ANDERSON — A grassroots effort to drive out invasive species will get a boost from a statewide conference this month.

The first CISMA (Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area) conference originally scheduled for March at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds has been postponed until Aug. 20 due to the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re hoping for at least 300 attendees, and it looks like we’re going to get them,” said Mary Welz, one of five regional specialists working for Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management (SICIM).

“All of our partners, both professional organizations and government organizations, and GMOs and just landowners throughout the state will be there sharing information about research.”

The regional specialists are spearheading an effort to create invasive species management areas at the county level to stop the spread of invasive species, specifically terrestrial plants.

The Southern Indiana Cooperative defines an invasive species as a non-native plant that is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm human, animal or plant health.

“Those groups are really organizing to bring the word to the people in the county as far as what’s bad, what’s good and ways to help get rid of it,” Welz said.

Jama Donovan, superintendent of the Anderson Parks and Recreation Department, is excited about the upcoming conference.

The department spent the winter removing the invasive Asian Bush Honeysuckle from trails around the lake at Shadyside Park. The plant grows densely, crowding out other plants, reducing biodiversity and obscuring the view around the lake.

“I just think it makes people feel safe when you can see your line of sight when you’re walking,” Donovan said.

A crew was hired to remove the honeysuckle by hand. Donovan looks forward to learning at the conference about Weed Wrangles, one-day volunteer efforts to remove invasive species from public lands.

“I’m excited about that conference and to learn more how we can incorporate that here,” she said.

Invasives can be introduced accidentally or intentionally as an ornamental plant or, like Kudzu, for erosion control.

Land owners can help stop the spread of invasives.

“The first thing you can do is to get any invasive plants that might be planted in your yard out of there, because then we’re removing some of the source of the invasive species,” Welz said.

After removing invasives, it’s important to replant the area with native species.

“Bare ground can be (taken over) by invasive plants, so we’re encouraging people to be aware of native plants,” said Ellen Jacquart, president of the Indiana Native Plant Society. “When you clear an area of invasive species, to the extent possible, put native plants back in to essentially armor that area against further invasion.”

To learn about what’s invasive and what to replace it with, Jacquart suggests you join the Facebook group of the Indiana Native Plant Society.

“It’s a place where people can come and ask questions about native plants, put up pictures of what is growing in their yard if they don’t know what it is and have a botanist identify it for them,” Jacquart said.

When it comes to buying plants, Indiana’s Terrestrial Plant Rule becomes enforceable April 18. The rule makes it illegal to sell, gift, barter, exchange, distribute, transport or introduce into the state any of 44 highly invasive plants.

The state has nine inspectors checking nurseries to enforce the new rule, and the law allows for fines of up to $500 per day per plant, according to State Entomologist Megan Abraham.

Two plants, callery pear and Norway maple, were left off the list because of concern about the economic impact to nurseries.

Follow Don Knight on Twitter @donwknight, or call 765-622-1212 ext. 204567.

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