Next growing season, when all the other plants will be growing, hopefully, the phragmites won't be growing,"  Springborn said.
This year, the DNR's phragmite project encompasses about 3,300 acres, according to Springborn. Some of those lands are private, and landowner permission slips were required in order for the DNR to be treat those properties.
Springborn noted that she was extremely pleased with the number of folks signing on for the eradication effort.
"Of the 1,100 to 1,200 people (requests were sent to), 95 percent have signed on. In all of Marinette and Oconto counties, there are only a few pieces of land where we've got no's or they were unsure - or we just couldn't find them. For the most part, these people want it - they want it gone. 
"We've had an excellent sign-on - they want to get rid of it - they want to see the lake again," Springborn said.
But according to the project manager, it is going to take a long-term commitment and multiple treatments from both the DNR and private landowners alike to knock the invasive Asian grass down for the count.
"On public sites, it's working - if you hit it time and time again. You can't just walk away - you've got to follow up," Springborn said, adding that's exactly what the DNR plans to do.
"We're treating all this land right now, but next year we're coming back to follow up. Year three, funding dependent, we're coming back again to see what's left - to treat what's left - you can't just leave it alone, otherwise it's gonna come back. 
"Proactive management is necessary. Right now, the goal is to just to reduce this massive population back and get it back to a manageable level for people to be able to take care of it themselves."
Springborn encourages affected landowners to get together to hire a private contractor to supplement the chemical treatment the DNR is applying to their land.
And as the battle against the grass continues, it's imperative (in terms of preserving natural habitat) that there is no letdown in the effort.
"What we're doing is actually benefiting these lands - it may not seem like it right now - but this stuff (phragmites) is not conducive to habitat for much of anything," Springborn said.
For more information, people can call the DNR phragmites hotline at 920-662-5139.