Oakland County, Michigan adopts cooperative invasive species management area strategies

Oakland County CISMA creates innovative strategies to facilitate invasive species control across property boundaries.

In December of 2014, 19 partners in Oakland County signed a Memorandum of Understanding to create the Oakland County Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (OC CISMA). Nine townships, two cities, four county agencies, two land conservancies, and two nonprofits, including The Stewardship Network, are now collaborating to control invasive plants throughout Oakland County. Collectively, these partners committed $300,000 to control invasive plants in 2015. The OC CISMA leveraged that commitment to develop several innovative strategies for 2015; education and outreach, demonstration sites, government leadership to lower institutional barriers, and collaboration and funding from the road commission is enabling the OC CISMA to control invasive plants efficiently and cost-effectively in Oakland County.

The primary role of OC CISMA is helping local governmental authorities lead invasive plant control programs. These local government units may be homeowner associations, riparian owner lakefront associations, cities, or townships. Many local units initially focus on establishing treatment demonstration sites in high quality natural areas or highly visible locations. For example, the Deer Lake Riparian Owners Association and Waldon Creek Subdivision treated Phragmites at a private beach and wetland. Orion Township treated invasive plants in the Gingell Nature Preserve. The local units hire contractors, obtain MDEQ permits, and treat the invasive plants. Interpretive signage and extensive publicity explain the process of controlling the plants and the need to preserve the natural areas.

Extensive education and outreach involves town hall meetings and presentations. The intended audience is township trustees, garden clubs, and homeowner and lake associations. Demonstration workshops give landowners experience in small scale treatment techniques they could use at home. For example, Oakland Township sponsored a demonstration workshop at a township park focused on Phragmites. Participants were offered the purchase of a starter kit containing a chemical resistant bottle with non-toxic dye and a drip dispenser cap, chemical resistant gloves, labels, and instructions. The township provided glyphosate herbicide, and the OC CISMA presenter demonstrated how to safely mix the herbicide with water and treat Phragmites. Participants then cut and treated Phragmites in the park. Participants were allowed to keep the remaining bottle of pre-mixed herbicide they could use to treat their Phragmites at home. The township got many hours of volunteer service to help manage a local invasive problem. The participants received assistance from the township in the form of a bottle of herbicide and training so they could safely treat their Phragmites at home.

After successful experiences from demonstration sites and education/outreach, treatment programs are being expanded to cover entire lakefronts or townships. Invasive plants do not respect property boundaries. Therefore it is essential to collaborate across government and property lines. The OC CISMA recommends that townships and local landowner associations prequalify and hire a contractor to treat invasive species on their collective properties and obtain area-wide MDEQ permits to apply herbicide in standing water, where applicable.

Some of the townships within the OC CISMA contact residents with targeted invasive plants and offer them a free, no-obligation quote from the township contractor to treat their land. Upon approval by the landowner, the township contractor treats the land at the owner’s expense. With this strategy, landowners need not apply for permits, screen contractors to do work they don’t understand, or even be able to identify invasive plants. Residents get a volume discount from the contractor, because only one mobilization is required. Invasive plants are treated across property lines.

The Road Commission of Oakland County (RCOC) has allocated $75,000 County wide to help Townships cover the costs to treat invasive plants along county road right-of-ways (ROWs) in 2015. Townships and the RCOC have collaborated to streamline permit requirements for working in County right-of-ways eliminating current permit fees. The townships coordinate treatment on adjacent properties using a single contractor. The RCOC also gave small grants to some townships to help cover the costs of treating the County right-of-ways.

The OC CISMA is working to pioneer innovative strategies for controlling invasive plants across property lines through collaboration with public and private partnerships. Homeowners are not asked to learn to identify invasive plants and control methods, apply for permits, prequalifying contractors, or mix herbicides through this inclusive approach. Controlling invasive plants then becomes as easy for homeowners as contracting for trash disposal.

By enabling landowners and municipalities to treat invasive plants across property lines, and assisting in obtaining outside funding, property values are preserved; and natural areas, walking paths, and other local properties are restored. Local collaborative efforts through the OC CISMA are a successful strategy that helps Oakland County citizens control invasive plants efficiently and cost effectively.

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