Oregon uses TEAM approach to fight invasive weeds

Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week highlights efforts
By Oregon Department of Agriculture,

It takes a TEAM effort to successfully battle invasive noxious weeds in Oregon. TEAM- Together Everyone Achieves More- is the acronym being used as the theme for this year’s Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week, May 17-23 as proclaimed by Governor Kulungoski. The week is designed to heighten public awareness of the need to eradicate or at least control noxious weeds. That awareness has grown over the years as more partners join the effort to fight invasive plant species.

“Collectively, Oregon has come a long way in dealing with our noxious weed problems,” says Tim Butler, supervisor of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Control Program. “The public is very tuned in to invasive species issues in general. All regions of Oregon- from the coast to the Idaho border and all points in between- have invasive noxious weed issues they are trying to deal with.”

Conservatively, annual damage caused by noxious weeds in Oregon exceeds $100 million. Early detection and rapid response is the most effective strategy to keep introductions of invasive weeds from fully establishing. When a noxious weed is in abundance, Oregonians have to learn to live with it. A combination of strategies keeps invasive noxious weeds from becoming an even greater threat to Oregon. But it’s clear that a successful response to invasive weeds takes more than one agency or one landowner.

“Noxious weeds do not respect ownership boundaries or natural resource boundaries,” says Butler. “To be successful, we all need to work together.”

A unified approach has successfully played out in all regions of Oregon. ODA, other state agencies, federal partners, cities, counties, and private landowners are all key members of the team.

Northwest Region (which includes the north and central coast along with the Willamette Valley):  Several government agencies have combined with private sector entities to form the Northwest Weed Management Partnership- an active coalition that works on weed issues. An initial focus has been on Japanese knotweed with control of the invasive plant already achieved in several watersheds. Survey detection work has led to a map of infestations allowing successful spot herbicide treatment to effectively keep the weed under control from the upper reaches of the watershed down to its drainage. The partnership is now branching out into garlic mustard and other unwanted non-native plant species.

Southwest Region:  Cooperative work has been the only way to keep the invasive weed Paterson’s curse from getting out of control in Douglas County. Spread over 300 acres when it was first detected in 2004, a variety of partners have come together to deliver a comprehensive blow to the weed. ODA has worked with the Douglas Soil and Water Conservation District, Roseburg Forest Products, and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Indian Tribe to treat the infestation before the weed goes to seed. Paterson’s curse is now considered 90 percent controlled in the area. In Australia, where the noxious weed is out of control, officials report a $33 million per year impact on pasture and range land.

North Central Region:  Yellow flag iris sounds like it might be a pretty flowering plant. In fact, it is a more recent edition to the state’s noxious weed list. It has been found growing along streams and irrigation ditches. Crook, Jefferson, and Deschutes counties have joined forces with ODA, the Oregon State Parks Department, US Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, PGE, and the group Friends of the Metolius River, and the US Forest Service to make headway on detection and control of the weed in a comprehensive fashion. Funds from the State Weed Board have helped support those efforts.

South Central Region:  A new invader showed up near Klamath Falls in 2007 as Taurian thistle was detected for the first time in Oregon. ODA partnered with the county’s weed control program to quickly respond before the weed spread and good progress has been made in eradicating the thistle. In Lake County, a cooperative weed management area has been established that brings together ODA, the Bureau of Land Management, the US Forest Service, county entities, and private landowners to focus on pepperweed, Mediterranean sage, and other thistle species. Again, the State Weed Board has provided funds for the efforts.

Southeast Region:  Two cooperative weed management areas have been formed in this corner of the state to bring all parties to the table in forming a battle plan against noxious weeds. One weed of concern is perennial pepperweed that has taken root in the south fork of the Malheur River, spanning the county line between Malheur and Harney. Private ranchers in the area have been eager and willing cooperators in the effort.

Northeast Region:  This is probably the strongest area of the state in terms of weed management activities. It was the early 1990s when Baker, Union, and Wallowa counties formed the Tri County Weed Management Area in response to several weed threats that took root in all three counties. With an impressive collection of state, federal, county, and private cooperators, biological control efforts have been successful in controlling Dalmation toad flax. A stem weevil which is a natural predator of the weed has thrived and been collected in Umatilla, Baker, Grant, and Wallowa counties, then re-distributed in areas of toad flax infestation.

In all regions of the state, the philosophy is the same. Early detection and rapid response are key elements of a successful noxious weed control strategy.

“We need everyone’s cooperation,” says Butler. “If you let one infestation go without being treated, it continues to be a source of seeds that spread to other areas.”

Public education and outreach are also high priorities. On Monday, May 18, the Central Oregon Weed Wagon will be on display at the State Capitol complete with pamphlets, videos, and other educational materials. The wagon will symbolically kick off Weed Awareness Week and highlight the TEAM approach to fighting invasive plant species- a trail blazed by partnerships all across Oregon.

For more information, contact Tim Butler at (503) 986-4621.

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