GIVE THEM THE AXE: COLLABORATING WITH COUNTY GOVERNMENT TO CONTROL INVASIVE TREES
W. Lester, UF/IFAS Extension, Hernando County, Brooksville, FL. and S.F. Enloe, UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants, Gainesville, FL.
Situation: The invasive trees Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) and lead tree (Leucaena leucocephala) pose a serious threat to natural ecosystems in the Nature Coast region of Florida. In response to this situation, the Hernando County Board of County Commissioners instituted an ordinance requiring homeowners to remove these trees from their property. The UF/IFAS Extension office in Hernando County was asked by county officials to assist with the creation of educational materials to inform residents of the new ordinance and to train local tree removal professionals on the most current, science-based methods of removing these invasive trees. A survey was performed by the county which identified 450 specific locations infested with these trees, which cover approximately 4.5 acres. Since the implementation of the ordinance more locations have been identified in various parts of the county. Methods: Educational materials that include three fact sheets, two videos and an informational brochure were created by the agent with help from Hernando County government employees and Dr. Stephen Enloe with the UF/IFAS Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants. Two workshops for residents in affected areas of the county were held, along with five training classes for local professional tree removal services. Results: To date 70 residents have been taught directly on the ordinance and the science behind its development, along with 15 Hernando County Master Gardeners and 25 employees of local tree removal services, county government and Hernando County Code Enforcement. Conclusion: Hernando County Department of Public Works will be removing all of these trees from public property beginning in spring of 2016 and, based on communications with local tree services, many property owners have begun the removal process also. County Extension can play a valuable role in assisting local governments with projects such as invasive tree removal by providing the most up to date information on the situation and educating residents and professionals.
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