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Orange SWCD Seeks Community Feedback on Invasive Species

Emily Finch

Working to form local partnership to tackle invasives in County

The Orange County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD), along with the nonprofit group Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management (SICIM), are leading the formation of a local partnership to address invasive species in Orange County, but they need your help.

The SWCD and its partners are asking for community members to complete an online or paper survey, posted at, so they can learn how best to serve Orange County in invasive species education and management. 

Invasive species can include plants such as the infamous Kudzu, known as the vine that ate the south.  They can also refer to animals/insects, think of the Emerald Ash Borer, a small insect from Asia that has spread across much of the Midwest and killed millions of native ash trees.  In fact, there are many different invasives in Indiana that spread and cause serious economic, environmental, and health impacts.  Poison Hemlock, an invasive noxious weed commonly seen along roadsides and fencerows, is highly toxic to humans and livestock.  Many invasive plants, such as the shrub Autumn Olive, were or still are planted as ornamental landscape plants or for wildlife.  Unfortunately, they create a dense shrub layer in woodlands and interfere with the growth of native plants, including new tree seedlings. 

While private and public landowners have managed invasives for years, according to SICIM, one of the best ways to address the threat of invasive species is through local Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas, or CISMAs.  Among other things, these grassroots partnerships help to raise awareness of local invasive concerns, bridge the gap between management of invasives on public/private lands, and help address emerging invasive threats. 

To support CISMAs, SICIM has partnered with NRCS to hire regional specialists around the state as part of an Indiana Invasives Initiative (more info at  In Orange County, the SWCD has begun this partnership along with the USDA Forest Service, NRCS, and the Lost River Market & Deli. 

“We’re excited to be partnering with these great organizations,” says Michael Wilhite, SWCD Coordinator. “We think having a local CISMA in our county will be a positive force to help stop the invasion of invasive species here and help us further our mission of educating landowners on good conservation practices that can have a real impact on our environment.”

Pioneer Mothers Weed Wrangle, April 2018. At the end of the day, bags of garlic mustard pulled by volunteers filled the entire bed of a pick-up truck.  Photo by Emily Finch (SICIM).

Invasive Garlic Mustard Plant; Photo by Orange Co SWCD.

In April the group organized a Weed Wrangle workday with the Forest Service to pull invasive garlic mustard at the Pioneer Mothers trail south of Paoli.  On May 17th they held their first public CISMA call-out meeting at the Lost River Market, where attendees learned more about CISMAs and discussed existing invasive species concerns in the county.  A working group will be formed to structure and direct the new CISMA, but right now the SWCD is looking for community input.  They have a short survey available to help determine the community’s general awareness of invasive species, who is currently managing problem invasives, and what types of invasives are a concern in the county. 

According to SICIM Regional Specialist Emily Finch: “This survey will help the new CISMA plan its activities and goals.  Its whole purpose is to address local concerns, and to do that we need community feedback.”

Anyone who lives or works in Orange County is encouraged to take the survey, even if they don’t know anything about invasive species.  The survey is online at or for a hard copy stop by the Orange SWCD office at 573 SE Main St. Paoli, IN.  For more information, contact Michael Wilhite at or 812-203-3033.