Habitat & Conservation  |  03/08/2023

Reducing the Invasive Plant Superhighway, One Roadside at a Time


QF On the Landscape in Missouri

By Valarie Repp, Missouri Coordinating Invasive Species Biologist

When traveling down the road in Missouri, motorists see many interesting things out of their windshield. Missouri roadsides can attract attention, from cattle to century-old barns to prairie dock plants sending up their flowers. One item that deserves a particular spotlight but isn’t the most fun to observe is invasive plants. Unfortunately, invasives from sericea lespedeza to Callery pear are taking up residence more and more along right-of-ways. 

Conservation agencies have taken notice and started measurable steps to combat this problem. The Scenic Rivers Invasive Species Partnership (SRISP) was formed in 2018 to bring agencies together found in the Current River watershed in Southern Missouri. The SRISP strives to be a strong, cross-boundary public-private partnership that inventories, monitors, controls, and prevents the spread of invasive species. This organization is the first Cooperative Invasive Management Area formed in Missouri, making the SRISP the pioneer for the state. 

The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is a partnering organization with the SRISP.  To take advantage of the new partnership, MDC applied and received funds from the Landscape Scale Restoration (LSR) Grant to treat invasive species found along right-of-ways within the SRISP area. Since June, SRISP coordinator and coordinating invasive species biologist Valarie Repp has been targeting county roads within the Mahan’s Creek area. This area is designated as a top-tier priority area for MDC — it consists of valuable glade and woodland habitat, and its many small creeks and drainages feed into the Jack’s Fork and Current Rivers. Along with the SRISP, the Missouri Department of Transportation conducts invasive plant work along the major numbered highways and smaller lettered highways, making a connected network of treated roads within the area. 

What makes this project unique and special is not only the collaboration of many organizations but also the treatment method. The SRISP and the transportation department aren’t just blanket spraying the right-of-way; they’re carefully spot spraying by hand each invasive plant they find. This method helps reduce chemical use and leaves valuable native plants found on roadsides intact so they may flower and reseed areas left bare after the invasive plants are treated. Right-of-way can provide valuable habitat for pollinators, including monarchs, bees, and birds, so leaving these small patches as intact as possible is critical. With the grant slotted to last another two years, there will be plenty of opportunities to expand the treatment area to lessen the invasive plant superhighway in Missouri.

This story originally appeared in the 2023 Winter Issue of the Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Quail Forever member today!