Public Reaction to Invasive Plant Species in a Disturbed Colorado Landscape

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Invasive Plant Science and Management

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Invasive plant species degrade ecosystems in many ways. Controlling invasive plants is costly for government agencies, businesses, and individuals. North central Colorado is currently experiencing large-scale disturbance, and millions of acres are vulnerable to invasion because of natural and socioeconomic processes. Mountain pine beetles typically endemic to this region have reached epidemic proportions, with up to 80% tree mortality, which opens growing space for invasive plants. In socioeconomic terms, the popularity of this amenity-rich region for tourists and in-migrants has resulted in increased development, often bordering the public land that is common in the American West. Increased recreational access and the construction of new roads and infrastructure disturb ecosystems in an increasingly fragmented landscape. A survey was mailed to more than 4,000 households in a five-county region of north central Colorado to gauge public awareness and attitudes regarding invasive plant species, helping to illuminate whether the public shows a capacity to help land managers detect and respond to invasive plants before they profoundly alter the local ecosystem. Although 88% of respondents had heard or read about invasive plant species, far fewer were familiar with specific, locally targeted species, and fewer still had taken any action to control these species. The overall awareness and concern about invasive plants in the area indicated a capacity for more public participation in management.

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