Making Headway Against Invasive Species on the Hill

Constituents representing more than 50 percent of United States recently gathered to advance efforts toward protecting native ecosystems through awareness, education and control of invasive plant species. More than 150 participants, including representatives of government agencies, non-profits, private industry and landowners, spent the week lobbying state legislators and attending briefings from federal agencies including the United States Department of Agriculture, Department of the Interior and Army Corps of Engineers.

Through a partnership between the Invasive Species Council and the National Geographic Society, NIWAW participants also enjoyed an early screening of the first in a new TV series titled Strange Days on Planet Earth. The first show will air on PBS on April 20 and investigates the ecological and economic damages triggered by invasive species infestations. NIWAW attendants hope this video will create additional awareness of the growing impact of invasive weed species nationwide.

Other highlights from the week included a series of presentations from regional success stories spotlighting exemplary use of resources, collaboration and community outreach to help reduce the impact of invasive weeds. These presentations were sponsored by FICMNEW, the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds.

An awards reception took place at the United States Botanic Garden, sponsored by FICMNEW, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the Botanic Garden. Entertainment was provided by the Blues Rangers, a group of talented U.S. Forest Service musicians, whose lyrics foster awareness of invasive plants.

Six organizations and people were honored at this year’s event:

Gary Johnston, National Park Service (NPS) received a FICMNEW award in recognition of his outstanding work in the area of invasive plant management. Johnston has served the NPS for 25 years. As a FICMNEW co-chair for four years, responsible for operations, he played a principal role in the development of the Pulling Together Initiative for invasive plants and the conceptualization of the Early Detection and Rapid Response System for managing invasive plants in the U.S.

Gina Ramos, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) also received a FICMNEW award. Ramos has advised the BLM Washington D.C. office as a weed management specialist for more than four years. Also serving as a FICMNEW co-chair, she has helped implement numerous FICMNEW programs, including work-planning retreats, Weeds Across Borders conferences and the Early Detection and Rapid Response System.

Both Johnston and Ramos are active leaders in the Invasive Weeds Awareness Coalition (IWAC) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Pulling Together Initiative steering committee. Due to their consistent efforts and contributions, they continue to ensure NIWAW’s success year after year.

Rob Hedberg, Weed Science Society of America (WSSA), received the Invasive Weeds Awareness Coalition (IWAC) award for his superior work in generating awareness and education related to invasive plant management. As Director of Science Policy at WSSA, Hedberg’s leadership has promoted collaboration and ongoing research among scientific and weed management communities nationwide. Chairing IWAC, he was the driving force behind the coordination and subsequent success of NIWAW VI. He also co-organized one of the most successful invasive species conferences, “Invasive Plants in Natural and Managed Systems – Linking Science and Management,” in 2004, which attracted more than 800 participants, Hedberg continues to demonstrate a strong commitment to invasive plant issues worldwide.

Dale Bosworth, USDA, Forest Service, received the joint FICMNEW-IWAC award in recognition of his leadership supporting invasive plant management in the U.S. Bosworth is the 15th chief of the forest service and has been there nearly his entire life. Under his leadership, the Forest Service has elevated the invasive species issue to one of the top four issues threatening American terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. Bosworth spearheaded the completion of the National Strategy and Implementation Plan for Invasive Species Management, which raised the national standard for invasive species management. He has also been an active supporter of FICMNEW, IWAC and other invasive species management groups.

The City of Baltimore received the Community Spirit Award by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and FICMNEW for its exceptional work in vegetation management. The city has made remarkable efforts to grow cooperation and partnerships in the area of invasive plant management through its Pulling Together Initiative Grant Program. Kimberley Flowers of the Department of Recreation and Parks accepted the award on behalf of the city of Baltimore.

Bonnie Harper-Lore, Department of Transportation, received the North American Weed Management Association (NAWMA) award in recognition of her work implementing the Weed Across Borders program. With a strong commitment to Integrated Roadside Vegetation Management, Harper-Lore’s leadership has been instrumental in the successful execution of Weeds Across Borders, a campaign to create collaboration among countries bordering North America.

In addition to the special awards at NIWAW VI, the entire week served as a memorial to the late John Taylor. As a senior wildlife biologist at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in New Mexico, Taylor worked more than 18 years to remove saltcedar throughout the state. Taylor passed away last September.

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