Invasive Plant Management Costs Hoosiers over $5 million in 2012
A recent survey conducted by the Invasive Plant Advisory Committee found that land owners and managers in Indiana spent $5.85 million in 2012 to manage invasive plants on their land.
Bloomington, Indiana | October 21, 2013
Barb Seal, with loppers and herbicide in hand, is preparing for battle on her land, a battle she has fought for several years. Barb’s war is against the invasive Asian bush honeysuckle, a species once planted for soil erosion control but is aggressively crowding out Indiana’s native plants.
“If I’m not vigilant in removing this plant, in no time at all it will take over my land,” says Barb. “The wildflowers I enjoy every spring will be wiped out. I can’t have that.”
Barb is not alone. A recent survey conducted by the Invasive Plant Advisory Committee found that land owners and managers in Indiana spent $5.85 million in 2012 to manage invasive plants on their land.
The Committee surveyed 116 agencies, land trusts, municipalities, contractors, and private land owners around the state, representing more than 650,000 acres of managed public and private land. The survey did not include invasive control in agricultural crop settings, just in natural areas like forests, prairies, and wetlands.
“The survey is a strong representation of the invasive plant management that is going on in Indiana,” noted Ellen Jacquart, one of the Committee members. Jacquart also works for The Nature Conservancy, one of the land trusts whose lands are plagued by invasive plants. “The responses demonstrate how invasive species have gotten a strong foothold in Indiana and how expensive it is to remove them.”
Of the groups, state agencies spent the most on invasive plant management last year totaling nearly $3 million. Land trusts and municipalities came in second and third respectively by spending a little more than $1 million each.
Why spend this much money? Because these invasive species are having a dramatic negative impact on our forests, prairies, wetlands and lakes. Asian bush honeysuckle, an invasive shrub used in landscaping, wreaks havoc in the forests it invades. It reduces tree regeneration, decreases songbird reproductive success, increases the number of disease-carrying ticks in the area, and decreases the growth of the forest canopy trees by over 50%.
The survey also revealed that land owners and managers in Indiana are having to control a wide variety of invasive plant species. The survey identified nearly 50 different species of invasive plants being managed statewide. More than 73 percent of survey participants reported that they manage garlic mustard, making it the most commonly controlled invasive plant in Indiana.
Controlling invasive plants such as garlic mustard or Asian bush honeysuckle not only requires money, but also a considerable amount of time. The total estimated hours spent on invasive plant management in 2012 came to 120,256 hours, the equivalent of 51 years.
“The fight to keep invasive plants off our land is never ending,” said Seal. “The battle is extremely time consuming and expensive. After a day of invasive species control, I look around and see what is coming at us from the roadways, our neighbors’ properties, and the waterways. It’s a frustrating, never ending cost in time and dollars.” Seal sees the need for everyone to participate in the endeavor to control invasive species if Hoosiers want their diverse native species to remain.
Controlling invasive species is made even more difficult by the fact that many plant stores in Indiana still sell several invasive plant species. Landowners are unknowingly furthering the problem of invasive species by planting them.
“More than 95% of those surveyed supported removing invasive plants from commercial trade,” said Jacquart. “The State is currently exploring a rule that would do just that.”
The Invasive Plant Advisory Committee was created in September 2010 to help the Indiana Invasive Species Council work on invasive plant issues in the state. Chaired by Ellen Jacquart, the committee is working on updating Indiana’s Invasive Plant List and on a pilot implementation of Best Management Practices designed to decrease the movement and spread of invasive species.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.