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NATURAL RESOURCE SCIENCE AND MANAGEMENT IN THE WEST

Time to Revisit our Invasive Species Strategy

May 6, 2020

Perspective from Governor Mark Gordon

Invasive species are not a new phenomenon, but over the past few decades the West has seen an explosion of all types in all ecosystems. From quagga mussels, New Zealand mudsnails, and lake trout in fisheries and waterways, to injurious plants like leafy spurge, cheatgrass, and salt cedar in our rangelands and riparian areas, species that are foreign, aggressive, and pervasive are threatening native ecological communities, changing productivity, altering disturbance regimes, and generally wreaking havoc on land managers and agricultural producers.

Governor Mark GordonThrough improved transportation networks, increased levels of outdoor recreation, and new development, we are seeing the number of potential vectors increase to infect additional landscapes ever more rapidly. As a result, we have mobilized local responses through coordinated planning and direct management efforts while improving monitoring and prevention campaigns. With new herbicides and mechanical measures, use of satellite imagery and predictive modelling, new grazing schemes, efforts to cultivate more benign competitive species, and a host of potential biological controls, land managers are approaching the problem from all angles. However, these measures can be expensive, especially when management necessitates repeated treatments.

For all of the good work, our approaches always seem to be too slow in reacting to continually evolving challenges; every time we believe we are getting ahead, the goalposts move.

Although research has helped, we still need to better understand ecology, succession, and the dynamics of natural systems across spatial and temporal scales, and the value of placing practitioners in the same room with researchers. We have the opportunity to improve our odds through a more comprehensive and holistic approach to management and control. For these reasons, among others, I established the Invasive Species Initiative: a group of 32 practitioners, managers, scientists, local, state, and federal government entities, and representatives of private landowners and industry.

These members have been split into two teams, Policy and Technical, to approach the massive issue of invasive species from all angles. I have asked them to focus first on terrestrial invasive plant species and deliver a report to me on issues and potential fixes. The teams have had multiple meetings to date and a final report is expected this spring, which I eagerly anticipate.

Landscape with grass and mountains

Wyoming can lead the way. From our on-the-ground experts in Weed and Pest Control Districts, to researchers at the University of Wyoming and all the ranchers, wildlife managers, and other experts in between, Wyoming has the knowledge and the wherewithal to truly fight this battle. In tandem with other states, and through a demonstrable commitment of effort, energy, and finances, we can stem the flow and move towards an ultimate goal of reversing the damage of invasive species. It is high time we stop being reactionary and commit to a more proactive approach to invasive species control. Doing so will give us the ability to put our efforts on a more sustainable and economically logical course while at the same time leaving this wonderful place we call home better off for generations to come.

I applaud the efforts to date, but I also recognize we can do better. I am excited to see what our state can do in the future and my confidence in our citizens’ ingenuity and ability to build true solutions could not be greater.

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