by Dean John Hammel
“Invasive species” . . .
It sounds like a theme from some science fiction thriller.
For Idaho and the nation, however, fiction is reality. While some plant and animal invaders seem quite common to us here in Idaho, some exotic species were purposely introduced to this country as pets and attractive plants—without any knowledge of or concern about impacts of introduced species on native animals and vegetation.
Kudzu is a good example, with its large leaves and aromatic blossoms. It was first introduced into the U.S. in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia by the Japanese. During the 1930s, the Soil Conservation Service promoted it for erosion control. Today, kudzu has claimed millions of acres of land in the Southeast, killing native plants by smothering or girdling. It also covers entire buildings and landscapes. It is now known as “the vine that ate the South.”
With the advent of rapid global transportation, alien plant and animal species are inadvertently introduced into the U.S. and throughout the country as hitchhikers on transport vehicles and on imported foods and equipment, or even deliberately, by us, with the best of intentions.
Without their natural competitors, they proliferate unchecked across our agriculture production regions, our pristine recreation areas, and throughout the nation’s public and private cattle-grazing lands. Our cover story might even be titled “Invaders from Hell.”
We outline the scope of the problem, the economic impact, and steps being taken to control and eradicate them.
Efforts to understand and control invasive species require teamwork. The UI College of Agricultural and Life Sciences works in partnership with federal, state, county, and tribal agencies, and with the UI College of Natural Resources, to provide a multi-agency, interdisciplinary front in battling invasive species in Idaho lands and waters. Our stories document both struggles and wins.
But much remains to be done. We all need to help—our young people, citizen volunteers, all of us. Key partnerships are critical to CALS, Idaho, our nation in finding solutions to prevent, control, and eradicate invasive species. We hope this issue demonstrates how, through partnerships and teamwork, we in CALS continue to address critical issues facing the people of Idaho.