Beginning in October of 2005, Rural Action Sustainable Forestry, and Rural Action Sustainable Agriculture conducted outreach and education aimed at Natural Resource Professionals concerning invasive plants. Individuals reached ranged from students including Ohio University, Hocking College, Ohio State University, Master Gardeners, Extension Personnel, SWCD, and NRCS personnel, Division of Forestry staff, land managers, botanists, farmers, foresters, grounds personnel, nurseryman and township staff.
Methods of outreach included 2 day, 1 day, and 1 -2 hour sessions. Curriculum presented was tailored to the targeted audiences and ranged from holistic educator presentations to specific control presentations, to general overviews. Presentations were made by contracted professionals as well as Rural Action staff. Continuing education units were offered, and events were advertised directly to agencies, and through partnering groups such as the Ohio Invasive Plants Council.
Informational packets were constructed and distributed. Publications were given to Extension educators for distribution.
More than 50 Natural Resource Professionals (NRPs) were given specific education and tools to identify and control invasive plants. All educational opportunities included integrated approaches. The 20 NRP’s who attended the June 2007 intensive one day workshop were presented with challenging view points examining the nature of the language used, detrimental impacts of control and reasons for control. Those who attended the 2 day trainings were given broader educational; options ranging from native plant propagation to basic invasive identification.
October 2007 attendees were presented with a study showing the loss of board foot production due to Bush Honeysuckle infestations.
March 2008 attendees were given examples of the process of deriving IPM methods for invasive plant control.
3 extension educators are now routinely including invasive plant management to master gardeners. Regional service foresters are being provided with hard copy materials to distribute.
4 Land Managers are integrating native plants into managed landscapes and reducing use of invasive plants
4 Native Plant Nurseries have been connected to increased sales and have increased inventory and selection due project programming, information dissemination, and networking with NRP’s.
1 Extension Agent, 1 land manager and 10 student NRP’s participated in 2 year stilt grass control study comparing chemical, mechanical and cultural control methods.
2 Service Foresters were given specific information on Tree of Heaven control methods.
1 Extension Agent has pursued and presented on vegetative management and animal husbandry issues utilizing goats. He has received support, cooperation, and venues for presentations.
Invasive plants have been elevated at the programming and management level of most Ohio NRP’s.
NRP’s have access to invasive plant networks that are increasingly expanding.
Over60 Master Gardener participants are aware of impacts of invasive plants, and the value of native plants and are continuing to disseminate this information through program mandated community service.
Rural Action (RA) is a non-profit (501c-3) development organization working in Appalachian Ohio. In a region of up to 60-70% forests any threat to forest productivity is an economic threat Invasive plants have been identified as a barrier to forest bio-diversity, to timber production, and to forest succession.
Educational materials and programming were developed and disseminated to Natural Resource Professionals (NRP’s) to give a broad look at invasive plants, specific control options, as well as to present challenging view points on the subject.
Informational packets were constructed that would allow NRP’s to access on-line as well as written resources, associated groups and organizations, educational materials, restoration materials, and Identification materials.
RA staff with expertise in invasive and native plants were made available to schools, extension educators, workshop and festival educators, as well as gardening groups to educate and provide resources on invasive plants.
Education & Outreach Initiatives
RA Sustainble Forestry formed an Invasive Plants advisory group in 2004. Programming and development strategies were devised in conjunction with that group and executed by RA staff. A successful non-timber forest products PDP had been conducted, as follow up to that it was decided to pursue a PDP on invasive plants.
Ongoing RA educational venues such as the Annual Land Owners Conference, and classroom, and interest group presentations were utilized to reach a bulk level of participants with varying degrees of NRP status. The RA Invasives Working Group devised strategies to reach a smaller professional group of NRP’s, service foresters, extension educators, etc… Experts were brought in to present through networks such as the Ohio Invasive Plants Council, OSU extension, etc… local self experienced experts were utilized to augment traditional sources. Venues were provided to NRP’s honing presentations and research (i.e. goats as control options).
One intensive 1-day session was designed with holistic educators to critically look at existing thoughts on Invasive plant management. Presenters also included OhiO Invasive Plants Council members, and an extension agent from New York State. Overviews of the problem were given along with differing opinions on causes and values of control methods. It was attended by a range of Natural Resource Professionals representing private, state,federal and local governments.
Follow up intensive one-day sessions included workshops on studies that highlighted the economic impact of invasive plants as they relate to reduction of timber production and forest regeneration. Specific control case studies were presented, along with restoration methods. Alternative control methods such as utilizing goats were presented. Attendees included NRCS, SWCD, Forest Service, and non-profit conservation area managers, as well as OSU Extension and University Educators.
Hard copies of information obtained from the Ohio Invasive Plants Council was distributed to local Extension offices.
Outreach and Publications
An Invasive Plants Information and Resource Folder was compiled and distributed to all workshop attendees and to Natural Resource Professionals upon request.
Articles on invasive plants were published in “The Grapevine”, the newsletter of Rural Action Forestry in 2005, 2006, and 2007. Over 1000 copies of these were distributed.
Radio and television outreach occurred through public and for profit radio stations in the Athens area. This included a call in radio program during National Invasive Plant Week of 2007.
The Rural Action Web sites (www.ruralaction.org) includes pages on Invasive Plants and native plant resources. This includes species charts and links to other resources.
In conjunction with the Wayne National Forest a Native Plant Rescue Brochure was created with one side being text and one side being a poster showing 12 important species of native plants. The importance of using native plants as a means to controlling invasive pl;ants was highlighted. To date several thousand copies have been distributed.
All workshops were preceded by outreach to news media throughout the region. Outreach was also made through websites and list servs of partnering groups.
Through 1 hour presentations over 200 individuals were given invasive plant education. Through Invasive Plant tracks presented at 2 Landowner conferences (2006, 2007) 200 people attended sessions on invasive plants over a 2 day period.
Through 3 intensive 1-day sessions, 45 Natural Resource Professionals, including 3 extension educators,4 service foresters, 8 SWCD, and 5 NRCS personnel, foresters, teachers, park administrators, grad students,municipal employees, and land managers were given information and tools of reference on the control of invasive plant species. Attendees of those sessions learned to identify, and were given tools of reference to identify over 12 invasive plant species. They learned specific methods for control of plants including Tree of Heaven, Asian Bittersweet, Garlic Mustard, Bush Honeysuckle, Stilt Grass, Japanese Knotweed and others.
Attendees of all sessions were given a folder compiled by Rural Action that included control measures for specific invasive species selected by the Rural Action Invasive Species Committee. The folder contents were approved by this committee made up of Natural Resource Professionals and Landowners. The folders included alternative methods of control as well as chemical methods. Proactive management techniques were stressed.
Through this project one Extension agent has advanced strategies for controlling invasive plants using goats. He has created a presentation, and advanced local research.
Three extension agents are including invasive plant education in their master gardener programs as well as native plant education.
Five township employees are utilizing proactive measures to control invasive plants on park lands.
Five extension agents have been supplied with materials to hand out to the general public.
Two Forest Service Botanists have been given expanded contacts to native plant sources for restoration.
All attendees at the one day intensive sessions received information on holistic management and were given alternative control strategies. Most attendees to the workshops have begun to think about the logic behind the inflammatory language used to describe invasive plants and have begun focusing on restoration and proactive strategies as well as chemical controls.
One Land Owner has developed a professional level presentation on a specific control experience, including comparisons of herbicide safety and efficacy.
Through invasive plant education activities integrated into Rural Actions Native Plant Rescue 10 Forest Service Employees have a grater understanding native plants as an economic asset and the threat that invasive plants pose to this asset. This hastened the development of native plant displays at the Athens Head Quarters of the Wayne National Forest.
Four private foresters have taken an Integrated Pest Management approach to Managing Autumn Olive.
Ten Americorps Conservation Corps Volunteers were given improved Invasive Plant Identification skills increasing the quality of their work.
Through this project Rural Action was able to support Natural Resource Professionals at the local and regional level. We were able to continue to be identified as a valuable conservation resource as an organization.
We were able to provide Natural Resource Professionals with diverse opinions on invasive plant impacts. We were able to examine the language used surrounding invasive plants and its impacts on public and professional perceptions.
Native plants were highlighted through press and outreach activities as a regional economic asset.
Through relationships established through the Invasive Plants Advisory Board, a Native Plant Rescue was able to be implemented with the Wayne National Forest establishing land management and policy changes.
Funding was obtained from the Ohio Environmental Education Fund to work with Landowners on the watershed level on land management topics including invasive plants.
Contributions of this project include:
The distribution of over 100 Invasive Plant Resource Folders to Natural Resource Professionals giving them both succinct access to specific control methods, identification and management strategies as well as diverse theories on the impact and causes of invasive plant problems. This allows for NRP’s and educators to look beyond immediate impacts and examine root causes of vegetation shifts.
Supporting the facilitation of Weed Management areas in Ohio through networking with members of the Rural Action Invasive Plant Advisory Committee as well as providing venues and support for those NRP’s, such as Wayne National Forest Botanist Cheryl Coon interested in creating Weed Management areas.
Connecting Land Managers, NRP’s, Gardeners, and the general public with connections to native plant nurseries boosting sales and sustainability as well as creating local restoration sources.
Bringing a critical lens to the question of invasive plants allowing NRP’s at different levels to critically examine the validity of inflammatory language often used to describe the problem of invasive plants allowing for more sustainable solutions.
Continued work is needed on discerning the real costs of invasive plants, i.e. what their impacts are in terms of forest productivity as opposed to what the cost is to control them. This would need to be done at a regional level.
The environmental impacts of various control measures also needs to be compared.
Economic uses of invasive species could be looked at as a way of financing their removal by land owners and the government.
The use of Invasive plants such as multiflora rose as forage is currently being looked at by project partners and it is hoped that SARE will be able to continue this work.
The economics of using goats to control invasive plants as compared to chemical controls needs to be looked at for all bio-regions.