MDC tackles invasives through Scenic Rivers Invasive Species Partnership

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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. – The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) has recently gained significant traction in eradicating invasive plants in southern Missouri through collaboration with the Scenic Rivers Invasive Species Partnership (SRISP).

MDC’s involvement with SRISP – alongside several other state agencies and organizations – is laser-focused on eradicating invasives that pose serious threats to Missouri’s natural ecosystems, according to Valarie Repp, Coordinating Invasive Species Biologist with SRISP participants Pheasants Forever, Inc. and Quail Forever.

Repp said the joint effort was initiated in 2018 to establish a much-needed Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) within southern Missouri. A CISMA, she explained, is the partnership of federal, state, and local government agencies, tribes, individuals, and various interested groups that manage invasive species (or weeds) in a defined area.

“The Scenic Rivers Invasive Species Partnership is a Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area encompassing the Eleven Point, Jack’s Fork, and Current Rivers,” said Repp. “The Eleven Point River is federally designated as a Wild and Scenic River, and the Jack’s Fork and Current Rivers comprise the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, making them vital ecological, recreational, and economic resources.”

She said the need to protect this region from the threat of invasive plants is “dire.”

“Invasives from sericea lespedeza to Callery pear are taking up residence more and more along rights-of-way,” Repp said. “To take advantage of the new partnership, MDC applied and received funds from the Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) Grant to treat invasive species found along right-of-way areas highlighted by the Scenic River Invasive Species Partnership.”

Repp said invasive plants not only threaten valuable habitat, but also the agricultural and recreational resources that stem from the area.

“The Scenic River Invasive Species Partnership isn’t just ‘blanket spraying’ the right-of-way; we’re carefully spot spraying by hand each invasive plant,” Repp said. “This method helps reduce chemical use and leaves valuable native plants found on roadsides intact so they may flower, and reseed areas left bare after the invasive plants are treated.”

Rights-of-way can provide valuable habitat for pollinators, including monarchs, bees, and birds, so leaving these small patches as intact as possible is critical, she explained.

“Invasive plants compete with native plants and animals, degrading habitats, soil and water quality, and threatening facets of the state’s economy that rely on healthy systems, including cattle and timber production,” Repp said.

She said the plants can also impact many aspects of outdoor recreation, including fishing, hunting, tourism, water sports and other activities that are significant to the regional recreation economy.

“The mission of the Scenic River Invasive Species Partnership is to establish a strong, cross-boundary public-private partnership that inventories, monitors, controls, and prevents the spread of invasive species for a nine-county area in the Southern Ozarks,” Repp said.

Other SRISP partners include: the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Missouri Invasive Plant Task Force (MIPTF), Midwest Invasive Plant Network (MIPN), L-A-D foundation, National Park Service Ozark National Scenic Riverways (NPSONSR), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Pheasants Forever, Inc (PF), Quail Forever (QF), The Nature Conservancy, and the USDA Forest Service - Mark Twain National Forest.

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