Managing Invasive Plants: Concepts, Principles, and Practices link

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
America's National Wildlife Refuge System

MANAGING INVASIVE PLANTS: Concepts, Principles, and Practices

Print  Click here to print this page  | Text Size: A A A
MIP Home | Contact Us 


Plans for Managing Invasive Plants

Components of Plans

A broad spectrum of management plans for invasive plants has been developed by land management agencies and organizations. The need for developing a plan and its content are influenced by management directives, land management goals, laws and policies, stakeholders' interests, assessment of current vegetation conditions, and many other considerations. Plans can be developed not only for detailing control strategies but also for prevention, early detection, and restoration strategies.

Stand-alone plans for managing invasive plants in the Refuge System are not required, but in some cases such plans may be advantageous. Whether developing a stand-alone plan or incorporating invasive plant management strategies into a larger planning document, specific components are commonly addressed and described.

Two key components in a plan are


Land management goals (e.g., to provide conditions necessary to maximize breeding populations of shrub-nesting Neotropical migratory birds in riparian habitats)


Measurable invasive plant management objectives (e.g., to restore 50 hectares per year of dense [60-100 percent canopy closure] willow in patches >0.5 hectare and >10 meters wide to connect existing willow patches by reducing saltcedar cover to 25%, to provide nesting habitat for Neotropical migratory birds)


"Goals and objectives are the unifying elements of successful refuge management. They identify and focus management priorities, provide a context for resolving issues, guide specific projects, provide rationale for decisions, and offer a defensible link among management actions, refuge purpose(s), Service policy, and the National Wildlife Refuge System (Refuge System) mission." USFWS 2004

A plan for managing invasive plants commonly includes the following components. Components can be added, modified, and arranged to best suit a project's purposes and needs. For example, information could be added that describes how volunteers may be incorporated into an awareness and outreach project aimed at watercraft users.

Components of Plans for Managing Invasive Plants


  • describes purpose of the plan and need for action

Background information

  • describes the affected environment (environmental/ecological conditions), stakeholders, historic/current land use, etc.

Land management goals

  • describes land use and desired conditions (based on guiding management documents)
  • introduces factors currently or potentially interfering with goals (i.e., invasive plants)

Assessment of existing conditions

  • presents results and describes methods by which information about existing conditions (i.e., invasive plant populations and natural resources) is gathered and evaluated to (1) develop proactive prevention and early detection rapid response strategies for newly invading populations and (2) prioritize management of existing populations

Management strategies and control options

  • describes selected management strategies and control options for invasive plant populations/infested areas, and uninfested areas: prevention, early detection, control (eradication, suppression, containment), restoration

Invasive plant management objectives

  • describes measurable objectives that must be met in order to reach desired conditions (i.e., conditions consistent with land management goals)

Management methods

  • describes the selected methods by which objectives are to be achieved (e.g., specific treatments such as herbicide rate and timing combined with prescribed grazing frequency, intensity, and timing)


  • outlines monitoring objectives and protocols for measuring effectiveness of management actions in achieving invasive plant management objectives


  • outlines available budget, personnel, equipment, and other resources, and timeline or action plan (who will do what when)

Evaluation of management plan

  • describes methods by which the management plan will be evaluated to answer questions such as: Was the plan implemented as planned? Did management directed by the plan achieve the stated objectives? If not, why? Were the objectives realistic? How can management be modified to achieve the objectives?

Return to top

Refuge System Plans

The decision to develop a stand-alone plan for managing invasive plants or to incorporate management documentation into a larger plan depends on several factors. Most plans for managing invasive plants and IPM plans probably need NEPA documentation because they may not be covered under USFWS Categorical Exclusions (see NEPA 516 DM 6, Appendix 1.4). A good way to include this process without having to recreate it is to include invasive plant management planning into a document, like a Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP), that will receive NEPA coverage. However, it may be that an IPM plan or other management plan needs to be created after the CCP process is complete. In this case, a Habitat Management Plan (HMP) would be a good place to incorporate invasive species management and IPM planning documentation. If the work that is being done is highly controversial, or if including it in a larger plan might slow down the approval process, a separate, stand-alone IPM or invasive species plan can be created. Otherwise, specific prescriptions to implement plans for managing invasive plants can be included in an HMP.

Read more:

Stand-alone Plans

Stand-alone plans may be helpful if the refuge has a large infestation of one or more invasive plant species that is seriously impacting the refuge goals and requires extensive planning. In this case, a more detailed plan may be required to coordinate a variety of treatment methods and personnel, such as refuge staff, contractors, and volunteers. Stand-alone plans may also be more useful for review by partners who may not be interested in all the refuge management details that would be found in a CCP.


The USFWS provides guidance that helps achieve the lowest risk, most targeted approach for managing pest species.

Read more:

Pesticide Use Proposal

Any use of pesticides requires the preparation of an annual Pesticide Use Proposal (PUP). However, in certain cases, when a refuge has an IPM plan in place, some PUPs can be approved for up to five years rather than on an annual basis. Approval for a five-year plan is conditional upon review by the USFWS regional office and in some cases, the Washington office.

Examples of Stand-alone Plans

Incorporating Management Documentation into a Larger Plan

Guidance for incorporating invasive species management into larger planning documents is found in USFWS policy on Habitat Management Plans (620 FW 1):

"Conduct refuge habitat management activities to prevent, control, or eradicate invasive species using techniques described through an integrated pest management plan, or other similar management plan, which comprehensively evaluates all potential integrated management options including defining threshold/risk levels that will initiate the implementation of proposed management actions."

Therefore, in addition to addressing invasive species management in an IPM or stand-alone invasive species plan, invasive species management can be presented as strategies or prescriptions in a refuge CCP or HMP.

Read more:


To satisfy requirements for IPM planning in accordance with the USFWS Director's Memo (2004), the following elements of an IPM program can be incorporated into a CCP (policy 602 FW 3) or HMP (policy 620 FW 1).

  • habitat and/or wildlife objectives that identify pest species and appropriate thresholds to indicate the need for and successful implementation of IPM techniques
  • strategies or prescriptions appropriate to address invasive/pest species in order to achieve habitat and/or wildlife objectives
  • monitoring before and/or after treatment to assess progress toward achieving objectives including pest thresholds

Read more:

Example of an Invasive Plant Management Plan Incorporated into Larger Plan