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
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
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.
< Back to