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Our town (Groton Massachusetts) formed a town committee a few months ago to concentrate on invasive species issues. Since we are new, we are trying to find our way and decide what exactly we should be doing. Obvious activities include public education, monitoring infestations, cataloging problem areas, and actually doing control operations in some cases.

I'd like to hear what other similar committees are doing, especially other formal municipal committees. It's different when you're part of town government as apposed to a private group. We have several of those already, but being part of the town makes some things possible, others more difficult.

For example, we're considering proposing that the town pay for the processes of one or two of us getting pesticide applicator licenses. In return, we'd do any pesticide applications as volunteers, with only the materials needing to be paid for. But what about insurance? Any experiences/advice out there about trying to get covered by the municiple insurance plan?

Any other advice from those that have been at this longer than we have? What worked? What didn't? What other municipalities have invasive species committees or similar that you know of? (I tried, but haven't found any)

  • I can't seem to find that. It would be good if you explained here what point you are trying to make, with a link as reference or background material. From the title I'm guessing this is the common argument that it's all nature and we should chill out and let whatever happen that is going to happen. If that's your point, please state it properly so that it can be properly responded to. – Olin Lathrop Dec 9 '15 at 23:44
  • I've never heard of an "Invasive Species" committee before, I think weed control usually falls under committees like, "Communities in Bloom" or "Parks and Beautification" and the like, it's interesting that you would have a committee devoted entirely to combating invasive species in your town. Are you only eliminating invasive species in town? I can't really see you being allowed to operate outside of the municipal limits, Councils don't typically approve the expenditure of tax dollars outside their realm of authority. – ShemSeger Dec 10 '15 at 5:41
  • @Shem: Many invasive species infestations are too large and entrenched to remove reasonably, and would re-invade quickly anyway. Most of our activities will probably be public education, keeping a database, and letting the various groups already doing this work know what each other are doing. Since mitigation work will be done largely by volunteers, actual expenditure is mostly supplies. Several land owners are addressing this individually, and would probably welcome additional volunteer help. We'll start on public land, but ultimately you have to take a whole-ecosystem view. – Olin Lathrop Dec 10 '15 at 18:53
  • @olin, you're gong to run into road blocks operating as a town committee if you want to take a whole-ecosystem view. Someone you should get in contact with if you haven't already is the The County of Middlesex Area Weed Inspector, who is apparently also the Municipal Weed Inspector for your town. Check out Forestry and Natural Herritage. He would have the information you need about taking your operation ecosystem wide. – ShemSeger Dec 10 '15 at 19:04
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The people to talk to are in your municipal office. Administration are the ones who deal with all that stuff. If you were to take your proposal to a Town Council meeting as a delegation and ask these questions there, I can pretty much guarantee that Council would differ to Administration for the answers, who in turn would likely tell Council that they will look into it and get back to them. After Administration provides Council with all the necessary details (budget, legality, liability, policy, bylaw), they would then take the matter to resolution and vote on whether or not to grant you the funds and or enact a new policy which would cover you under their insurance. Ultimately the decision is made by Council, if they decide they want to accommodate you, then they can likely make it happen.

The smartest thing to do would be to go to your Town office, and ask about your local bylaws and policies, Administration will be able to tell you what your best course of action would be. They could help you first of all by letting you know if it's at all a possibility, and if it is they'll help you write out a request for action which can be added to the agenda for the next regular meeting of Council.

You should have a member of Council who is assigned to your committee and attends your regular meetings. They're the ones that are supposed to be reporting back to Council and making requests such as this on behalf of your committee. Just last night we had a Councillor request an additional $10,000 for one of the Committees he's on, and they're gunna get it.

I actually just started a new job this year in government administration in a town in Alberta, everything we do in administration is dictated by the Municipal Government Act of the Province of Alberta (MGA), your local government is likely also regulated by such an act, so the process may be a bit different down there, but your town office is still the place to start.

A few recommendations for your committee: if you don't have one already you should try get a botanist on the committee, as well as someone who works for Parks, either with the Town, County or even the State. At the very least you should have a liaison who works for the State or National Parks. These people would be valuable assets.

EDIT

I just talked to one of my co-workers who is on the Communities in Bloom committee here. She said for the most part what they do in regards to invasive species is education, they have representatives from weed control companies contracted by the Province do information sessions and distribute booklets on invasive plants to the community, she showed us the ones we have for distribution in the office (see Invasive Plants of the Crown of the Continent, and Alberta Invasive Plants Identification Guide). There's also the Alberta Invasive Species Council, who are undoubtedly an invaluable resource. If you haven't already you should contact the Massachusetts Invasive Plant Advisory Group.

As far as using commercial chemicals, only Town employees are permitted to spray here, residents are encouraged to use retail products to control weeds. But the biggest piece is education so residents can identify invasive plants, as many people can't distinguish between a pretty flower and a noxious weed.

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    We had a meeting last night and formally decided to propose the applicator license thing to the town. It's a small town, and most people in town government and on volunteer committees know each other. I know how to proceed, which in this case is have a chat with the town manager. I was more wondering if anyone had been thru a similar process, discovered pitfalls, etc. We do have a botanist on the committee. We hope to get most things done with volunteer labor. That's generally how things like this are done in this town. We are volunteers too. – Olin Lathrop Dec 10 '15 at 12:10
  • @Olin The equivalent to a Town Manager in Alberta is called the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). They are the ones who know the logistical side of government. You're right on track, just have a talk with your Town Manager and he'll be able to tell you what your options are for proceeding. – ShemSeger Dec 10 '15 at 17:08
  • @Olin, I talked to a member of our Communities in Bloom Committee, and added some details to my answer. – ShemSeger Dec 10 '15 at 17:43

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