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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.


New CISMA Call-Out Meetings for Southwest Indiana!

Emily Finch

SICIM is working with 5 counties in southwest Indiana to hold CISMA Call-Out meetings in May and June!  These meetings will help each county determine who is willing/able to partner with their new cooperatives, and also gather community input on what activities the groups should focus on.  Click on the fliers below for more information, or contact the shared SWCD Invasive Technician/CISMA Coordinator Heather Zengler at

Orange County CISMA Call-Out Meeting - May 17th

Emily Finch

Join SICIM Regional Specialist Emily Finch and local partners as we begin forming a CISMA in Orange County.  See the flier below for details.  Want to help but not able to attend?  Contact Emily Finch at, or the Orange County SWCD at 812-203-3033, 

Warrick County CISMA Call-Out Meeting

Emily Finch

Warrick County is planning a CISMA and they want you to join them!  If you live or work in Warrick County and are concerned about invasive species, please attend this meeting.  Want to be involved but can't make the meeting?  Contact the SWCD or Invasive Technician Heather Zengler ( to stay in the loop.  See flier for details.  

What is a CISMA Presentations

Emily Finch

Did you know that Posey, Vanderburgh, Gibson, Pike, and Warrick counties all have plans to start CISMAs, Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas?  As part of this process, SICIM is partnering with local SWCDs to present "What is a CISMA?"  Our first presentation is set for April 12th at 6:30 central at the Armstrong Recreational Center in Evansville (see flier for details).  The second presentation is set for April 24th at 6:00pm eastern at the Pike County 4-H building in Hornaday Park, Petersburg, IN (see flier below). A call-out meeting will take place for Warrick County on May 14th at 1pm central in the County Commmissioners meeting room.  For more information, contact Emily Finch at or Heather Zengler at


Weed Wrangle - Paoli

Emily Finch

Volunteer workday at the Pioneer Mother's Memorial Forest in the Hoosier National Forest south of Paoli (1437 SE Main Street Paoli, IN 47454). Join us for an afternoon with friends, as we clear garlic mustard from the forest floor. Help remove this invasive species and restore native spring wildflowers! All ages welcome. Drop by anytime between 2-6pm. Interested in helping control invasive species in Orange County? Come out to learn about the new Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area we are forming for Orange County! Steering committee volunteers are needed. You can make a difference! Call 812-203-3033 for more info.

Terrestrial Plant Rule Update

Emily Anderson

Following the Indiana Invasive Species Council's recent conference, SICIM wanted to share an update on Indiana's draft Terrestrial Plant Rule.  

Special thanks to Ellen Jacquart who compiled the list of suggestions to include when contacting the Governor  Holcomb's office on this issue.  

If you don't know already terrestrial invasive plants are still for sale in Indiana.  We’re spending millions of dollars to control invasive plants in Indiana every year, but most of those invasive plants are still for sale at your local garden shop. Good news – the DNR has drafted a rule that would make it illegal to sell all the highly invasive plants in Indiana.  This rule is currently at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and still has a ways to go before it is approved.  The image below shows how far we have come so far in the process:

Images by Dawn Slack, IN Invasive Species Council

Images by Dawn Slack, IN Invasive Species Council


If the proposed rule moves forward through the rule process, the OMB will solicit public comments in evaluating the rule.  At that time, citizens will have an opportunity to comment online, as well as in person during public meetings.  Any comments submitted during that time will follow and be part of the proposed rule through the adoption process.  (See image below.) 


After the public comment period, the rule will still have a few more steps to go through before it can be adopted.  (See below)


In summary, keep an eye out for the rule's public comment period.  If you don't like the idea of waiting, below are suggestions by Ellen Jacquart on how to voice your opinion now:

-Go to
-Select the topic ‘Natural Resources, Department of’
-Enter your contact information
-Add the message that you would like to see the draft Terrestrial Plant Rule that makes it illegal to sell highly invasive plants in Indiana move forward. Add your reasons why. Suggestions-

• Invasive plants cost money. A 2012 survey of 120 agencies and landowners in Indiana found we spent $5.7 million to manage these species and protect our natural areas. Nationally, agricultural and control costs due to invasive plants are estimated at $15 billion per year. Each year the cost grows. And yet we continue to allow the sale of these damaging species.
• Invasive plants hurt wildlife by crowding out the plants our native animals need for food and cover.
• Most invasive shrubs and trees are little used by native insects. This reduces habitat for beneficial pollinators and predatory insects, as well as reducing the amount of food available for birds to feed their nestlings.
• Invasive plants destroy habitat for rare wildflowers and animals, threatening two-thirds of all endangered species.
• Invasive plants can become weedy in a home garden, crowding out other landscaping.
• Invasive plants can also decrease your ability to enjoy hunting, fishing, mushroom collecting, bird-watching, and many other recreational pursuits by crowding forest floors and choking waterways.
• Tell your story of the invasive plants you are fighting to control, and why it is important to you that invasive plants not be sold in Indiana.
-Hit Submit. You’re done!
Thank you for your help.

SICIM Welcomes New Regional Specialists

Emily Anderson

SICIM is proud to introduce our two new employees Emily Finch and Amber Slaughterbeck.  Emily and Amber will be working on SICIM's new Indiana Invasives Initiative with funding from an agreement with NRCS.  They are first of 4 regional specialists that will work around the state to promote the formation of local Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) and conduct invasive species education, outreach, and training.  

For more information on on the Initiative, or to contact the regional specialists, visit our Invasives Initiative page.  


Indiana Prairie Farmer Articles

Emily Anderson

NEW CISMA Project Page!

Emily Anderson


In 2018 SICIM is starting a brand new statewide project funded by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).  This 5 year project will work to develop and support Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) across the state.  For more information, check out our CISMA Project Page.