Noxious Weeds in Beaverhead County
Noxious weeds certainly were an important focus throughout Beaverhead County in 1999. The Beaverhead County Commissioners and the Interagency Steering Group held their fourth annual Weed Day in mid-July to educate citizens on the identification of weed species and to conduct control activities. Weed Day activities occurred around Dillon, Montana, and resulted in numerous phone calls to the Beaverhead County Extension Office on locations of noxious weeds. The County, in association with other agencies, is putting together a county-wide map of noxious weed locations. The year 2000 Beaverhead County Weed Day was held on July 15.
Throughout the summer, Refuge staff routinely conduct noxious weed surveillance activities. In 1999, Refuge staff located and pulled black henbane on Refuge lands. Compared to 1998, spotted knapweed did not seem to be a problem on the Refuge. However, Canada thistle is still the most abundant noxious weed species on the Refuge and seems to be increasing.
Off the Refuge, in the lower Centennial Valley, Refuge staff were involved in two projects. In addition to staff participation in Red Rock Watershed Weed Project meetings (RRWWP, see below), assistant manager, Tom Reed, provided instruction to a class from the Wild Rockies Field Institute (based in Missoula, MT) in hands-on land restoration work in early July. Collaborating with interns from the RRWWP, Reed and the class located large infestations of houndstongue and spotted knapweed in an area below Lima Dam on both public and private lands. They spent the day pulling houndstongue and referred the spotted knapweed infestation (which had already gone to seed) to the County for spraying.
The Red Rock Watershed Weed Project
The year 1999 heralded year one of the Red Rock Watershed Weed Project (RRWWP). With plans to continue an additional four years, the RRWWP is a cooperative effort to assist the private land owners of the lower Centennial Valley and the area around the town of Lima in noxious weed control. The public and private agencies contributing to this project are Beaverhead County, The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, the Bureau of Land Management, the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, the Montana Audubon Society, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Approximately 400,000 acres of public and private land are within the project boundaries. During the summer of 1999, two interns from Montana State University, Kelly Pohl and Bryan Gartland, coordinated the project in the Centennial Valley.
The project operates on grants from the Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund and from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, totaling approximately $26,000. The funds from these grants, as well as matching funds from the above list of cooperators, provided educational materials as well as fifty percent cost-share for the herbicide and commercial herbicide application expenses of landowners. Early in the spring of 1999, a steering committee of landowners and government agents established four priority areas for the project. They are: Little Sheep Creek, Big Sheep Creek, Lima Dam area, and East Clover Creek. Below is a listing of the goals established by the committee and the work accomplished in 1999:
1. Inviting the involvement of as many landowners as possible.
Twenty-five of the 34 landowners contacted completed contracts and, in doing so, committed their involvement to the project for four years. These 25 landowners represent approximately 88 percent of the private land holdings within the project area.
2. Controlling weeds by spraying a total of at least 2,500 acres within the project area.
By the end of the RRWWPs first year, approximately 2600 acres of the project area were treated with herbicide. Approximately 200 worker hours were devoted to mechanical control (hand pulling and cutting) within the project area. The primary noxious weeds treated were houndstongue, Russian and spotted knapweeds, and dyers woad.
3. Mapping as much of the project area as possible.
Approximately 10,000 acres were mapped for the Montana Noxious Weed Survey and Mapping system (see website listed below).
4. Provide educational resources for landowners and visitors to the project area.
A weed identification workshop was held, 100 weed identification books were distributed, 150 brochures explaining the threats of noxious weeds were made available, and 25 sets of literature about specific weed species were given to interested landowners.
Noxious weed control is a long-term process, and success for the RRWWP is far from secure. Nevertheless, the Centennial Valley of the future could easily be as close to weed-free as possible. With the Valleys few and relatively small infestations, most participants in the project believe that the Centennials weed problem is correctable. We will never be able to completely rid the Valley of weeds, but judging by the first years accomplishments, one might have a hard time finding any houndstongue or spotted knapweed in the vicinity. The Montana Noxious Weed Trust Fund grant will most likely be renewed in coming years; and most importantly, the people of Centennial Valley are uniting to battle their alien invaders.
The goal of the RRWWP after the next four years is to expand the border of the project area already in place. A summary report on the 1999 RRWWP, including a description of the areas noxious weed hot spots, is available by contacting Jack Eddie, Beaverhead County Weed Supervisor, at 406/683-2842, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noxious weeds identified in
(Those weeds that appear in bold text are known to occur on Red Rock Lakes NWR)
Spotted knapweed: close-up (top)
and infestation (bottom)
Photos courtesy of Noxious and
Nuisance Plant Management
Information System (PMIS)