Invasive Plants

The Invasive Plants toolbox provides information pertaining to the management of non-native invasive plants in wilderness. It includes laws and agency policies, management guidelines and tools, examples of plans and agreements, and other resources you may find useful. Contact us to suggest new materials for inclusion.


Non-native invasive plants have the potential to damage the biological diversity and ecosystem integrity of many wilderness areas. Although all invasive plants can have a major impact on naturally functioning ecosystems, this toolbox will focus specifically on non-native invasive plants (NNIP).

These species create a host of adverse environmental effects, including the displacement of native plants; reduction in habitat and forage for wildlife; loss of threatened, endangered, and sensitive species; increased soil erosion and reduced water quality; and changes in the intensity and frequency of fires. Each year the United States loses 1.7 million acres to the spread of invasive plants. Invasive plants continue to increase and invade previously uninfested areas. By nature, invasive plants spread rapidly and can quickly cross administrative boundaries. Successful management of non-native invasive plants in wilderness can only be accomplished through cooperative efforts between local, state, and federal agencies.

Additional Reading

Law and Policy

Section 2 provides a definition of wilderness that directs and guides how wilderness is to be managed to achieve the goals of preserving wilderness as an enduring resource. Several items in the legal definitions found in the Act are applicable to management of non-native invasive plants and should be considered. According to Section 2.(a), wilderness areas are to be managed to protect their natural, unmodified conditions and wilderness character, and leave them unimpaired for future use as wilderness. Section 2.(c) defines wilderness as areas untrammeled by humans, in contrast to areas were human works dominate the land. Further, wilderness retains its primeval character, and is protected and managed to preserve natural conditions, provide outstanding opportunities for solitude, and may contain features of ecological value.

The Wilderness Act in Sections 2 and 4 direct managers to protect and preserve the different qualities of wilderness character. Non-native invasive plants threaten the Untrammeled, Natural, Opportunities for Solitude or Primitive Recreation, and maybe some Unique qualities of wilderness character.

Section 4.(c) of the Wilderness Act may influence the consideration of certain actions taken to manage NNIP. This section lists the generally prohibited uses (allowed only if necessary to meet the minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of the Act) including no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure of installation within any such area. For example, use of a motorized sprayer, even one that is battery powered, is prohibited in wilderness unless it is the minimum necessary tool for treatment of NNIP.

Section 4.(d), states that, "In addition, such measures may be taken as may be necessary in the control of fire, insects, and diseases, subject to such conditions as the Secretary deems desirable." Although it does not specify non-native invasive plant species, this section of the Act provides direction applicable to non-native invasive species management activities. It provides the Secretary with the authority to take measures as may be necessary to control insects, and diseases as deemed desirable. Special Provisions MAY be allowed to continue subject to analysis and restrictions. The minimum requirements concept is one screen that is typically applied to projects that are considered under the special provisions section of the Act.

Executive Order 13112, issued by President Bill Clinton in 1999, directs all agencies in the Executive Branch to: prevent the introduction of invasive species, detect and respond rapidly to and control populations of such species, provide for restoration of native species and habitat, conduct research and develop technologies, promote public education, and directs agencies not to authorize, fund, carry out actions that are likely to cause or promote the introduction or spread of invasive species. It also directs the creation of a federal invasive species council, directs the development of a national Invasive Species Management Plan and Invasive Species information clearinghouse, and directs federal agencies to participate in the council and to implement the Invasive Species Management Plan.


43 CFR Part 6304.22 What special provisions apply to control of fire, insects, and diseases?
BLM may prescribe measures to control fire, noxious weeds, non-native invasive plants, insects, and diseases.




Management Guidelines, Strategies, and Templates


Some of these documents may be oriented to a specific agency; however, the core of the information applies to all agencies.



Inventory and Monitoring


Saddle Light Sprayer
Contact Information

Hal Pearce
Blanco Ranger District
White River National Forest
317 East Market
Meeker, CO 81641



Examples of MoUs


Other Resources




  • Asher, J. E., & Harmon, D. W. (1995). Invasive Exotic Plants are Destroying the Naturalness of U.S. Wilderness Areas, International Journal of Wilderness, 1(2): 35-37.
  • Elzinga, C., Salzer, D., Willoughby, J. (1998). Measuring and monitoring plant populations. Technical Reference 1730-1. Denver, CO: Bureau of Land Management, National Business Center.
  • Elzinga, C., Salzer, D., Willoughby, J., Gibbs, J. (2001). Measuring and monitoring plant populations. Malden, MA. Blackwell Science.
  • Gillham J., Goetz W., Fisk H., Lachowski H. (2007). Existing vegetation mapping summary: Bridger-Teton National Forest. Technical Report: RSAC-0091-TECH1. Salt Lake City, UT: Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center.
  • Interagency (BIA, BLM, FS, FWS, NPS) burned area emergency response guidebook: interpretation of Department of the Interior 620 DM 3 and USDA Forest Service Manual 2523. For the emergency stabilization of Federal and Tribal trust lands (Version 4.0). (2006).
  • Interagency (BIA, BLM, FWS, NPS) burned area rehabilitation guidebook: interpretation of Department of the Interior 620 DM 3 for the burned area rehabilitation of Federal and Tribal trust lands (Version 1.3). (2006).
  • Osborn, S., Wright, V., Walker, B., Cilimburg, A., Perkins, A. (2002). Linking wilderness research and management-volume 4. Understanding and managing invasive plants in wilderness and other natural areas: an annotated reading list. (Wright, V., series ed.) Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-79-Vol 4. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 65 p.
  • Stanton, R. (Preparer). (Feb. 2009). Exotic plant management plan environmental assessment/assessment of effect. Grand Canyon National Park, AZ: National Park Service.
  • Therrell, L., Cole, D., Claassen, V., Ryan, C., Davies, M. A. (2006). Wilderness and Backcountry Site Restoration Guide (0623 2815). Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Missoula Technology and Development Center.
  • Vanderzanden, D., Lachowksi H., Clerke, B., Jackson B. (1999). Mapping vegetation in the southern appalachians with multidate satellite imagery: a wilderness case study. Project Report RSAC-9-RPT1. Salt Lake City, UT: Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Remote Sensing Applications Center.


  • Resource Catalog, Weed Management Resource Library, free central clearinghouse of weed management knowledge and expertise - 1-800-554-9333
  • Techline, Information newsletter about Invasive/Exotic Plant Management, c/o AgWest Communications, P.O. Box 1910, Granby, CO, 80446-1910