Obstacles to Community Participation in Reporting Pest-Related Tree Damage
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For our Environmental Science and Policy Capstone project at the University of Maryland, we were assigned a Montgomery County Parks project. The goals of this capstone project were to inspire and increase community involvement to report invasive insect and disease pests and to inform residents about invasive tree pests, particularly educating residents on how to find and identify potential invasive pests. The hope was to decrease the spread of pests and protect the parks’ biodiversity and, while saving the Parks Department money on future mitigation practices. To achieve these goals, the team reviewed current communication strategies for reporting invasive tree pests to Parks and identified obstacles to reporting. This report recommends three approaches. First, develop effective venues to inform and engage the public in detecting and reporting invasive pests. The second product is potential reporting methods. Finally, the report examines messaging examples that will help accomplish the goals. The team’s findings, based on literature reviews, interviews, and surveys, overwhelmingly indicate that while almost all park officials and Master Gardeners believe that public engagement is important in stopping the spread of invasive species, they believe the three main reasons people don’t report infestations are apathy, ignorance, and not knowing how to report infestations. The team determined that the most successful reporting methods are phone applications and email hotlines. While the team doesn’t have the resources to create a phone application, we advertised the Parks’ tree incident email hotline as a way to report infestations. Lastly, the team created educational visuals in the form of “wanted posters,” a fun and engaging way the Parks Department can inform the public about two invasive pests and diseases. These one page visuals can be printed as fliers or posters, and placed in schools, grocery stores, parks, and other locations. It can also be posted on the Montgomery County Parks website, or shared on their social media pages to educate more people. Our research led to recommendations that can help control the spread of invasive species in the future. The first recommendation is to educate the public about invasive species by creating fliers or informational pamphlets. The next recommendation is to invest more time educating Master Gardeners and Weed Warriors in spotting and reporting invasive species. Based on findings that phone applications are the most successful reporting methods the final recommendation is that County Parks develop a phone app that can be used to map and report infestations. Overall, the team’s research was successful and, while stopping the spread of invasives completely may be impossible, we believe that this research and recommendations will help Montgomery County Parks better manage invasive species damage.
Final project for ENSP400: Environmental Science and Policy Capstone (Spring 2018). University of Maryland, College Park.