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Task force will tackle invasive plants

Submitted by Doreen Fitzgerald
Phone: 474-5042

02/14/08

Invasive plants march across landscapes throughout the world, and neither Alaska nor its university campuses are exempt from these aliens. As unwelcome plants spring up throughout the state, groups are forming to combat their spread and prevent new introductions.

At the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the first planning meeting to form a UAF Invasive Plant Task Force will take place on Tuesday, February 26, from 5:30-7 p.m. in room 102 of the University Park Building, 1000 University Ave. There will be an opportunity for public input and comment on how the task force might function and on developing a campus action plan for invasive plants.

Because these aliens can often crowd out native species, the task force should be of particular interest to gardeners, homeowners, people concerned with local environmental protection, transportation project engineers, and at the university, staff from Facilities Services, the Fairbanks Experiment Farm, and faculty in natural resources. Meeting organizers aim to increase public awareness of the invasive plant problem; determine issues of concern to the UAF and Fairbanks communities; and solicit ideas and volunteers to form the local task force.

"We also want to identify ways volunteers can become involved, whether or not they become task force members," said Michele Hebert, land resources agent with the Cooperative Extension Service. "Even though this is the first meeting, we can sign up people who have specific interests, such as pulling weeds, educating others, and participating in surveys, even though they may not be interested in serving on the task force itself."

"Although our problem is relatively small compared to other states, some really nasty invaders have recently been documented in or near Alaska," said Tricia Wurtz, ecologist and Invasive Plant Program coordinator with the US Forest Service in Fairbanks. "These include widespread Canada thistle in Anchorage, the Mat-Su, and the Haines area; purple loosestrife growing in the wild in the Anchorage bowl; and leafy spurge found near Dawson City, Yukon. In and around Fairbanks, including the campus, the most well known invasive plant is the purple-flowering bird vetch, or Vicia cracca, which has been spreading on roadsides and power line rights-of-way, and several other invasive plants are known to occur on the campus."

The UAF meeting is sponsored by the School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, the Cooperative Extension Service, and the U.S. Forest Service. It will be facilitated by students in Susan Todd's natural resource planning course. The evening will begin with a short presentation on invasive species in Alaska by weed scientist Jeff Conn or the Agricultural Research Service of the US Department of Agriculture.

CONTACT: Doreen Fitzgerald, information officer, School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences, 907-474-5042 or fndlf2@uaf.edu