Integrated Pest Management
National Parks are special places that have been set aside to protect natural life sustaining ecosystems, treasured cultural landscapes and unique artifacts. Various pests can devastate those resources.
Integrated Pest Management is the process used to identify pests and how best to deal with them. Various beetles or bugs could quietly consume museum artifacts such as a Native American feather head dress and thus be considered pests yet at the same time in a natural setting be part of the natural ecosystem.
The process begins with identifying the pest situation, and proceeds to understanding the significance of the resource or artifact and how best to deal with the situation. Possibly the situation can be altered so pests are not attracted in the first place. Valuable artifacts should be sufficiently protected so that damage does not occur. Just treating the damage is often not good enough to protect the resources.
A pest is any organism that interferes with the purpose of a park or that threatens human health or safety. A pest can be a native or nonnative organism, a weed, an insect, a fungus, a disease, a bird, or even a mammal. To reach a pest status depends on the individual situation.
A mouse in a museum could gnaw on valuable artifacts and be a pest, but right outside be just a part of the natural environment. A rattlesnake by the front door to a school in the park is going to find a quick ride out to the backcountry.
Some types of weeds might be handled by pulling the entire plant out including the roots, by spraying herbicides, or by introducing a biological control agent that eats and eventually destroys the undesirable plant species. The appropriate response is determined by the particular situation.
The Visitor’s Role
Having campers on Bighorn Lake use the metal bear boxes to store their food while camping at Black Canyon Campground and then bringing out their own garbage can be looked at as part of good Integrated Pest Management. First it is economical. Second the bear does not get attracted to the campground and does not get a food reward. Hopefully this will preclude the necessity of removing the bear.
Sometimes the cost or difficulty of getting rid of a pest requires taking action before a pest even reaches a park. The spread of Zebra and Quagga mussels from the Great Lakes region is necessitating boat inspections and decontamination procedures to prevent them from invading Bighorn Lake and the other Wyoming lakes. Prevention really needs to be successful because the cure may not be possible. The park visitor needs to be part of the solution.