Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Exotic pest problems bug Texas

A couple of weeks ago I made an off-handed joke about the way our state government seems to ignore exotic pest problems like Formosan termites. It's true that it is too easy for all of us, not just state government, to ignore least until they become our own.

Excuses aside, I need to give our state legislators their due when it comes to exotic pests.

On November 13 and 14 last month I got to participate in the 3rd Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Conference held at Trinity University in San Antonio. The meeting was organized by a new group, the Texas Invasive Plant and Pest Council (TIPPC). At the meeting I learned that the 2009 Texas Legislature addressed the issue of exotic invading pests by passing HB 865, established the Texas Invasive Species Coordinating Committee. The committee is composed of representatives from the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Soil and Water Conservation Board, the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas Forest Service and the Texas Water Development Board. It is charged with coordinating state funding for invasive species-related projects. In addition, to just forming a committee the state also appropriated approximately $2.5 million to the exotic pest issue. Public education will be a priority for these funds, beginning with a $250K public education program targeting an important aquatic weed, giant salvinia, Salvinia minima, on four east Texas lakes.

It is yet to be seen whether any of this money will be directed toward exotic insect invasions, but at least its a start. For those of you in east Texas, especially boaters and bass fishermen, keep your eyes open for the Giant Salvinia Monster (TV spot) and the Hello/Goodbye campaign by Texas Parks and Wildlife. One ad design on this theme will be "Hello Giant Salvinia, Goodbye Fishing Hole", just to give you an idea.

For me, an eye-opener from attending this TIPPC meeting was learning more about exotic weed problems in the state. As campaigns to eradicate some of the newest invaders get started, it's conceivable that the pest control industry may be called on to help. Companies with an interest in weed control, and especially aquatic weed control, should stay tuned to the Texas Parks and Wildlife programs in this area.

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