(BEDFORD) – Invasive plants threaten our natural ecosystems, cost us money and in some cases, endanger our health. Non-native invasive plants are plants that are not native to the area, and which cause (or are likely to cause) harm to environmental, economic, and/or human health.
Weed wrangle volunteers pull garlic mustard
Some arrived by mistake, hitching a ride in the global transportation system. Others were planted intentionally, and only later discovered to be problematic. Regardless of how they got here, the bad news is as they continue to spread, they take over our yards and farms, invade our natural areas, including the Hoosier National Forest, and pose a major threat to our biodiversity. Invasive species cost the U.S. economy over $138 billion each year and almost 50% of all threatened and endangered species are at risk because of habitat loss due to invasive species.
Although the issue may seem overwhelming, there have been some recent positive developments on this front in Indiana. In March, Governor Holcomb signed the Terrestrial Invasive Plant Rule. The rule designates 44 species of plants as invasive pests. This rule makes it illegal to sell, gift, barter, exchange, distribute, transport, or introduce these plants in the State of Indiana. This rule goes into effect in two stages. As of April 18, 2019, it is illegal to introduce plant species on this list not already found in Indiana. Plant species already in trade will be prohibited from sale one year later (April 18, 2020).
Non-native, invasive plants already present need to be controlled to reduce further spread. Spearheaded by SICIM (Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management), there are grassroots efforts at the county level throughout Indiana to form cooperative invasive species management areas or CISMAs. These organizations are made up of partners including federal, state, and local governmental agencies; universities; the tourism industry; master gardeners; clubs and interested landowners who share a common concern about the negative impacts of invasives. Although groups vary, the common core is the pooling of resources to provide education and take action on a broad scale. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or look for a Weed Wrangle near you to get involved.
The Hoosier National Forest has played an integral role in SICIM and the formation of several CISMAs. To combat invasives on national forest system lands, forest staff utilizes a variety of tools including manual, mechanical and chemicals. In addition, the forest works with a variety of partners on invasive control. A long-standing relationship with Indiana University’s Dr. Vicky Meretsky recently brought conservation biology graduate students out to pull garlic mustard in the Charles C. Deam Wilderness. A Weed Wrangle in conjunction with Orange County Invasives Partnership (OCIP) unified the public to pull garlic mustard and lesser celandine along the forest’s Pioneer Mothers trail in Paoli. In early April, a dinner hosted by Lawrence County KIC (Keep Invasives in Check) educated over 40 landowners on how to identify and prioritize invasive treatments on their property. For more information on the forest’s invasive plant program visit https://go.usa.gov/xmBY2.
Even if you don’t own land, or have invasives on your property, we can all play a role in stopping the spread of invasives by simply cleaning our shoes, equipment wheels, and boats after use, and removing seeds from our pets. A national campaign dubbed PlayCleanGo provides information and resources on how to prevent the spread of invasive species. For more information visit www.playcleango.org.