Susan BurksBy Susan Burks, MN DNR Invasive Species Program Coordinator

I will be retiring later this spring, so I am stepping down as the chair of the PlayCleanGo (PCG) Advisory Council and as the National PCG Campaign Manager. Belle Bergner, Executive Director of the North American Invasive Species Management Association (NAISMA), is taking over as the National Campaign Manager and will serve as the Council chair as the group discusses plans for the next several years.

As the campaign’s founder, it has been a great ride. When I submitted my first US Forest Service grant proposal in 2008 for PCG, I had no idea where it would go. All I knew was that Minnesota was a destination state; to be successful at protecting Minnesota’s natural resources, I needed a way to inform our residents and those coming to Minnesota to recreate.

I am not going to go into the history of the campaign because as the saying goes, it is history. I would like to share a couple of values that have helped define the campaign and explain why it grew so rapidly.

Cool Pro Solutions Photo Credit: CoolProSolutions

First was recognizing the importance of local land managers as the front line of defense in the battle against invasive species. They are often the first to spot a new infestation, and the ones with the best chance of containing it before it spreads. They have the closest ties to local residents and businesses and are able to engage local support. However, in Minnesota, as in many Midwestern and Eastern states, the need for proactive invasive species management, terrestrial weed management in particular, is not well recognized; nor is it well funded or organized. Technical support is spotty, funding options are limited and prior to PCG, there was not a nationally driven outreach campaign addressing terrestrial species management that others could build on. As a result, local land owners were left largely to their own devices to protect the lands under their care. This initially resulted in a large number of small scale outreach efforts with a variety of messages that were confusing and contradictory.

So my question was, “What could we/the MNDNR offer that might make a difference?” The answer was to provide a model campaign along with a collection of consistent, easily adaptable media that anyone could and would use as well as share.

That perspective then determined a couple of other aspects of the PCG campaign. One was the focus on smaller partner organizations. While larger partners are able to support the campaign financially, it is the smaller partner organizations that are most in need of our services. They are often operating on a shoe-string budget relying on volunteers or soft-dollar grants to pursue their mission. Many have no permanent full-time staff and seasonal employees cannot be reached during the winter months. Many lack grant writing experience which further limits their access to needed operating funds. Knowing this, PCG was established as a free service – counting on outside grants alone to fund our operations. Clearly this method was successful as the growth of the campaign grew rapidly. Local partnerships (like cooperative weed management areas (CWMA) and cooperative invasive species management areas (CISMAs) represent the largest proportion of PCG partners, with local units of government coming in second. While using the graphics and design assistance to fit their needs, these entities spread the word, growing the campaign using consistent, positive messaging across various land ownerships.

Second, the focus was on PCG product design. It had to be compatible with our local partners’ needs, of which were our first and primary audiences. The PCG brand needed to be compatible with partners’ brands, graphics needed to be appealing, straight-forward, easy to use and adaptable to modify. Products needed to be modern, catchy and bright in order to capture the attention of the users and their clientele. Products also needed to be flexible to address a wide range of outdoor activities and those who participate in them. Most of all, materials needed to be positive. Through meeting our partners’ needs, we could efficiently expand our reach, spread the word, and maximizing the buying power of our limited funds.

Third, while research has shown that outdoor recreation is generally in decline in this age of technology, we may choose to wring our hands at the impact of recreational land use. However, the recreation industry is a huge contributor to local economies. Recreationists are a major source of support to public land management and conservation. With this in mind, not only did we want to encourage sustainable recreation behaviors, we needed to encourage recreation itself; we need to get people outdoors, to share our passion and leave a legacy for generations to come.

Boot Brush Photo Credit: CoolProSolutions

PCG also needed to bring to light the fact that any one of us could accidentally spread invasive species if we don’t pay attention. How many of us have found a new weed popping up next to our driveway or in our garden? While there may be antidotal evidence that certain groups contribute to the problem more than others, there is no hard evidence to justify pointing fingers. Besides, pointing fingers has never been a good way to engage supporters. Instead, we all need to play our part to protect our natural resources. The best way to “sell” that notion is to appeal to folks’ natural desire to do the right thing to protect what they already love and cherish.

As the campaign grows, remember the folks on the front lines. Get to know their passions and take their fears into account. We need their support as much as they need ours and working together is the only way we can make headway in this great battle against invasive species.

News for ALL PlayCleanGo Partners

Renew YOUR Partnership Today

Have you renewed your status as a PlayCleanGo Partner?

PlayCleanGo Partner benefits have changed. Access to benefits including graphic services, networking, upcoming webinars, discounts and more; are now being moved to a password-protected page of our website. It is imperative to take action now! After renewing, partners will receive instructions on how to set-up their password protected access. As a friendly reminder, we ask that you renew today at

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News from PCG Partners

Winter Weed Conference a Success despite the Government Shutdown

By Betsy Macfarlan, Exec. Director of E. Nevada Landscape Coalition (ENLC), Ely, Nevada

The 14th Annual Winter Weed Conference, co-hosted by Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition (ENLC) and Tri-County Weed was a success despite being held during the third week of the government shutdown. Although attendance was down about 20% due to the lack of participation from BLM and USFS employees, there was still a diverse audience. Participants included ranchers/farmers, county and state road department employees, local tribal members, mine employees, representatives from Las Vegas nurseries, Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada Division of Forestry, Nevada Department of Environmental Protection, and a mix of local landowners.

ENLC provided a large display of herbarium noxious weed specimens and look alike native plants. ENLC also used its booth display to promote the PlayCleanGo program with multiple handouts and giveaways. Other displays/informational booths were provided by Corteva, Bayer, and Wilbur Ellis. There was interest in the PlayCleanGo booth from Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDA) staff and from several of the highway department participants. The conference focused on annual invasive grasses that are moving into Nevada. The two primary grasses discussed were Medusahead and Ventenata; herbicide representatives tailored their presentations to control of these grasses. Two of ENLC’s staff, Greg Gust and Stephanie Frederick, put together a presentation on identifying these two grasses. NDA staff presented on topics including: state laws regarding pesticide rules and regulations and integrated pest management through a series of presentations over the two day conference.

Lastly Kevin Burls, from UNR Cooperative Extension gave a quick overview/mini-training on using EDDMaps both on your desktop and on your smart phone. Following the conference the NDR offered the applicator certification exam, which was taken by several conference participants. Conference participants who were currently certified/licensed received up to six continuing education credits for participating in the two day event.

The 15th Annual Winter Weed Conference is already scheduled for January 8-9, 2020 at the Bristlecone Convention Center in Ely, Nevada.

News from the Canadian Council on Invasive Species

By: Kellie Sherman, Communications Coordinator, Canadian Council on Invasive Species (CCIS)

For those who haven’t heard the news, the Canadian Council on Invasive Species (CCIS) is taking over PlayCleanGo® for Canada! Starting now, you can visit to find out how to join as a Canadian partner. Soon, Canadian partner and contributing organizations will be seeing emails asking for their support to grow PlayCleanGo in Canada.

We have been working hard on PlayCleanGo materials to suit the needs of our current and future Canadian partners. Most specifically, we have been translating all of the materials into French.  In fact, we have bilingual graphic standards available today. For those wondering, we are working to make PlayCleanGo materials look very similar on both sides of the border. CCIS is a member of the PlayCleanGo Advisory Council which guides PlayCleanGo in Canada, Mexico and the United States. We are also working to develop new materials and expand the resource library! You will also be seeing a brand-new website in the near future.

In 2018, we began working with many partners across Canada to adopt and implement PlayCleanGo®. Our first partner was Waterton Lakes National Park located in Alberta. We worked closely with their staff to adapt the boot brusWaterton boot brushh sign by swapping out the invasive plant information, to match the invasive plants in their park, as well as making the sign bilingual. The sign and booth brush station has been installed and is ready to be used! The boot brush stations aim to encourage visitors to clean their footwear before they enter the trail to minimize the risk of invasive plants spreading along the trail. For those interested in this sign, its available on our website and if you become a partner, we can work with you to swap out logos, species etc. to suit your needs!

We also worked with the Invading Species Awareness Program, part of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters to adapt the Come Clean, Leave Clean sign. They are going to be placing the sign in a new park being developed from across their building. We were able to swap the image and also add their EDDMapS invasive species reporting phone number!

We have many more exciting partnerships under way and can’t wait to share the details in the coming months! In the meantime, we are ready and willing to work with you to adapt and develop new PlayCleanGo® resources! We look forward to working together to encourage hikers, campers and other recreationalists to enjoy the outdoors while adopting practices that will prevent the spread of invasive species to protect our valuable environment!

Representative Shout-OutKim Lanahan-Lahti

Kim Lanahan-Lahti, PlayCleanGo Artist & Webmaster, MN DNR

Kim Lanahan-Lahti is the PlayCleanGo (PCG) graphic artist and webmaster with a passion for the outdoors. She is currently undertaking woodland restoration by combating Buckthorn and Dames rocket in her own backyard. Her muddy boot and Leiben the Weimaraner can be seen in various PCG publications. Kim has worked for the State of Minnesota for 20 years, the last 12 of which have been with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. She is one of the founding committee members of PCG. Kim is an avid gardener and enjoys taking long walks in the woods in search of the next great blueberry patch with her two Weimaraners.


PlayCleanGo Webinar Series

PlayCleanGo will launch a new webinar series beginning February 13th. Scheduled webinars will be the 2nd Wednesday of every other month beginning at 1:00 CST. Stay tuned to for more information and a link to register.

National Invasive Species Awareness Week (NISAW)

Help us observe National Invasive Species Awareness Week on Capitol Hill during the week of February 25th-March 1st, held in cooperation with the Congressional Invasive Species Caucus. There will be a week’s worth of events, including:

  • Lunchtime Seminars NISAW
  • Afternoon Webinars
  • Evening Fair and Reception
  • Happy Hour/Networking
  • NISAW Webinar: "PlayCleanGo: Campaign Update, New Resources, and Future Opportunities" on Thursday, February 28 at 3pm Eastern / 12pm Pacific. Presented by Belle Bergner, PlayCleanGo National Campaign Manager and NAISMA Executive Director

Not up for the travel - PARTICIPATE IN EVENTS ACROSS THE NATION to raise awareness and identify solutions to invasive species issues at local, state, tribal, regional, international and national scales. Visit for more information on how you can observe the national awareness week.

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