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May Weed of the Month: Master Gardeners and Naturalists take action on Invasive Species

Conserving Minnesota’s natural resources can be complex. Fortunately, a network of Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists exist throughout the state to assist with invasive species education, identification, detection, and management. Both Master Naturalists and Master Gardeners are University of Minnesota Extension volunteers who receive location-specific training for Minnesota biomes. Trainees are enrolled in a 40-hour regionally tailored classroom and field course, followed by a capstone project. Volunteers pursue annual advanced training and typically report 40-50 hours of volunteer service ranging from outreach to stewardship projects.

The Master Gardener program currently has over 2,300 active volunteers who coordinate educational programs that highlight priority topics. Topics emphasize the importance of biodiversity by "promoting invasive species management and native species conservation and restoration in landscapes." Volunteers focus on outreach and specific gardening questions or issues that are determined to be important for each county jurisdiction that they serve. For example, Winona County Master Gardeners have been pivotal in outreach, detection, and identification of Oriental bittersweet infestations. They have also hosted workshops and events focusing on Oriental bittersweet identification and management.

The Master Naturalist program has trained over 3,500 volunteers who have performed 562,000 hours of volunteer service from 2005 to 2017. Curricula are created by instructors who focus on regional natural resources and invasive species concerns. For example, Rochester’s Master Naturalist Chapter has had great success implementing an invasive species management plan for Quarry Hills Nature Center. This chapter was awarded a significant grant through the Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program, and they coordinate volunteers for events such as surveys, outreach, and buckthorn removal with the common goal of improving quality of the parkland. As a result of the work performed by chapters throughout the state, the Minnesota Master Naturalist program was awarded the 2016 Carol Mortensen Invasive Species Management award for Team Achievement from the Minnesota Invasive Species Advisory Council.

Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists create a strong network of passionate and knowledgeable volunteers who educate residents about Minnesota ecosystems. They are extremely important for invasive species education, identification, management, and the preservation of the environment for future generations. Their knowledge and dedication significantly adds to the success of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture and the Minnesota Association of County Agricultural Inspectors efforts for statewide noxious weed management.


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