Weed Pull 2012 participants-photo

 "Prevent, reduce, and contain the invasion and spread of noxious, invasive, and harmful nonnative species within the refuge while working with partners to address off-refuge infestations within the surrounding landscape" (Refuge CCP Goal for Invasive and Non-Native Species).

Some species, while not considered noxious by the State of Montana, are considered undesirable and problematic by refuge staff; these include musk thistle, cheatgrass, kochia, reed canarygrass, and teasel (table 6).

Weed Strike Team member-photoThe refuge has a number of resources to respond to the invasive species problem integrated within national USFWS efforts. The refuge provides office space and other support for one of the Service’s Montana Invasive Species Strike Teams. This team works with refuges throughout the State, including Lee Metcalf Refuge, inventorying and treating new invaders and high priority invasive and nonnative plants. The 2012 report and Refuge treatment map are hyperlinked. Additionally, a partnership with the Ravalli County Weed District has provided several crew members wholly dedicated to treating more established noxious weeds. An annual volunteer weed-pull event for the public occurs, and youth groups like the Montana Conservation Corps, Youth Conservation Corps, and Selway-Bitterroot Foundation interns have also assisted in refuge treatment efforts. Also, invasive species spread and control is integrated into staff fieldwork.

Weed Control by Ravalli County Weed District Partner-photoThe main planning tool for treating invasives on the refuge is using integrated pest management (IPM). IPM is a structured and logical approach to managing weeds by using a combination of biological, mechanical, and chemical tools. Past IPM efforts have included mapping, treating, and monitoring invasive species on the refuge. Treatment methods for invasives vary with species, daily weather conditions, plant growth stage, and time of year. Methods used to treat invasives have included herbicide application, prescribed fire, biological controls (including goats, flower and root weevils, and flower and root moths), hand pulling, mowing, and cultivating. Along with prescribed burning and grazing, chemical applications of herbicides have significantly aided efforts to control the spread of invasive plant species and possibly the elimination of invasives from specific areas on the refuge. Chemical applications are used on specific species and applied during the optimal plant stage of growth to increase the effectiveness of the application. All chemicals must be approved by the Service for use on refuges, and the application of a specific chemical onsite must undergo a pesticide use proposal evaluation. Approximately 400 acres per year are treated for invasive plants, using chemical applications and mechanical means.