The following article was written by Kristopher Abell, Coordinator of the Pennsylvania Governor's Invasive Species Council, and was originally included in the Spring 2020 edition of the "Tracking Invasive Species with Pennsylvania iMapInvasives" newsletter.
Pictured above: Former Governor Ed Rendell. Credit: Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice
Invasive species have emerged over time as an important problem that affects our economy and environment. In 2004, Governor Ed Rendell issued Executive Order 2004-1 which established the Governor’s Invasive Species Council in Pennsylvania. The order stated that the purpose of forming the Council was to:
Advise the Governor on and direct the development and implementation of a state non-native invasive species management plan.
Provide guidance on prevention, control, and rapid response initiatives.
Facilitate coordination among federal, regional, state, and local efforts.
Governor Wolf recently re-established the Council by issuing a new Executive Order in 2017 (EO 2017-07). Currently, the Council is comprised of seven state agencies and 11 non-governmental organizations including:
Conservation & Natural Resources
Executive Directors of:
Fish & Boat Commission
Western Pennsylvania Conservancy
PennAg Industries Association
Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association
Pennsylvania Sea Grant
Pennsylvania Farm Bureau
Pennsylvania Land Management Society
Pennsylvania Association of Conservation Districts
The Pennsylvania State University
University of Pennsylvania
County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors
In July of 2019, the first full-time coordinator, Kristopher Abell, was hired to help guide and facilitate the work of the Council.
The Council holds quarterly meetings on the second Tuesday of March, June, September, and December. The Secretaries of state agencies typically appoint a designee to act on their behalf during quarterly meetings. The meetings are open to the public, and anyone with an interest in invasive species issues impacting Pennsylvania is encouraged to attend and participate.
The Council drafted the Commonwealth’s first invasive species management plan in 2009 – “Invaders in the Commonwealth: Pennsylvania Invasive Species Management Plan” – and a revised plan was released in 2016. By executive order, a revised management plan is due every five years.
The Council is currently working on four initiatives derived from the 2016 management plan. The first is the design, creation, and funding of a statewide invasive species management program. This program will be modeled after successful programs established in other states, primarily the Partnerships for Invasive Species Management (PRISM) program that exists in New York (state). In brief, this program would divide Pennsylvania into 6-8 regions that share similar invasive species concerns.
Each region will have a coordinator (paid for with state funds), and will be responsible for organizing partnerships between local government and non-governmental organizations. These partnerships are then responsible for determining their specific regional invasive species priorities and applying for state grants to manage these priorities.
Pictured above: Geographic boundaries of PRISMs in New York state.
The second Council initiative is to create an official invasive species list for Pennsylvania that covers all taxonomic groups, and to adopt an assessment protocol to determine priority ranking and inclusion of species on this list.
The third Council initiative is to utilize the internet to inform and engage the public about past accomplishments and current plans/activities the Council is engaged in to address the threat of invasive species in Pennsylvania.
The fourth Council initiative is to update the Aquatic Invasive Species Rapid Response Plan for Pennsylvania.
For more information about the Governor’s Invasive Species Council, please visit the Council’s webpage where you can learn about upcoming meetings, review past meeting minutes, read the Pennsylvania Invasive Species Management Plan, and more.
About the Author:
Kristopher Abell is the Coordinator for the Pennsylvania Governor’s Invasive Species Council. In addition to helping the Council achieve its current initiatives, Kris is working on several other invasive species projects including establishing a weed free forage and gravel certification program, phasing out the use of invasive phragmites in waste water treatment plants, participating on the ONE Health Task Force, and consulting on the Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee.
Kris holds a BS in Biology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, a MS in Ecology and Environmental Science from the University of Maine, Orono, and a PhD in Entomology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Kris has a love for the outdoors and a strong conservation ethic that fuels his work as Coordinator for the Council. You can contact Kris by email at email@example.com.