On March 8, 2007, the Nebraska State Technical Committee Subcommittee on Invasive Species hosted a meeting that discussed the pros and cons of a more coordinated state-level approach to addressing invasive species. We were very privileged to have Tom Osborne provide the opening comments. Tom was followed by a panel of speakers who helped set the stage for the discussion. The panel included John Erickson from the Governor’s Policy Office, Tom Schwarz representing Senator Carlson who has introduced LB-458, Tri-Basin NRD General Manager John Thorburn, Charles Brooks from the Nebraska Weed Control Association, Mitch Coffin from Nebraska Department of Agriculture, Mike Thompson from Department of Natural Resources and Mike Kucera from NRCS.
We had four speakers provide opening comments leading to discussion of four critical topics. Dr. Craig Allen from the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit led the discussion on the status of inventories of Invasive Species. Retired SCSer and current Lancaster County Weed Control Specialist Russ Shultz led the discussion of the status and need for information and education. Our own Brad Soncksen led the discussion of available financial resources. Chris Helzer from TNC led the topic of the status of tools available to address invasive species.
Below are just a few items captured from the session. All of the input was recorded and will be provided back to the participants.
There are many regional inventory efforts occurring, but each one is specific to the need of the inventorying organization. Some of those might be noxious weeds only, some are for non-native species, and others have specific species limitations. It seems obvious that there needs to be a pooling of resources and an agreement on the species to be inventoried, so we can achieve one consistent baseline inventory for the state.
Several entities have some excellent information and education activities related to invasive species, but again a pooling of resources and a coordinated effort would likely make this much more effective. The Idaho effort was identified as a good information program to model.
The group recognized the need for a holistic approach to managing invasive species within the overall management and improvement of all natural resources.
The group was unanimous in its desire for a state-level task force to coordinate a statewide plan or strategy for addressing invasive species. There was general support for a recommendation that consideration should be given to broadening LB-458 to have it result in the creation of a statewide task force for invasive species rather than it being narrowly focused on the Republican and Platte Rivers, but with recognition that those two riparian areas would be the immediate priority.
There was near unanimous support for the need to establish a full-time paid coordinator to spearhead the statewide task force.
A consensus was not reached on identifying an organization to lead this effort. However, there was a general consensus that the Nebraska Weed Control Association in combination with the Nebraska Department of Agriculture might be the best co-leadership team. Steve Chick, Nebraska State Conservationist, is very hopeful that the efforts in this meeting will help lead to a more coordinated approach to addressing invasive species than currently exists. NRCS will do what ever we can to support that effort; but as a Federal agency, we should not be in the lead role. NRCS State Technical Subcommittee on Invasive Species will continue to advise us on how we can best adjust our USDA conservation programs to meet the invasive species needs in Nebraska.