Benefits of Cooperative Weed Management – guest blogger Kate Howe
Invasive species present a huge challenge to anyone who owns or manages land, whether it be a backyard garden, a small wood lot, a city park, or a national forest. If you have ever spent time trying to reclaim a forest understory dominated by bush honeysuckle or pull garlic mustard sprouting up among native spring wildflowers, you have experienced first-hand the frustration of coming back year after year to treat the same species. Even if you manage to get rid of every stem of a particular invasive plant on your property, you will still have to return year after year to monitor and treat new seedlings if your neighbor still has that invasive plant on an adjacent property. Invasive plants don’t see property lines, and they will set up shop anywhere they can find an opening. To be successful at ridding our gardens, parks, and natural areas of invasive plants, we need to deal with invasive plants on a larger scale, taking a coordinated approach to prevention and control across the entire landscape.
How can we ever hope to manage aggressive and persistent invasive plants across and entire landscape? By cooperating with our neighbors. Cooperative Weed Management Areas (CWMAs) (also known as Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs)) have sprung up across the country to try to address invasive plants at a scale that will be more effective for long-term management. CWMAs bring together public and private landowners and land managers at a local level (often one or a few counties, watersheds, or ecoregions) to work together on solutions to their shared problems. Some of the ways that CWMAs have improved invasive plant management are:
– Coordinating the timing of control efforts for a particular species across different properties for more effective control
– Creating shared priorities for invasive plant management so control efforts are more organized
– Pooling resources for outreach and management to enable the completion of larger projects
– Sharing information on new invaders in the area to improve early detection
– Reducing redundancy by creating a complementary approach to invasive plant activities, with each organization contributing time, money, supplies, services, volunteers, or information as they are able
CWMAs have had great successes in early detection, on-the-ground control, and raising awareness about invasive species in their areas. Here are just a few of the things that CWMAs have been able to accomplish in the last few years.
– The Northwoods CWMA in Wisconsin got their local road department to alter roadside mowing and maintenance activities to prevent the spread of invasive plant seed by road department equipment.
– The River to River CWMA in Illinois created a Strike Team that treated 25 invasive plant species on over 1600 acres in the CWMA in 2011. The Strike Team also found and treated 11 populations of new invaders, including kudzu, Japanese chaff flower, and burning bush.
– The Southern Indiana CWMA trained a team of volunteer Weed Watchers to identify and report new infestations of 18 priority plant species.
– The Hawkeye CWMA in Iowa holds an annual field day to educate the public about invasive plant identification and control.
– Several CWMAs have created community tool sheds with shared resources (e.g. backpack sprayers, loppers, shovels) for all partners to use.
– Many CWMAs have set up booths at local farmer’s markets, county fairs, or other events to provide brochures and answer questions about invasive plants for the general public.
Setting up a CWMA takes some time and some planning, but the payoff can be well worth the investment. The Midwest Invasive Plant Network encourages local landowners and interested public in Appalachian Ohio to join the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership and help in their efforts.
The Midwest Invasive Plant Network is an organization focused on reducing the impacts of invasive plant species in the Midwest. Our goal is to improve the quality and quantity of information available on invasive plants to assist with education, prevention, early detection, and control. Visit our website to see what we have to offer (www.mipn.org). The Midwest Invasive Plant Network has created several educational materials on invasive plants that are available at low or no cost. For more information on our publications, visit http://www.mipn.org/publications.html.
If you don’t live within the boundaries of the Appalachian Ohio Weed Control Partnership, check our map to find a CWMA in your local region. Still can’t find one? Consider working with others in your area to develop a new CWMA. On our CWMA resources page (www.mipn.org/cwma_resources.html), you will find a step-by-step guide to starting a CWMA, called the “CWMA Cookbook”, as well as a companion PowerPoint slide show. You will also see links to sample organizing documents for CWMAs and links to CWMA websites.
Invasive plants are a daunting problem, but the Midwest Invasive Plant Network is here to help. We hope you will consider starting or joining a local CWMA to help get the upper hand on invasive species in your area.