Massachusetts Invasive Plants Advisory Group

History of the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group (MIPAG)


Appended below is a synopsis of the history of the group for those who enjoy the complexities of consensus building:


February 23, 1999: The Massachusetts Ad Hoc Native Plant Advisory Committee, with the encouragement of the green industry, recruited broad-based support on the invasive plant issue by having a meeting of representatives of diverse interest groups. Attendees had the common goal of outreach and education, agreeing that the group should meet regularly to exchange ideas and points of view. Other goals were to promote alternatives to invasive species and promote research. A proposed goal was suggested: develop an action plan within two years, which would include a statewide list of invasive plants upon which can all agree. In order to accomplish the first step of this goal, a subcommittee was formed to develop scientifically based definitions and criteria to be used to evaluate plant species. A definition was presented that had been crafted by a committee working on the national level with representation similar to our group. We considered this as the basis for our definition. We decided this group should be a separate entity from the MA Ad Hoc Native Plant Advisory Committee, but under its auspices.


April 1999 - December 1999: The Definition and Criteria Subcommittee adopted (with some modifications) the definition presented in February. The definition read: invasive plants are "non-native species that have spread into native or minimally managed plant systems, causing economic or environmental harm by developing self-sustaining populations and becoming dominant and/or disruptive to those systems."


Several sets of criteria and ranking systems were reviewed. Dr. Les Mehrhoff, developer of the criteria in Connecticut, was asked to speak about his criteria. The group decided that it would use these criteria as the basis of the Massachusetts criteria. Several meetings were conducted to adapt the Connecticut criteria to meet the needs of our group. When done, a meeting was called of the larger group for approval.


January 18, 2000: The larger group, now referred to as the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Group (or Working Group), met to discuss the criteria and decide how to proceed. The group adopted the criteria with the stipulation that a clarifying preamble and definitions accompany them. A new subcommittee, the Plant Evaluation Subcommittee, was formed to undertake the process of evaluating the plants using the new criteria. Final results from this process were to be reported to the whole group. It was suggested that a land manager be found to serve on the committee.


Many attendees expressed an interest in meeting on native plant issues unrelated to the invasive plant issue, so it was decided to restart the "native plant" counterpart group, but possibly have it take a new identity. We discussed whether these two groups, native and invasive, should be separate entities. The sense of this group was that these two groups remain linked by an umbrella organization. (Note: when the native plant group met, it decided to be separate from the invasive group, not joined by an umbrella group, but keeping in close contact through common members.)


February 2000 - September 23, 2002: The Plant Evaluation Subcommittee decided that due to limited time and expertise an outside researcher was needed to collect the data, run the species through the criteria, and make recommendations on the status of each species. Les Mehrhoff, Curator of the George Safford Torrey Herbarium at the University of Connecticut, was invited to undertake this responsibility if sufficient funds could be acquired. To start the process, he obtained a grant from the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association and the Horticultural Research Institute. Additional funds from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs via the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife were secured for this research project. A list of 33 species of the most widespread aggressive plants where chosen to begin the evaluation process and six more species were later added. Voting procedures were agreed upon for important decisions, with each agency/organization entitled to one vote. A statement of organizing principles was adopted. Dr. Mehrhoff searched the literature, collected data from several herbaria and key organization's databases, and made recommendations to the Plant Evaluation Subcommittee on all 39 species. In the process, he realized that the criteria need modifications and the committee voted to adopt many of his recommended changes. The subcommittee voted on the recommendations for all 39 species and created an annotated Phase I list stating the agreed upon status for each species.


September 23, 2002
The Plant Evaluation Subcommittee brought its Phase I findings before the larger group. There was agreement among the attendees that the findings be circulated and made public. The group also agreed that the subcommittee be also considered the Steering Committee. This new role was to involve developing a Strategic Plan for the management of invasive plants in the Commonwealth.


October 2002 - May 2005
During this period, the active working group (or steering committee) changed its name to the "Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group." Two major undertakings were completed during this period. Phase I findings were circulated via the websites of the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association and the New England Wild Flower Society. Phase II evaluations including 46 species were undertaken and completed, assisted by funding from The Nature Conservancy and again with the assistance of Dr. Mehrhoff. By May of 2005 the document The Evaluation of Non-Native Plant Species for Invasiveness in Massachusetts which incorporated Phase I and Phase II evaluations was completed, and the document Strategic Recommendations for Managing Invasive Plants in Massachusetts was completed and sent to the Secretary of the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs.


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