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Section 1: Setting up a Local Action Group

1.1: Project planning

When planning your project it is helpful to develop the following:

  1. Terms of Reference – what is the purpose of your project?
  2. Aims and Objectives– what will you do to achieve your project’s purpose?
  3. Local Strategic Plan– how can you prioritise your work to maximise its impacts?

You should regularly review the progress of your project and adjust the terms of reference, aims and objectives and local strategic plan where necessary to keep your project on target.

a)    Terms of Reference

What is the purpose of your project?

Common terms of reference include:

  • To raise awareness of the risks and impacts of non-native plant and animal species throughout a region or area;
  • To coordinate a strategic effort to monitor, control, remove and raise awareness of non-native species in a region/area;
  • To develop and disseminate information and experience of good practice (including detection, monitoring, control, and removal of non-native species);
  • To encourage recording, reporting and dissemination of information of non-native species, including survey information;
  • To provide advice to interest groups on good practice management of non-native species;
  • To encourage the application of bio-security measures;
  • To seek funding opportunities for invasive species management;
  • To meet regularly to report on action to be taken and progress made.

You might also want to agree the following:

  • The membership of the group including a chair and deputy;
  • The specific area or region to be covered;
  • The schedule of meetings, biannually/quarterly etc.

There is some useful information on terms of reference in the Natural England Report 'Freshwater Non-Native Species Management Initiatives' (by E. Taylor and E. Lycett, Atkins Ltd), see section 2.25 and Appendices A and B.

b)   Aims and Objectives

What will you do to achieve your project purpose?

The aims and objectives of a Local Action Group (LAG) usually depend on the needs of local stakeholders. A LAG fills a niche that no other local organisation is occupying and supports existing non-native species management work by improving coordination between organisations and strategic targeting of resources.

Aims and objectives are more specific than terms of reference and describe how your LAG will deliver its terms of reference.

Common aims and objectives include:

  • Raise awareness by attending and organising events, producing and disseminating leaflets/posters etc and encourage community involvement (including landowners and volunteers etc);
  • Coordinate a strategic effort by preparing a strategic local plan which includes identifying priorities, mapping the presence of a species, horizon scanning and involvement from volunteers and landowners;
  • Exchange good practice experience by identifying and keeping up to date with Best Available Techniques, seeking alternative methods and liaising with other groups working on the same species/problems;
  • Exchange information by producing and disseminating literature, attend and organise events and make data gathered from surveys available;
  • Provide advice by producing and disseminating leaflets/posters, provide training and attend or organise events;
  • Encourage uptake of biosecurity methods by education and raising awareness;
  • Identify and apply for potential funding and request financial assistance from appropriate bodies;
  • Meet regularly to update the strategic local plan.

c)    Putting together a strategic plan

How can you prioritise your work to maximise its impact?

It is important to have a clear plan to maximise the effectiveness of any action. Once the terms of reference and aims and objectives have been agreed the next step is to identify priorities for action.

Action can include carrying out a survey, practical removal of INS, monitoring, horizon scanning or a public awareness campaigns. It is also be valuable to consider training and volunteers in a local strategic plan.

A good local strategic plan includes:

  • Use of timelines and milestones
  • Adequate budget and time (number of worker days and costs per milestone)
  • Regular monitoring to check if the project is on track, and;
  • Capability to adjust the project if needed
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Records and data available to other interested groups.

Prioritising action

You should set your priorities with the aim of minimising the total long-term workload and therefore, the cost of the operation in terms of money, resources and opportunities.

In order of highest priority, projects should (in broad terms) aim for:

  • Prevention
  • Detection
  • Eradication
  • Control
  • Mitigation

It can be difficult to prioritise as so many factors need to be considered. It may help if you group these factors into four categories. These can be thought of as filters designed to screen out the worst non-native species:

  1. Current and potential extent of the species on or near the site
  2. Current and potential impacts of the species
  3. Value of the habitats/areas that the species infests or may infest
  4. Difficulty of control

Species can be ranked (i.e. 1,2,3) or classed (i.e. worst pests, moderate pests, minor pests) within these categories. This should highlight species efforts should be concentrated on, and which are less urgent. Below are suggestions for how species should be ranked within the four categories.

1. Current and potential extent of the species on or near the site

i)    Species not yet present on the site but are present nearby, pay particular attention to known pests elsewhere in the region.
ii)  Species present on the site as new populations or outliers of larger infestations especially if rapidly expanding.
iii) Species present on the site in large infestations that continue to expand.
iv) Species present on the site in large infestations which are not expanding.

2. Current and potential impacts of the species

i)   Species which alter ecosystem processes such as fire frequency, sedimentation, nutrient cycling.
ii)  Species that kill, parasitise, hybridise or outcompete natives or dominate a community.
iii) Species which do not outcompete natives but; prevent/depress recruitment or regeneration, reduce or eliminate resources, promote populations of invasive non-native species.
iv) Species that overtake or exclude natives following natural disturbances.

3. Value of the habitats/areas that the species infests or may infest

i)  Species which impact on most highly valued habitat or area (including areas of rare or highly valued species or vital resources).
ii) Species which impact on less valued habitat or area (including an area already impacted by other non-native species unless a new infestation will make the situation significantly worse).

4. Difficulty of control

i)   Species likely to be eradicated/controlled with available technology and resources and which will be replaced by natives.
ii)  Species likely to be controlled but not replaced by natives without a restoration programme.
iii) Species difficult to control and/or whose control will likely negatively impact on other native species.
iv) Species unlikely to be controlled and species of decreasing populations, those that only colonise disturbed areas.

The following links provide more information on each of these topics.

Useful resources on setting up a project

  • British Trust for Conservation Volunteers (BTCV) Network (external link) - How to set up a community group and keep it going sustainably and how to become a local expert.
  • Start a Green Gym (external link) - BTCV
  • Mammal Society - how to set up a local group (external link).
  • Freshwater Non-Native Species Management Initiatives (pdf) (Natural England). This report contains useful information including how to identify relevant stakeholders, how to prioritise species for action, awareness raising and education, collection and validation of species specific information, monitoring, mapping and data storage.
  • Invasive Alien Species: A Toolkit of Best Prevention and Management Practices. Edited by Rudiger Wittenberg and Matthew J.W. Cook (2001). Cabi Publishing on behalf of Global Invasive Species Programme. This Toolkit contains useful information on prevention, early detection and assessment and management of non-native species.
  • The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing is a useful book for anyone looking to get involved in non-native species volunteering. Contains information on key non-native species and what can be done to help prevent their spread.


The process of prioritising action may reveal the need for more information (for example of non-native species distributions) and you may need to carry out surveys to inform the process. Find information on surveying in section 2.2.

Management options

There are four main management options. In order of preference these are:

  1. Eradication
  2. Containment
  3. Control
  4. Mitigation

If prevention has failed, then an eradication programme is the most desirable option but often the most difficult to achieve. Once a species is established and eradication is no longer possible, containment is the next feasible option, aiming to keep a species within a region boundary. Controlling a species by supressing population growth is the next important option. If none of these options are feasible then the last option is to mitigate the impacts caused by non-native species.

Whichever management option is chosen it is vitally important to choose the most appropriate methods and to carry out the action at the most appropriate time of the year or life stage of the invader.

Read more on control options in section 2.1.


In order to evaluate the success or failure of the management efforts you will need to monitor the population of a target species or condition of a target area. The overarching goal of non-native species management is preservation or restoration of natural habitats to a predetermined level.

To evaluate progress set a series of subtargets on the way to the final goal. Remember that monitoring the numbers of animals/metres sq of plants removed measures the amount of work done but not the success of the programme. This can only be measured by monitoring the numbers of pest species that remain and the condition of the ecosystem they are in. It should not be assumed that removal of a pest species will automatically result in the return of native species and improvement in habitat condition, sometimes removal of pest species results in colonisation by other non-desirable species.

Read more on survey methods for monitoring the presence of non-native species in section 2.2.

Awareness raising

Raising public awareness of non-native species and engaging stakeholders is important for a number of reasons, from encouraging reporting of sightings of new non-native species through to preventing accidental release of non-native species into the wild. Awareness raising could also help inform surveys and recruit new volunteers.

There are many free awareness raising resources available to help you, find these in section 3.

Promote your project

Contact us with a brief project title, description and contact details (including a link) and we can add your project to our database.

Review your project

Remember to regularly review the progress of your project and adjust the terms of reference, aims and objectives and local strategic plan where necessary to keep your project on target.

1.2: Managing volunteers

Call for volunteers

Do you need volunteers for your project?

Contact us with a brief project title, description and contact details (including a link) and we can add your project to our database.

Information for volunteers

Good practice on recruiting volunteers from other LAGs

Existing Local Action Groups have shared what they have found to be good methods of recruiting and retaining volunteers:

Where to find volunteers

  • Women’s Institute
  • Bingo groups
  • Anglers
  • Canoers
  • Young Farmers
  • Church groups
  • Probation Service
  • Scouts, Brownies, Youth groups, Cadets
  • Wildlife recorders
  • Parish Councils
  • Tree wardens  (audit records)
  • ‘Green Gyms’
  • Allotments groups
  • and other community groups
  • Private sector (eg business/corporate volunteer/activity days)
  • John Muir Trust (external link)
  • Partnership with other volunteer groups
  • Import volunteers to kick start control

How to attract volunteers to a project

  • Gather interest with the help of celebrities
  • Encourage volunteers to have fun by providing tea and biscuits, food and a party
  • Provide all equipment/kit
  • Provide info (eg ID sheets)
  • Illustrate success and benefits
  • Link in other environmental issues such as litter or extend the role of volunteers to include other responsibilities such as raising awareness, recruiting, mapping, campaigning, fundraising and preparing bids
  • Provide training or offer free training day and chance to further their CV (e.g. ID and recording skills)
  • Provide transport for workforce

How to advertise a project to recruit volunteers

  • Display information in volunteer offices
  • Social media
  • Event pages on websites
  • Blogs and discussion forums
  • Fresher’s week at universities
  • Word of mouth
  • Press releases
  • Posters/adverts, flyers, leaflets
  • Maildrops
  • Stalls at agricultural shows and similar local events
  • Presentations and seminars
  • Newsletters

How to retain volunteers

  • Vary tasks and break up the day
  • Repeat events annually
  • Provide an annual gathering (such as a party or BBQ to give updates)
  • Keep momentum by moving onto new control
  • Follow up (e.g. Thank you’s and newsletters, keep informed, update action in newsletter/email)
  • Encourage volunteers to understand the task and see the bigger picture (e.g. manage water course as a whole, the benefits of the end product)
  • Provide information, education and the opportunity to learn
  • Provide a professional environment such as feeling safe (not over the top H&S), good advice, structure and well-organised activities, facilities for families
  • Size of groups ideally 10-40
  • Promote creation not just destruction (e.g. seed mix from sucker machine – harvesting as restoration)
  • Publicise success
  • Make volunteers feel part of something
  • Offer other opportunities
  • Keep records of volunteers and record what was achieved. These could be visual records e.g. counting bin bags and publicising on website or social media.
  • Build in commitment (e.g. adopt an area), promote community identity, champion and coordination and responsibility for reporting progress on their patch

1.3 Funding

Sources of funding

The following are potential sources of funding for Local Action Groups:

GB Government

Welsh Government

  • CCW (send out list of all grants available each month)
  • WAG (aggregates tax)

Scottish Government


  • Business sponsorship
  • Land owners
  • Collaboration in R&D such as with fishing tackle manufacturers or distilleries in Scotland (R&D also receives tax relief)
  • Corporate sponsors such water companies and sponsorship in-kind (eg resources and manpower)


Please contact us with any other suggestions you have.