WSWS Rita Beard Endowment Foundation
Purpose: To support students and early career invasive species managers with educational opportunities including registration and travel to professional meetings.
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Rita Beard, a luminary in the federal and private sector of the invasive species world, passed away in October, 2016 at her home in Fort Collins, CO. Throughout her career, Rita advanced her vision of coordinating invasive species management on a national scope. By encouraging collaboration from the field to congressional levels, she effectively changed the way invasive species are managed in this country. In addition, she worked to make sure that all invasive species management decisions were based on the latest and best available research and technology, thus ensuring that management decisions were supported by science. Towards that end, Rita spearheaded the development of the original mapping standards for the North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA), which unified management practices to help ensure consistent data collection.
Rita’s academic background served her well: she received her bachelor’s degree in Ecology and Biosystematics from the University of California at Berkeley, followed by two Master of Science degrees; in Range and Wildlife Science from Montana State University, and in Forest and Public Policy from Oregon State University. She began her career in the late 1970s as the Range Conservationist and Invasive Plant Specialist, with the U.S. Forest Service on the Townsend Ranger District in western Montana. During this time, Rita made history by preparing the first Environmental Impact Statement on invasive plants in the United States, pioneering the use of herbicides to control invasive plants in wilderness areas.
In April 2005, she joined the National Park Service (NPS) as the National Invasive Plant Management Program Coordinator. At NPS she supervised 18 Exotic Plant Management Teams (EPMTs) and guided the development of policies related to invasive plant management and prevention. She professionalized this program by raising the level of technical expertise through training for her staff, communicating the importance of invasive plant management to NPS leadership, and increased the amount of funding available for weed management. She guided each EPMT team in working with their partner parks to develop proposed invasive plant management strategies for the protection of park resources in accordance with federal laws. Rita was a constant advocate for the EPMT program, its staff, and its mission to assist the parks with invasive plant management.
Rita’s depth of knowledge and experience made her an invaluable partner of the NPS Integrated Pest Management Program. She provided guidance on the selection and toxicology of herbicides as part of the IPM approach and helped train IPM practitioners in site evaluation, the proper selection and consequences of herbicides and related NEPA concerns, of which she was an expert. Rita also provided assistance to the NPS Cultural Landscape and the Facilities Management Programs in invasive plant management and restoration planning.
On the national level, Rita was an effective liaison for local weed management partners, federal and nonfederal agencies, Congress, and others in Washington, D.C., ensuring that management decisions were based on science and core natural resource values. She served on several Departmental committees, including the National Invasive Species Council and the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds promoting the practical application of weed science principles and practices for invasive plant management.
Rita retired from the NPS in 2013 and continued to provide training and technical expertise to her partners. In 2014, Rita received the Western Society of Weed Science’s Distinguished Achievement Award in the category of “Weed Manager” for her tireless efforts in advancing the cause of invasive plant management across the entire country.
Throughout her career Rita never lost sight of the challenges that on-the- ground managers face in controlling invasive plants. She understood the constraints of working in the federal system, and her goal was always to garner as much support as possible for on-ground managers, hence she worked to ensure that leadership understood and supported this cause. We honor Rita Beard, who exemplified the qualities of a rare colleague and complete person: grace, kindness, composure, intelligence, fearlessness, poise, and to be deliberate, unassuming, truthful, and loving.