Students to learn about invasive exotic plants

St. Augustine Record
Tuesday, July 13, 2010

SCA engages youth in 4-week summer project

PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council has awarded a grant to the Friends of the Reserve on behalf of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve (GTM NERR). The grant will assist the Student Conservation Association (SCA) in educating inner-city, low-income students during a four-week summer project on invasive exotic plants.

“The GTM NERR is committed to an aggressive approach to controlling Brazilian pepper and other invasive plants, a project where working hand in hand with public and private partners to combine resources is essential to accomplish the work,” said GTM NERR stewardship coordinator Forrest Penny. “SCA continues to be a valuable partner in efforts to eradicate invasive plants locally, allowing local high school students to gain valuable field experience in resource management, while enhancing the reserve’s capacity to accomplish its goals.”

The summer project will bring 12 high school students to St. Johns County to receive education and training on invasive plants and their impacts on the environment, natural habitats and eradication methods. Students will assist staff and volunteers in various resource management projects, including eradicating strands of Brazilian pepper, or other common invasive plants, found on lands within the management boundaries of the 73,352 acreage of the GTM Research Reserve. The grant will assist with transportation costs for the students and two SCA staff and will purchase some tools and safety gear as well as educational information on invasive plants and their damage to the environment.

The Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council was formed in 1984. Its mission is to support the management of invasive exotic plants in Florida’s natural areas by providing a forum for the exchange of scientific, educational, and technical information. The council’s primary goals are to increase public awareness of the significant threat that exotic invasive plants pose to native species, communities and ecosystems and to develop integrated management and control strategies to prevent their spread in natural areas. To expand awareness, FLEPPC publishes a biennially updated list of invasive plants, holds an annual professional symposium, hosts an informative website that houses a database of exotic pest plants, and publishes the quarterly magazine “Wildland Weeds.” It also directs the work of nine task forces targeting specific invasive plant threats and sponsors annual research and education grants related to invasive exotic plants.

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