A consortium of state and federal agencies, along with several private organizations in Tennessee, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding as part of an ongoing effort to safeguard the state’s resources from the potential impact of the most threatening non-native invasive plants.

The MOU establishes a clear path for a strategic plan to be developed, pooling resources to prevent these species from getting a foothold in Tennessee. In addition, the MOU outlines the provision for a public information point source and a citizen reporting system if these species are detected.

Those signing the MOU include the U.S. Department Of Agriculture (Forest Service — Cherokee National Forest, Natural Resources Conservation Service and Farm Service Agency); the U.S. Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife and National Park Services; the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Tennessee Valley Authority; the Tennessee departments of Agriculture, Environment and Conservation and Transportation, as well as the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency; University of Tennessee Extension; the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council; and Invasive Plant Control, Inc.

“A Memorandum of Understanding signed by these various agency and organization leaders creates an avenue for cooperative efforts of control to be taken,” said Environment and Conservation Commissioner Jim Fyke. “I am pleased these agencies have formed a partnership that will improve our ability to protect our natural resources.”

While there are ongoing actions to eradicate or control well-established invasives such as kudzu and bush honeysuckle, other menacing invasive plants are potential serious threats to agriculture, forestry and native ecosystems. One such species is cogongrass (Imperata cylindrica), a perennial grass native to portions of Asia and Africa, among other areas. A 2003 survey indicated that cogongrass has overtaken more acreage in parts of the Southeast than the notorious kudzu. Tennessee is joining other states such as Alabama and Mississippi to attempt to eradicate this difficult-to-control species.

“Cogongrass is creeping its way to Tennessee from states to the south and ranks in the top 10 of the world’s worst weeds,” added Terri Hogan, president of the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plant Council. “It is a plant that could quickly impact the state’s environment and economy, and the time to act is now — before it gets established here.”

Through this agreement, federal and state agencies will establish a cooperative weed management area, which includes the entire state of Tennessee and addresses:

• Early detection, rapid response and prevention of the introduction and spread of cogongrass and other invasive plant species;

• Public education, detection, monitoring and methods of control;

• Working cooperatively to educate, train and share technology between partners and the general public about invasive plants; and

• The establishment of a steering committee to coordinate the activities related to the MOU.

For more information about the MOU, including additional details and photos of these invasive threats, please visit www.tninvasives.org. For additional information about Environment and Conservation’s Resource Management Division, please visit www.tn.gov/environment/na.