On a warm spring day in May, Duluth Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area, or CISMA), partners from across south St. Louis County met at a Duluth community center to share their collective knowledge on invasive species causing concern in the region. The group consisted of partners from state agencies, St. Louis County, nearby local governments, local non-profits, homeowners, and volunteers.
Shrubs and trees were just beginning to leaf out and green plants were emerging from the soil; a few of them were part of discussions at the CISMA meeting. As garlic mustard samples, with stems of scalloped leaves and tiny white flowers, were passed around the room, partners learned identification and shared knowledge of locations in the region and management strategies. Later, folks shared field observations and ideas for an upcoming knotweed management project in the city of Duluth.
CISMA partners expressed appreciation for being able to inform others in the area of the work they are doing resulting in collective knowledge, collective resources, and collective impact.
In addition to CISMAs, many Cooperative Weed Management Areas (CWMAs) are also found across Minnesota. According to the North American Invasive Species Network, CISMAs and CWMAS share six basic characteristics:
- Operate within a defined geographic area, distinguished by a common geography, weed problem, community, climate, political boundary, or land use;
- Involve a broad cross-section of landowners and natural resource managers within its defined boundaries;
- Are governed by a steering committee;
- Make a long-term commitment to cooperation, usually through a formal agreement among partners;
- Have a comprehensive plan that addresses the management or prevention of invasive species within its boundaries; and,
- Facilitate cooperation and coordination across jurisdictional boundaries.
Across Minnesota and the United States, invasive species spread from the movement of seeds or plant parts, often by people (intentionally or unintentionally), equipment, wind or water, and animals. Invasive species don’t have any regard for who owns the land they invade and can cross multiple property lines.
Public land managers will often work to control invasive species on the land they manage but run into challenges when invasive species spread onto private property. The same goes for private landowners who work to manage invasive species on their properties and find the weeds extend into their neighbor’s yard or publicly owned natural spaces.
With involvement of a CISMA or CWMA, all of these landowners can begin a conversation about management and find resources to help them tackle the control of invasive species. Often times the CISMA or CWMA can help educate landowners who aren’t even aware that the invasive species are present.
While CISMAs and CWMAs have many benefits and successes across Minnesota, there are also challenges facing them and their partners. Much of the funding for CISMAs and CWMAs comes from grants, and securing funding can be time consuming and often only short-term. And, unlike the Duluth CISMA, many groups do not have a dedicated coordinator. The job of organizing meetings, outreach and collaboration between partners must be juggled by many people who already have busy full-time jobs.
Thankfully, many agencies and partners across the state see the value in collaboration between land managers and recognize this as a successful way to manage the spread of invasive species.