Sen. Chapin Featured Speaker at Invasive Plant Symposium

October 8, 2014

Discusses “growing” problem of invasive plants, congratulates local award recipient

Storrs – State Senator Clark Chapin (R-30), Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee, was the opening speaker at this year’s Connecticut Invasive Plant Working Group (CIPWG) Symposium, a biennial conference held on Tuesday, October 7 at the Student Union, University of Connecticut in Storrs.

“This meeting was an excellent opportunity for experts, students and community members to discuss the leading issues related to invasive plant species as well as new solutions and ways to address the growing problem in our communities,” said Chapin. “Invasive plants are organisms that can endanger local ecosystems by spreading aggressively when planted or grown outside their native habitat. It’s important that people stay educated on avoiding and removing invasive plants that could damage delicate environments throughout the state.”

Les Mehrhoff Award

In addition to special presentations and breakout sessions, the symposium also recognized the 2014 Leslie Mehrhoff Award recipient, Kathy Nelson of New Milford. The award recognizes an individual, group, or organization that has made significant or commendable contributions toward awareness, prevention, control, or management of invasive plants in Connecticut. Nelson received the award in recognition of her work battling invasive plants, notably the ‘Mile-A-Minute’ plant.

“I want to congratulate Kathy, a fellow New Milford resident, for receiving this year’s Les Mehrhoff Award. Mehrhoff, a botanist and co-founder of CIPWG, dedicated himself to teaching people about invasive species. Kathy is continuing to promote Mehrhoff’s legacy through her work in the community,” said Chapin.

Symposium Highlights

During his presentation at the symposium, Chapin discussed state achievements in combating invasive species and also pointed to ways that Connecticut can continue improving.

“While we have funded an invasive plants coordinator position, we can always do more. For example, we can seek a better mechanism for enforcement and work to support a steady stream of grants for landowners and municipalities to help eradicate problems and educate residents,” said Chapin.

Chapin also explained the need to reassess how the state funds the invasive plants coordinator position and the importance of advocating for legislation to strengthen protections against invasive species.

Senator Chapin has served on the General Assembly’s Environment Committee since 2001 and has held the title of Ranking Member since 2003. In that same year, Chapin helped pass legislation to establish the Invasive Plants Council to support state agencies in addressing the problems caused by invasive plants. This year, Chapin brought a forum to the Capitol to discuss specific problems caused by aquatic invasive species in Connecticut’s lakes and ponds and garnered legislative support for plans to provide grants and educate people about preventing the spread of these species.

At the conference, Chapin also encouraged the audience to get to know their local legislators and contact them about their environmental concerns.

“Every person can help spread awareness and share their ideas of how to improve the health of our ecosystems. Let your local senators and representatives know what concerns you, and remind them that invasive species is a problem that hits home for all of us,” said Chapin.

The day-long symposium was the 7th biennial CIPWG conference. Focusing on the theme “Invasive Plants 2014: Where Are We Now?” the conference featured national, regional, and local experts as well as citizen volunteers sharing practical solutions for managing invasive plants, promoting non-invasive plants and improving wildlife habitat. The conference included special presentations by experts including keynote speaker Dr. Sarah Reichard, Professor and Director of the University of Washington Botanic Gardens, and David Gumbart from the Connecticut Chapter of The Nature Conservancy.

Breakout sessions covered the following topics:

  • Tips for successful invasive plant management projects
  • Alternative plants for improving gardens and other areas as wildlife habitat
  • Priorities and partnering for invasive plant management
  • Aquatic invasive plant updates
  • Early detection and curbing the spread of invasive species
  • Species-specific invasive plant identification, management and alternative plants
  • Research posters, an invasive plant identification area and other educational exhibits will be featured throughout the day.

For more information on Connecticut’s invasive species efforts visit