Last year on Jan 1, the county’s Invasive Species Ordinance took affect, preventing nearly 900 such plants from being sold and planted in Knox County during 2020.

This year, Invasive Species Board members hope to expand their efforts by offering educational outreach to local landscaping businesses to promote the merits of native plant life.

The Invasive Specie Ordinance, which passed in August of 2018, was the first terrestrial invasive plant regulation in Indiana, preventing the sale, trade and import of more than 60 invasive plant species in the county.

The move put Knox County at the forefront of native plant species conservation efforts in the state.

The Invasive Species Board was then created by the county commissioners to handle the enforcement of the ordinance, should local businesses find themselves in repeated non-compliance, which happened only once in 2020.

Though enforcement of the ordinance did meet some resistance last spring, Will Drews says he generally saw more cooperation with each passing month during his routine visits to area landscape and home improvement businesses — a foundation he and other board members hope to build on in 2021.

“I’m hopeful we won’t have to go out to local retail shops as often for enforcement, but we’ll still have to keep watch,” said Drews, the natural resource specialist with Knox County Soil and Water Conservation District.

“We will need to watch especially for English Ivy. That was being sold everywhere last year,” he said.

Last year some of the most common invasive offenders in Knox County, Drews said, included plants such as English Ivy, Burning Bush and Wintercreeper.

Though currently in the midst of the dark days of winter, board members noted that in less than eight weeks, many local businesses will begin receiving shipments of plants for spring, so now is the time reach out and educate.

Drews is planning to create training material to help bridge the gap in information about invasive plant species.

Noting the high turnover rate of employees, particularly at big box stores like Lowe’s and Rural King, the board feels some basic tools for identifying common invasive plants could be helpful in keeping them off the sales floor this spring.

“But we will need to keep it short and manageable to entice people to complete the training,” Drews said of the optional materials that will likely be available in an online format.

While there is no guarantee local business owners or their employees will take part in the educational opportunities, board members noted that even if only a few people participate, it’s a good faith effort to help curb the sales of harmful, invasive plants and trees.

In other business, board members discussed which plant species are in the pipeline for being banned by the state’s invasive species ordinance.

Though it may be a few years before officially being banned, the state DNR has listed several plants, such as Sweet Autumn Clematis, Highbush Cranberry, Moneywort and Princess Tree.

While it may take the state of Indiana upwards of four or five years to put those changes into affect, Drews and other board members are hopeful Knox County will ban them sooner, possibly implementing those additions in 2022.

“It would be nice to be proactive,” he said.

Any local changes to the ordinance, those not yet mandated by the state, require the approval of the Knox County Commissioners. Invasive Species Board members hope to present their request to the commissioners as early as next month.

For more information about the invasive species ordinance or native plants, contact Will Drews at 812-882-8210 or visit http://knoxcountyswcd.com/kccisma/.

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