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For more than 85 years, the Institute of Government has worked with public officials throughout Georgia and around the world to improve governance and people's lives. From Georgia's early days as a largely agrarian state with a modest population to its modern-day status as a national and international force in business, industry, and politics with a population of almost 10 million, the Institute has helped government leaders navigate change and forge strong directions for a better Georgia.

Institute of Government Contributes to Strategy to Combat Invasive Species

Posted March 4, 2009
Contact: Roger Nielsen, nielsen@uga.edu; 706.542.2524

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources (DNR) turned to the experts in the Institute of Government's Environmental Policy Program to compile and draft a Georgia Invasive Species Strategy. The Strategy identifies and establishes guidelines for managing the negative effects of harmful, nonnative species in the state.

Georgia, with its forests, mountains, coastal waterways, barrier islands, lowland swamps, and rolling hills, is the sixth most biologically diverse state in the country. However, alongside thousands of native species exist a host of non-native plant, animal, and microbial organisms with the potential to become invasive and disrupt local ecosystems.

One of the most visible of these is Kudzu, the semiwoody vine originally from Asia capable of reaching lengths of over 100 feet. Kudzu covers land throughout the Southeast, in rural and urban areas alike. It exacts a high price in land productivity and control costs, estimated at $500 million per year.

"DNR, and many other state and federal agencies, consider invasive species to be a major threat to biodiversity and a source of economic losses and environmental damage," said Margaret Myszewski, Institute of Government researcher and writer of the strategy. "Developing a means to coordinate invasive species monitoring and control efforts throughout the state was one of the important conservation goals of Georgia's Wildlife Action Plan."

To meet this challenge, DNR convened the Georgia Invasive Species Advisory Committee, representing some 30 public agencies and nongovernmental organizations, to oversee the creation of the strategy. DNR also contracted with the Institute of Government to research and write the document.

The Georgia Invasive Species Strategy final draft summarizes current efforts to combat invaders, identifies gaps in existing programs, and recommends improvements. It identifies 188 species considered invasive and harmful—107 animals, 51 plants, and 30 disease-causing organisms. The strategy also outlines ways to prevent the further influx of new invasive organisms.

The next step for the state following the completion of the strategy will be formation of a Georgia Invasive Species Council. This interagency group, composed of representatives from all state agencies involved in invasive species management, will provide broad coordination and support for invasive species management and research programs. The Council will advise state agencies on prevention and control of invasive species, provide a forum for discussion of invasive species issues and policies, and facilitate development of a coordinated network among state agencies to document, evaluate, and monitor the effects of invasive species.

DNR also contracted with the Institute of Government to develop a Georgia Aquatic Nuisance Species Management Plan, a similar endeavor related solely to species in water environments. This plan is currently under review with the federal Aquatic Nuisance Species Task Force.

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