National Management Plan: An Action Plan for the Nation - Education and Public Awareness

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[Executive Summary] | [Introduction] | [Survey of Federal Roles & Responsibilities] | [An Action Plan for the Nation] | [Conclusion] | [Appendices]

Action Plan:
Leadership | Prevention | Detection | Control | Restoration |
International | Research | Info Management | Education

How invasive species are viewed is filtered by human values and perceptions. We all have a stake in reducing the negative impacts of invasive species. The prevention and control of invasive species will require modifying behaviors, values, and beliefs and changing the way decisions are made. A successful plan to address invasive species issues will depend on the public's understanding and acceptance of the actions needed to protect our valuable resources. To that end, a wide variety of education, outreach, and training programs are needed to help motivate people to take action and raise awareness of the causes of establishment and consequences of invasive species.

The Order directs Federal agencies to promote public education and awareness on invasive species, as well as actions to minimize their impacts. While Federal agencies can play a key role in the development and support of education, outreach, and training programs for a wide variety of sectors, the actions that need to be taken to minimize the spread of invasive species are ultimately driven by the public. Public action (by individuals, businesses, organizations, local agencies, etc.) needs to be supported by and integrated with U.S. Government programs, within the United States and in other countries.

Because many people are unaware that their actions can result in the introduction and spread of invasive species, education and outreach programs constitute an important line of defense for prevention and control. In the long run, informing people of the actions they can take to reduce the threats posed by invasive species and to avoid contributing to the problem maybe more effective than passing laws or enforcing regulations. Once aware of invasive species and the options for their management, gardeners, boaters, fisherman, pet owners, etc. can take simple steps to reduce the likelihood that they will inadvertently spread invasive species while engaging in their favorite hobbies. For example, the spread of Eurasian water milfoil, hydrilla, and zebra mussels can be reduced with the proper cleaning of boats, fishing gear, and water sports equipment.

Effective communication is the cornerstone of effective action. Therefore, the Council agencies will work to ensure that the education, outreach, and training programs they develop and support will:
1) target the needs of specific audiences (resource managers, researchers, policy makers, hobbyists, business owners, etc); 2) reflect a sound understanding of what motivates people and how they respond to information; 3) clearly communicate the relationship between actions that facilitate or prevent invasions and human values (e.g., quality of life, biodiversity conservation); and 4) identify the wide range of actions that can be taken to minimize the spread of invasive species and enable people to take these actions, both domestically and internationally.

The Federal agencies recognize that many non-Federal stakeholders play important roles in the development and dissemination of information on invasive species. For example, land grant universities and other educational institutions, State departments of natural resources, State departments of agriculture, and civic and environmental organizations often have significant expertise in education and outreach relevant to natural resource issues. The Council hopes to engage these experts, as well as educators, public communicators, and trainers from a variety of disciplines, in the design and implementation of its programs.

The Federal agencies will have to meet certain resource challenges. Information needs to reach decision makers and program managers in a timely manner. Long-term funding, staffing, and an appropriate infrastructure need to be provided. To ensure that the current programmatic objectives are met and future needs are anticipated, the overall education, outreach, and training strategy must include a credible monitoring and evaluation process. The Council plans to support a wide variety of training programs that will enable individuals and organizations to minimize the spread of invasive species. Some of these programs are discussed in the other sections of the Plan.

Actions Planned

  1. By July 2001, the Council will coordinate development and implementation of a national public awareness campaign, emphasizing public and private partnerships. The campaign will be initiated after available resources are assessed and target audiences identified, and will include these actions:

    a. By December 2001, the Council will identify and evaluate existing public surveys of attitudes and understanding concerning invasive species issues, as well as develop and complete a public survey to fill the gaps in knowledge. These analyses will establish a baseline for determining the success of communications strategies. This will be accomplished by using knowledge gained through social science research and contracting with entities such as the National Environmental Education Training Foundation, which conducts an annual Roper survey of public opinions and understanding of environmental issues, or other appropriate organizations.

b. By January 2002, USDA and Interior, consulting with ANSTF and FICMNEW, and other State, local and tribal organizations, will compile a comprehensive assessment of current invasive species communications, education, and outreach programs. The assessment will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the major programs and identify new initiatives for reaching target audiences more effectively. The information will be disseminated through the Council's Web site.

c. By June 2002, the Department of Commerce's National Sea Grant Program and USDA will develop (in consultation with Interior and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) a model public awareness program that incorporates national, regional, State, and local level invasive species public education activities, including a plan for testing the model over the next year. The model will: 1) identify key messages, 2) identify the critical target audiences, accounting for the diversity of economic and social interests and backgrounds in the U.S., 3) determine which combination of delivery techniques works best and key actions stakeholders can take, 4) provide training and training materials, 5) provide for public and private partnerships (including support of school programs), 6) include measures for evaluating program effectiveness, 7) identify contacts for professional support, and 8) budget for implementation of new and ongoing programs.

  1. The Council will also coordinate development and implementation of an international education campaign, emphasizing the need to strengthen international policies by governments and voluntary codes of conduct by the industry sector. The campaign will initially focus on these actions:

a. By December 2001, the Council, in conjunction with GISP, will begin to develop a series of education materials (booklets, fact sheets, etc.) to guide organizations in development assistance, industry, international finance, and government sectors to write and implement "codes of conduct" for minimizing the risk of introduction and spread of invasive species. This information will not be limited to print, but will include broadcast media such at the radio and the Internet.

b. By June 2002, the Council, led by the Department of State, will co-host a series of regional workshops on invasive species for policy makers. The intent of the workshops is to raise awareness of the issue, as well as to identify regional needs, priorities, and opportunities for further cooperation. Co-hosts will include GISP and the governments of Brazil, Costa Rica, Denmark, New Zealand, and South Africa.

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