A Comparative Assessment of Aquatic Invasive Species Management in Maryland and Virginia




Christmas, John Franklin Jr

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The objective of this exploratory case study was to comparatively assess State Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Management Capacity in Maryland and Virginia. That is, to measure the perceived ability of each of these states to effectively manage AIS. To collect data for the assessment I conducted semi-structured interviews as scripted telephone surveys, which included both open-ended and closed-ended questions. The interviews generated data in the form of categorical responses to a series of perceptual questions relating to the various components of State AIS Management Capacity, including: situational, political, institutional, state, organizational, and evaluation capacities. The respondents surveyed represented a wide spectrum of AIS experts in Maryland (n=20) and Virginia (n=10) ranging from field biologists to senior managers in both the governmental and nongovernmental sectors. Overall, considering all responses to each of the questions relating to the various components of capacity, the majority of responses in both states were “moderately-developed,” (i.e., AIS program needs some improvement) with this response selected for 52.3% of the responses in Maryland and 58.2% of the responses in Virginia. However, there was a greater frequency of “well-developed” (i.e., sufficient AIS program) responses in Maryland (30.3%) than in Virginia (10.9%) and conversely a lower frequency of “poorly-developed” (i.e., AIS program needs considerable improvement) responses in Maryland (17.4%) than in Virginia (31.0%). Categorical data relating to the perceptual responses of the various components of AIS capacity was coded based on a traditional Likert-like scale ranging from 1-5 (poorly-developed=1, moderately-developed=3, well- developed=5). Group means were calculated for each component of capacity assessed by respondents in each state. The group means for the various components of capacity assessed ranged from 2.4–4.2 in Maryland and from 2.0-3.3 in Virginia, on a scale of 1 (poorly-developed)–5 (well-developed). The greatest differences were apparent in the respondent’s perceptions of situational and state capacity, which were both higher in Maryland than in Virginia. An integrative metric—the index of State AIS Management Capacity (IAIS)—was calculated for each state, as a composite measurement incorporating coded values for all responses for all components of capacity evaluated. The overall IAIS for Maryland was 3.3 while the IAIS for Virginia was 2.6. On a relative scale of 1-5, a higher IAIS value indicates an overall perception by respondents of a better-developed State AIS Management Capacity. Permutation analysis was conducted to determine whether the perceptions of the individual components of State AIS Management Capacity differed significantly in Maryland and Virginia. These analyses confirmed the empirical findings, with statistically significant differences found between states in relation to perceptions of situational (p<0.05) and state capacity (p<0.05), with Maryland receiving higher scores. No statistically significant differences were observed between states as far as perceptions of political capacity, institutional capacity, organizational capacity, or evaluation capacity. Seemingly, the AIS programs in Maryland and Virginia are both reasonably effective, with adequate regulations in place to address most AIS concerns. A basic framework for state AIS management has been developed in both Maryland and Virginia. However, the framework for addressing AIS concerns is not codified or formally established in Maryland, unlike Virginia where such an AIS framework is both codified and formally established. Considerable differences were observed in the governance of the executive branch natural resource agencies tasked with AIS program implementation in these states. While both states have an AIS organization, neither has a discrete AIS program. Staff are generally assigned in a collateral fashion on an ad hoc basis to particular AIS issues, while having other primary responsibilities. Both states have a long-standing regional involvement in AIS issues, and both states have had successes in AIS eradication, although AIS issues remain generally a low priority issue in these states.



Aquatic invasive species, Capacity assessment, Maryland, Virginia