Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Oregon Invasive Species Council—10 Years Old and Going Strong

The June 2012 meeting of the Oregon Invasive Species Council (OISC) in Madras brought back memories of the Council’s June 2002 meeting in Prineville. I dusted off the folder from that earlier meeting, the Council’s second after its creation, and compared the two agendas. It is amazing how similar they were. The Council has come a long way, but many of the thorny invasive species issues are still the same. Take a look: 

June 2002 OISC Agenda
June 2012 OISC Agenda
Day 1
8:30   Welcome & Introductions, Review of Agenda
Day 1
10:00   Introductions and Review Agenda
9:00   General Business, finances/bylaws committee                          
10:15   Committee Reports
10:00  Members’ Time, updates, concerns, reports
        Finance, Legislative, Science, Tunicate, Outreach
12:00  Lunch/Informal Discussion
12:00   Working Lunch – Hot Topics (Tsunami Debris,     
1:00   Invasive Spp Calendar, should we do it?
      Alyssum, Giant Hogweed, Sudden Oak Death,
2:00   Video Time (Alien Invaders, etc, bring your favorite)
      Gypsy Moth, Firewood Regulation)
4:00   Book/References, show & tell
4:30   Misc Business, pencils, aliens-l, logo, etc.

Day 2
8:30   Hot Topics
      Noxious Weeds in Central OR
      Aquatic Nusiance Spp. Mgmt Plan
      Wildlife Integrity Rules
      Monk Parakeets at PDX
      Raising Funds for Inv. Spp. Emergency Fund
      Sudden Oak Death
11:00   Public Input
11:30   Final Business
12:00   Tour/Box Lunches
      Feral Swine Damage (Crooked River NGL)
      Biological Control of Canada Thistle
5:00   Return and Adjourn
1:00-5:00 Feral Swine Tour (New Life Ranch)

Day 2
8:00   Council Housekeeping
8:15   Invasive Spp & Seaplanes
9:00   Biofouling Threats from Coastal Vessels
9:30   Ongoing Aquatic Inv. Spp. Projects
10:15 GMOs – Bentgrass in OR
Noon   Working Lunch – Hot Topics
1:00   Invasive Spp. Control Account – Request for Japanese          
      Beetle Eradication
1:30   Other Council Business
2:00   Adjourn             

Lots of topics that were discussed in 2002 are still current: e.g., feral swine, sudden oak death, and funding for emergency programs. In fact, only two major topics from that earlier meeting are truly out-of-date: the monk parakeet colonies at Portland International Airport have gone extinct and so haveVHS videos!

There are several new issues on the table in 2012, including biofouled tsnami debris, alyssum in Jackson County, seaplanes and firewood as invasive species vectors, and genetically modified organisms (GMO) bentgrass. All of these issues require interagency cooperation, so the four-part mission of the Council remains as relevant today as it was at the Council’s creation:

1) facilitate reporting of invasive species
2) educate the public
3) develop a coordinated statewide approach, and
4) raise funds and make grants for invasive species response programs.

The people involved have turned over quicker than the topics. Only three of us at the first meeting were also present at the second: Mark Systma (Portland State University), Kev Alexanian (Crook County Weed Department), and myself.

The enduring nature of the Council can provide continuity to long-term projects. Feral swine is a good example: Mark Systma raised the alarm on feral pigs 10 years ago. The Council then contracted with Dr. Bruce Coblenz (Oregon State University) to do a risk assessment. Justin Stevenson (US Department of Agriculture) took the warnings in the risk assessment to heart and started trapping and shooting. When Justin left, Jim Gores (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife), picked up the baton, and kept the control program going. Rick Boatner took over from Jim, and with a fundraising assist from Lisa DeBruyckere (OISC), we’re about to turn up the pressure on these porcine invaders.

Big projects like this require more than one person or one agency acting alone. The difficulty of the feral swine eradication project was highlighted for me by the rugged and remote terrain we saw on the field trip and the information that there have been four recent sightings of feral swine in the Willamette Valley (pig paradise).

True, we still have a feral swine problem a decade after the OISC first took up the topic, but there is reason for hope. We didn’t see feral swine on either the 2002 or 2012 field trip, just their damage. On the first tour, the drive was short and the damage was fresh. This year we drove a long way to see damage that was months old. That is a good sign. Pigs reproduce quickly, and Oregon provides excellent habitat, yet the populations are still small and isolated. Until recently, control efforts were local, but sufficient to keep the statewide population from getting out-of-hand. The upcoming tri-state Squeal on Pigs outreach campaign, facilitated by the OISC in Oregon, should provide the coordinated push needed to see this project over the finish line.

Happy 10th Birthday, OISC, you’re lookin’ good and going strong!  Keep up the good work, and let’s hope feral swine aren’t on the agenda for the 2022 OISC meeting.

Dan Hilburn

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