Revisiting An Integrated Pest-Management Policy

By Cheryl Wilen

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is now a well-known phrase among park maintenance staff members; meanwhile, community members are becoming familiar with it being used or promoted by local pest-management companies or state-mandated programs for schools. To ensure that pest management is accomplished using multiple tactics rather than relying on pesticides only, many municipalities and park divisions have developed an IPM policy and a plan to implement it.

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Policy Vs. Plan
It is important to note that an IPM policy is different from an IPM plan. An IPM policy is the framework of an IPM plan. Many municipalities develop the policy and leave it to individual agencies or divisions to develop an IPM plan that best fits what they are doing. For example, an IPM plan for an athletic field used for tournament play will be different than one for an office building. Many IPM policy documents were developed as a result of an external event, such as water-quality mitigation response, or from residents concerned about pesticide use near playgrounds. However, these plans and policies are rarely updated once developed.

Reasons To Update
Why update? If a policy is more than five years old, a review should be done to address current concerns, such as human health, new pest issues, changes in management, or environmental concerns. For example, 10 years ago, few IPM policies addressed the impact of pesticides on pollinators. Doing a checkup on a one- to five-year cycle makes sure it is relevant to the agency, current regulations, and the community. It also avoids having to do a major overhaul, which can be more time-consuming.

Updating an IPM policy also give agencies a document to use when developing contracts with plant-maintenance and pest-management contractors. To truly implement an IPM plan, everyone has to be involved and held responsible for addressing the goals of the policy. It also serves as a resource when there are questions about how or why a certain management action is taken.

What’s Included
Most IPM policy documents are short; two to five pages will capture overall objectives that are both outward- and inward-facing for stakeholders, administrators, and staff members to recognize the importance of the policy and the goals of the plan. Development of the policy should be a collaborative process involving knowledgeable members from these three groups to achieve buy-in and ownership of the outcomes. Some policy documents are longer if the agency decides to include them with management guidance (see https://tinyurl.com/MCSD-IPM-Plan and https://tinyurl.com/Davis-CA-IPM-Policy ). However, because a policy document can have great influence on operations, staffing, and public perception, it often needs to be approved or accepted formally by boards, councils, or directors. It’s important stay on point about the policy and avoid including specific details about implementation. Again, an IPM plan or procedure can be attached or referred to in the policy, but an IPM policy guides how a park system manages pests.

If an IPM policy is more than five years old, review it to see if it includes the following components:

1.      Begin with an introduction and/or justification.
This section should describe what IPM is and why its implementation is important for a city or agency.

For example:
“Insects, weeds, and rodents directly and indirectly impact the safe use of park facilities, and invasive species can reduce biological diversity as well as contribute to tree failures, fires, and floods. Integrated pest management (IPM) is a system for pest management that utilizes multiple methods to suppress or control pests to accepted levels where they do not cause health, structural, or aesthetic damage. IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of practices using current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. The combination of methods developed to manage pests will reduce possible hazards to people, property, and the environment. (Adapted from US EPA definition https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol/integrated-pest-management-ipm-principles). The IPM program at (insert park name) is designed to manage and reduce the risk to people, pets, wildlife, and structures, and to provide a more healthful and safe environment for both visitors and staff.”

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2.      List the objective(s). 
What is the policy going to be used for? For example, a parks and rec department may say:

“This document is intended to provide guidance on the administration of the IPM plan, include staffing and training, responsible parties, and documentation. Details on the implementation of the IPM plan can be found in Appendix XX.”

3.      Spell out to whom the policy applies.
Name the person or title who will be the point person to ensure the policy is followed. What are the general roles and responsibilities of staff, volunteers, contractors, and others?

4.      Name the resources allocated.
A budget, people, and equipment must be available. How will IPM implementation and staff training be functionally supported?

5.      Document training.
IPM is not a simple process and staff should be provided the opportunity to have regular training. It should be documented here and details provided in an IPM plan.

6.      List best practices, standards, and/or certifications.
These are usually statements such as “pesticides will only be applied after a recommendation from a licensed pest-control adviser and that applicators are trained and will follow all state and local regulations” and “contractors will follow the IPM policy.” If there is anything that is a desired practice that should be in the policy as opposed to the plan, include it here. An example would be “When pesticides are used, they must have ’Caution’ signal word unless an exception has been approved by (insert name or title).”

7.      Provide an assessment of the policy and language on how to make adjustments.
How will the agency show that the policy is effective?

What is the process to respond to an issue that is not addressed in the policy or may be an unintended consequence of the policy as written and accepted?

8.      Specify periodic reviews and revisions.
In order to address public comments, changes in regulations, and lessons learned from the assessment of the policy, as well as other external factors, it will be important to review and revise the policy as needed. A specific interval should be specified (two to five years); the people who are responsible for initiating the review and the committee that will review and revise it should be included as well. It is often helpful to have a process for making and approving minor changes or adjustments between the major review periods.

9.      Attach resources and documentation.
While not part of the policy, per se, there should be a link or appendix that includes an IPM implementation plan and any other documents or resources that help support the policy.

Revisiting your IPM policy will ensure that the group is addressing staffing needs, budgets, changing regulations, and the community’s concerns in relation to making your IPM plan as effective as possible.

Cheryl Wilen, Ph.D., is an Area IPM Advisor for the University of California’s IPM Program in San Diego, Calif. Reach her at cawilen@ucanr.edu.