Monday, September 8, 2014

Management Minute - Six Steps to Developing A Management Plan

Aquatic invasive plants can be a MAJOR headache for resource managers, homeowners, recreational users, government officials, and many others. So YOU'VE got invasive or nuisance aquatic plants in your lake, pond, river, bath tub, etc..... what next?  The nature of the problem might lead one to believe that there might be a universal, one sized fits all approach to management of aquatic plants.... but that couldn't be further from the truth.   Read on and we'll tell you the appropriate steps to tackle some of the toughest jobs in aquatic plant management.

Step 1.)  Prevention
Although painfully obvious, the best and most effective step towards ensuring the use and stability of your water resources is to PREVENT invasive aquatic plants from getting there in the first place! Most invasive aquatic plants are introduced to a water body as a result of human activity and introductions most often occur when invasive plants are transported on boats, watercraft and boat trailers. Prevention activities can include such things as signage at boat launches, community forums, and other educational programs.

The second half of prevention is the development of an early detection and rapid response program that would be in place should an infestation occur.  Plan ahead and be prepared!  New, small infestations are much easier to deal with than those "rooted" in after years of unnoticed residence.

Step 2.)  ID is Key!
So you've already got a problem.... We guessed that might be the case.  Make sure you correctly identify and assess the problem  before taking any further steps!  Too many early management plans were foiled due to an improper identification and assessment of the problem plant.  Start by acquiring information about the plant, such as baseline maps and data on plant distribution, and identify groups or stakeholders that should have input on developing a problem statement. A specific problem statement should be developed using your problem assessment to aid in refining the concernsof users and the nature of the problem.

Step 3.)  Management
Now that you've identified your enemy, assessed its advance, and gained stakeholder involvement, it is time for management implementation!  Management is sometimes poorly implemented, particularly when volunteers are the sole entity leading the project. Your goals should be good planning and management of assets, including financial resources, establishing partnerships, recruiting volunteers and adequate use of other personnel. Detailed records of expenses must be maintained, particularly if the project is funded by government dollars.  Whatever your management plan entails, make sure to keep good records for future review. Don't forget either that an adaptive management strategy may call for changes down the road so good reporting will come in handy.

Step 4.)  Monitor, Monitor, Monitor
As management proceeds, make sure you do a thorough job of tracking successes, failures, and changes in your management plan.  Continually assess the extent of your problem plant to serve in case   Although collecting data on your "target" is important, consider monitoring other biological communities to check for impacts from management or the target plant itself.  Make sure that your monitoring is quantifiable!  Avoid using subjective estimates for assessing the situation.  Look into accepted methodologies in aquatic plant survey and monitoring found here.

Step 5.)  Education, Extension, and Outreach
Although not apparent to some, extension and outreach can save a manager hours, if not days of headache during the implementation of a management plan.  Keeping stakeholders informed of management activities and educating them on the need for such management will greatly aid in understanding and potentially even support from the general public.  Educating those who are most affected by the given situation can help you reach consensus among the stakeholder group and efficiently implement management in a timely fashion.  Neglecting extension and outreach efforts often leads to confusion, stalled efforts, and lots of time and funding wasted.

Step 6.)  Evaluation of Management
No management plan is complete without adequate evaluation of efforts.  Unfortunately, evaluation of management techniques and programs is typically lacking, even in large-scale management programs. A quantitative assessment should be made to determine the effectiveness
of weed management activities, identify environmental impacts (both positive and negative) of
management activities, providing economic cost of management and addressing stakeholder satisfaction.  Not only does proper evaluation serve the initial management plan, but it can also provide a framework for others around the Nation with similar problems.  Often finding out what worked, and learning from what didn't work, can save others precious time and resources in future management.

Although brief, we hope that these six steps provided you with the basic framework for developing a management plan, should one be needed.  Remember that prevention is the answer to avoiding costly invasions from problem aquatic plants, but adhering to these steps can help you make sound decisions should the need arise.

This blog posting was adapted from Appendix D:  Developing a Lake Management Plan by Dr. John Madsen in our Best Management Practices Handbook.  Check it out for a more in depth look into adequate development of a management plan.

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Stay tuned for more of the latest in aquatic plant management, science, and innovation!

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