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Blue Ridge PRISM Update

An update on the Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management and information on a series of sessions around our 10-county area, which partners are welcome to attend.

RCPP Update
Applications for our landowner assistance program were accepted starting mid-November. The first application period closed on December 17th; the second closed on Jan 20th and the third is now open (ending Feb 17th). So far we have been told that 66 applications have been approved, consuming $437,000 of the available funds, leaving $206,000 left to be committed. 19 applications have already been submitted, but not yet approved. This represents a very fast start for the program and is a testimonial both to the need for the program as well as our ability to reach interested landowners.
In the last two months we ironed out the remaining details of the program with the NRCS and then publicized the program through public presentations, press releases, posters on community bulletin boards and emails to our mailing list and our partners' email lists. In conjunction with the VA Dept of Forestry and the NRCS we developed training courses for the NRCS and VDOF staffs involved in the program and held two training sessions. We also held a separate session for contractors who were interested in learning more about the program as well as how to identify and treat many of the more common invasive plants. Many thanks to all of you who worked to get this program successfully launched and to those of you who are participating in the program. For those of you who are participants please keep us informed of any issues you encounter with the program - or other feedback you care to share.

Education and Outreach
In addition to the RCPP activities described above we tabled or presented at various venues including:
- Rural Ridge Harvest Festival near North Garden in Albemarle County
- Pesticide applicators recertification training session in Nelson County
- Blue Ridge School in St. George, VA

Working with other CWMAs
We are continuing our collaboration discussions with the Potomac Highlands Cooperative Weed and Pest Management Area, a neighboring cooperative weed management area (CWMA) headquartered in West Virginia. We also became aware that another CWMA is being formed in Northern Virginia – we will provide more information as their plans develop.

General Management
We now have eight organizations and individuals who have signed the PRISM’s General Agreement and who now constitute the Steering Committee. The first meeting of the Steering Committee was held earlier this month. They will likely meet quarterly and provide input to the plans of the PRISM and suggestions related to the challenges we face. The day-to-day management of the PRISM is done by your Leadership Team. This group has begun to have regular meetings and phone calls to manage the PRISM’s activities. If any of you would like to learn more about how to join this group, let me know and I will be happy to provide more information. As part of our planning efforts, we are working on revising the PRISM’s strategic plan. An outline of our current thinking is attached (the 3-5 year vision document). Feel free to make comments or suggestions.

Grants and fundraising
For the second year in a row we submitted a proposal to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Pulling Together Initiative and were turned down. Both times they commended us for the quality of our proposal, encouraged us to continue to apply and explained that they have many, many highly qualified applicants. This year they made 12 awards – all of them to CWMAs – most them seeking funding to form a new CWMA. We will continue to apply there. A variety of other grant related activities are underway, limited only by the availability of our teams time to work on them.

Several of us continued to participate with the state level Invasive Species Advisory Council to assist in creating the new regulations that will govern the categorization of noxious weeds and limitations on their sale and movement within the state.

We have a UVA 4th-year student working with us this spring to help assess the feasibility of using drones to identify and map specific invasive plants. If you have an interest in applying high tech to help with invasive plants and want to get involved, let me know.

Next Steps
In my prior email I also indicated we would conduct multiple information sessions around our 10-county area. The first of these will be held Feb 1st at JMU. You can find the dates and venues on our website as they are scheduled. These sessions have multiple purposes, namely introducing new people to the PRISM, providing updates on PRISM activities and providing updates and information on the RCPP program. You are all welcome to attend any of these. Also, we are planning to have our next quarterly meeting on Wednesday, April 19 from 1-4pm at a location to be determined. Please add it to your calendars.

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