TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is moving forward with implementing a variety of enhancements to the agency’s Aquatic Plant Management Program. FWC staff recently completed a series of listening sessions that provided the public with an opportunity to provide feedback about management activities on Florida waterbodies with a focus on invasive plant management. Based on the input provided at these meetings, the FWC will begin implementing a number of improvements including:
- Accelerating the development of habitat management plans for individual lakes.
- Forming a Technical Assistance Group consisting of staff, partners and stakeholders.
- Improving the timing of herbicide-based invasive aquatic plant treatments.
- Exploring ways to better integrate and increase the strategic use of mechanical aquatic plant harvesting.
- Exploring new methods and technologies to oversee and increase accountability of aquatic plant control contractors.
- Developing pilot projects to explore better integrated plant management tools.
- Improving agency communication regarding plant management activities.
As discussed at the FWC Commission meeting on Feb. 21, in Gainesville, it was worthwhile to temporarily pause aquatic herbicide treatments while the public meetings were in progress. Now the meetings have concluded, it is essential for the FWC to resume its aquatic plant management program and to implement enhancements identified by the public. The FWC uses an integrated plant management approach that includes chemical, mechanical, biological and physical methods to control invasive plant species.
Research and decades of experience show that chemical control, using herbicides approved for use in aquatic systems, achieves the best results for addressing many of Florida’s toughest invasive plant infestations such as water hyacinths and hydrilla. However, many participants in the meetings encouraged the FWC to manage waterbodies in ways that would reduce the use of herbicides. Therefore, the FWC is re-committing to employing methods that minimize the quantity of herbicides needed to achieve the desired level of control.
“During the listening sessions we heard a diversity of concerns and opinions. Waterfront property owners, boaters and community officials stressed how important it is for the FWC to quickly resume control of the worst plants such as hydrilla before they grow to a point that makes lakes virtually unusable,” said Kipp Frohlich, Director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation.
“We also heard from anglers and waterfowl hunters that some hydrilla can be beneficial. Finding the balance, that manages a system in a way that pleases all the diverse user groups of Florida’s lakes, is very difficult. Nevertheless, we are committed to continue our work with stakeholders to better understand their needs and strive to manage our aquatic resources in ways that benefit the greatest number of people,” said Frohlich.
While the listening tour has ended, the FWC continues to welcome suggestions from stakeholders. People can provide comments by emailing InvasivePlants@MyFWC.com.
For more details on aquatic plant management visit MyFWC.com/AquaticPlants.
–Carli Segelson, FWC