Monday, June 25, 2001

Spurgefest II Deemed A Success
By Steve Merritt for the MSU News Service

Contact: Steve Merritt (406-433-9440; smerritt@sidney.ars.usda.gov)

MEDORA, N.D. – TEAM Leafy Spurgeís "Spurgefest II," held June 19-21 in Medora, N.D., went off without a hitch, with both planners and participants describing the event an overwhelming success.

"Itís a great feeling to look back and realize how much was accomplished in three short days," said Gerry Anderson, an ecologist with the USDA-ARS Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, Mt., and co-principal investigator of the TEAM Leafy Spurge program. "When you consider the diverse cross-section of people that attended, the level of interest they brought to the event, and the amount of information they left with – well, itís really pretty incredible."

A follow-up to the equally successful "Spurgefest í99," also held in Medora, "Spurgefest II" was attended by nearly 300 ranchers, landowners, land managers, and representatives from numerous local, state and federal organizations and agencies. The three-day event featured a TEAM Leafy Spurge symposium, tours of biologically based integrated pest management (IPM) research and demonstration sites, a hands-on flea beetle collection demonstration, and a leafy spurge flea beetle distribution.

The most satisfying highlight for TEAM Leafy Spurge program coordinator Chad Prosser was getting a chance to hear from ranchers who attending Spurgefest í99, were impressed with what they saw and learned, then "went home and started their own biologically based IPM programs."

"I talked with several people who got their first flea beetles at Spurgefest í99, and most of them already have established populations theyíve been collecting from," he said. "Some of these guys have been fighting leafy spurge for 30 or 40 years without much success, and seeing how excited they are after just two years of biologically based IPM really makes our efforts worthwhile."

Lori Williams, executive director of the National Invasive Species Council, said the TEAM Leafy Spurge program and events like Spurgefest provide great examples of bringing federal, state and local interests together in a united effort to battle invasive weeds.

When the council was created by Executive Order 13112 in February of 1999, she said, there were "at least" 22 federal agencies with invasive weed programs.

But there was no coordination, no plan, no real effort to get all of these agencies working together with state and local groups," she said. "This program is serving as a model and showing how coordination can help reduce the impact of invasive species."

The roster of participants backs Williamsí assessment up. The event drew participants from 11 different states and two Canadian provinces, including two state department of agriculture commissioners and representatives from a multitude of local, state and federal groups and agencies.

And planners saved the best for last. After the symposium, tours and demonstrations, the event concluded with the distribution of more than three million flea beetles to ranchers, landowners and land managers from around the region. More than 300,000 flea beetles were given to two Canadian provinces, with state agencies from Iowa, Idaho and Nebraska also getting into the act.

California was also represented by Baldo Villegas, an entomologist with the California Department of Food & Agriculture, who left with enough information and flea beetles to start the stateís first leafy spurge biocontrol program.

TEAM Leafy Spurge is a five-year IPM research and demonstration project funded and led by the USDA-ARS in partnership with the USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service. Itís goal is providing landowners and land managers with proven leafy spurge control techniques based on IPM strategies.

Sponsors for Spurgefest II include the USDA-ARS, USDA-APHIS, Theodore Roosevelt National Park/National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the BASF Corporation and Dow Agrisciences Corporation.

For additional information on TEAM Leafy Spurge, leafy spurge biocontrol or Integrated Pest Management, see the TEAM Leafy Spurge website at www.team.ars.usda.gov/ or send an e-mail to teamls@sidney.ars.usda.gov

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