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News

New Partnerships in SW Indiana Seek Community Feedback

Emily Finch

SWCDs form local cooperatives to tackle invasive species

Five Soil & Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs) in southwest Indiana, along with the nonprofit group Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management (SICIM), are leading the formation of local partnerships to address invasive species, but they need your help.

The SWCDs in Vanderburgh, Posey, Pike, Gibson, and Warrick counties are asking for community members to complete a short survey, so they can learn how best to serve the area 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, killing 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 shrubs, such as Autumn Olive, were and sometimes still are planted as landscaping or for wildlife.  Unfortunately, they create a dense shrub layer in woodlands and interfere with the growth of native plants, including new tree seedlings. 

An invasive plant and noxious weed, Poison Hemlock spreads along a roadside in Posey County.  Photo by Emily Finch (SICIM). 

 Invasive English Ivy vines carpet the ground and cover trees in Warrick County.  Photo by Heather Zengler.

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 http://www.sicim.info/cisma-project/).  In the five southwest counties, the SWCDs also worked together receive a Clean Water Indiana grant which allowed them to hire Invasive Technician Heather Zengler to help coordinate new CISMAs in area.    

Invasive Technician Heather Zengler talks to Gibson and Pike county residents about local invasive plants. Photo by Emily Finch (SICIM).

“I am really looking forward to educating people about the impacts invasive species have on the environment.” says Zengler.  “A CISMA is a great way for people to get involved in their communities while learning and educating others about invasive species.”

Several of the counties have already held public CISMA call-out meetings, with Pike and Vanderbugh holding theirs this week on June 12th and 13th.  The meetings are design to give attendees more information about CISMAs, and discuss existing invasive species concerns in each county.  Eventually, working groups will be formed for each county to structure and direct the new groups, but right now the SWCDs are looking for community input.  Specifically, they are looking for local citizens to take short surveys.  The surveys will 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: “These surveys will help the new CISMAs plan their activities and goals.  Their whole purpose is to address local concerns, and to do that we need community feedback.”

Anyone who lives or works in the area is encouraged to take the survey, even if they don’t know anything about invasive species.  There is one survey for each county, and they can be found online at www.sicim.info/cismas. Or, visit your local SWCD website, or office for a hard copy.  For more information, contact Heather Zengler at 812-423-4426 x3 or heather.zengler@in.nacdnet.net.

SWCD ADDRESSES & WEBSITES:

Take the survey online now, just click the link below for your county! 

Vanderburgh Survey

Pike Survey

Posey Survey

Gibson Survey

Warrick Survey