Navajo Noxious Weed Training Program
The Navajo Nation consists of 17.5 million acres of forest, rangeland and farmland encompassing portion of six counties in the states of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico. Subsistence farming and ranching is the traditional agricultural enterprises with the average family household income less than $12,000 per year. Over 40% of all Navajos are unemployed. Rapid encroachment of non-native noxious weeds is destroying the rangeland and farmland that the Navajo people rely upon for their very existence, as sheep and livestock is a way of life on the Navajo Nation. The continuous drought on the Navajo Nation has contributed to this noxious weed invasion based upon two trends. (1) The overgrazing of drought stricken rangelands due to excess livestock numbers and lack of moisture to produce competitive grasses; and (2) the hauling in contaminated hay onto the Navajo Nation from uncertified producers. Weed species such as Musk Thistle and Russian Knapweed are rapidly spreading into the rangelands and farmlands from roadside infestations.
The traditional method of herd management is that of open range grazing. This resulted in an overlapping ownership of grazing lands which makes controlled grazing difficult. The need for the noxious weed management problem must be addressed at the chapter level, the local unit of government. Noxious weed education awareness needs to be presented to the agricultural producers at these public forums. The need to restore the Navajo Nation to a healthy state must also be taught to our children by providing conservation education in the schools.
This project was created to partnership with other agencies to identify, inventory, collect mount and map the selected invasive plant species on the Navajo Nation using GPS. And to develop Navajo Noxious Weed training manual to teach the Navajo Nation Grazing Committee and Navajo Nation Soil and Water Conservation District members and they in turn conduct educational workshops on the Navajo Nation for limited resource Navajo farmers and ranchers.
There are two primary objectives to this project. One addresses the noxious weed surveying and mapping on the Navajo Nation. The other objectives is providing Navajo Nation Natural Resource and other agencies personnel with knowledge and educational materials necessary to teach integrated and sustainable noxious weed management at the local communities and schools from a noxious weed manual developed for this project.
Therefore, part of the objective of this project is to develop a training manual, slide presentations and workshops instructing Navajo SWCD Directors, Navajo Farm Board of Directors, Navajo Grazing Officers and NRCS, BIA and Navajo Tribal natural resource professionals in the development of an integrated sustainable weed management program that will be compatible to the traditional agricultural producers of the Navajo Nation. These professionals will then be responsible for conducting awareness training sessions for Navajo chapter officials, farmers and ranchers at the local chapter houses as well as classroom presentations to the elementary and secondary schools within their conservation districts. The training manual and workshops will incorporate Navajo traditional beliefs and customs into the development of an integrated sustainable weed management program.
The Navajo SWCD Executive Board of Directors are convinced that the invasion of non-native noxious weeds on the Navajo Nation is the single most serious threat to rangeland and farmland health and the sustainability of Navajo agricultural enterprises. All five Navajo SWCDs have acknowledged their participation and support for the Navajo RC&D Council in the development of a two year Navajo Noxious Weed Training Program.
APPROACH AND METHODS
The Navajo RC&D employed a Conservation Aide to conduct a noxious weed survey along major and secondary roads on the Navajo Nation to establish locations of the targeted noxious weed species within the five SWCD boundaries. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, Navajo Area Office, and Conservation Agronomist provided training to this individual and supervised the documentation procedures for GIS digitizing. The St. Michaels NRCS field office provided a GPS unit for UTM coordinate recording and the District Conservationist provided daily work task supervision. As the GPS coordinates was collected it was sent to Southwest Exotic Plant Mapping Program in Flagstaff, Arizona (SWEMP), which produced the map and bar graph of the survey as submitted in the annual report to SARE. SWEMP used the Navajo survey map on the cover of their annual report.
Targeted noxious weeds were collected in their various growth stages, as they are mapped during the course of the survey. Mounted specimens was made available to each of the five SWCDs, the Navajo Nation chapters and several identified elementary and secondary schools that elect to participate in the Navajo Information & Education Initiative that is being spearheaded by the NRCS Navajo Watershed Planning Team. The schools participated are Tohatchi Elementary School, Crystal Boarding School and Chuska Boarding School. The Conservation Aide has collected and made four hundred forty nine (449) targeted noxious weed mounts at various growth stages which were distributed to SWCDs, Navajo Nation chapters and schools.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
- Outcome and Impacts:
The outcome of this part of the project demonstrated that there is proof that invasive plant species do exists especially along major roads. It triggered awareness and interest in the problems and that other programs have similar objectives.
Accomplishment Such As:
The partnership established with Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Indian Affairs Branch of Natural Resources and the Southwest Exotic Plant Mapping program who have helped us with the mappings and bar graphs.
This project sparked a lot of interest from other programs that deals with natural resources.
Before the weed manual was developed Navajo RC&D was very active in the noxious weed outreach awareness. The survey map and the bar graph which depicts results of the number of occurrence were put on a large foam board for displays. The project also purchased a table top display board for exhibits.
The display was exhibited at the following locations:
• Navajo Nation Soil and Water Conservation annual conventions;
• Navajo Nation Fairs;
• New Mexico Association of RC&D Council annual meetings;
• Western SARE Poster Display Conference in Portland, Oregon;
• Arizona Association of Conservation Districts Annual Conferences;
• Navajo Nation Department of Agriculture meetings on proposed noxious weed legislation;
• District council meetings;
• Agency council meetings;
• Navajo Medicine man Association meetings;
• Navajo Nation Council Resources Committee meetings;
• At chapters where presentations were made on the weed project;
• Youth Conservation Awareness Field Days;
• District grazing committee meetings;
• Agency grazing committee meetings;
• Youth Career Days;
This project still has a potential contribution to the proposed Navajo Nation Weed Act. The Tribe was working on proposed weed legislation for the Navajo Nation Council’s consideration.
There are still a lot of potentials for outreach noxious weed education to the Navajo Nation public.
Manual: The second phase of the project is the development of a weed manual. The major participant will prepare a manual for use by educator and agency personnel dealing with aspects of sustainable noxious weed management on the Navajo rangeland and farmland that incorporate traditional methods of grazing into the management program. The major participants will prepare a manual for use by educators and agency personnel dealing with aspects of sustainable noxious weed management on rangeland and farmland. This manual will include various scientific approaches to weed management as well as any traditional management approaches to weed management that will be acquired through interviews with Navajo elders and medicine men.
Eight sections or chapters was to cover Noxious Weed Identification; Principal of Integrated and Sustainable Weed Management; Weed Biology and Ecology; Preventing noxious weed invasion; deleting, eradicating or containing noxious weed infestations; principals of integrated and sustainable weed control; rangeland and farmland management and sustainable weed management on the Navajo Nation.
Navajo RC&D used two individual for the project to do the survey and the manual. The first person identified as conservation aide who did the first phase of the project was terminated from employment. The second person who did the draft of the weed book abandon the project, after submitting a draft copy of the weed book, leaving the whole project to the Navajo RC&D staff. We had the most difficult time getting quality photo because the original hardcopy was never submitted to Navajo RC&D plus the printing shop will not print photo from another weed manual due to copy rights approval. Judy Kee, the Administrative Assistant, did what she had to do to reformat the draft material including reinserting some photos. The weed training manual is not a training manual at first glance but it contains a lot of useful information about weeds which is beneficial to any person who desires to learn about basic facts of invasive plant species. The book covers most of the eight chapters’ topic but not in sequence as outlined. There were several no cost extensions to the project for the development of weed book, the slide presentation development and the workshops was not accomplished mainly because the slides and photo taken during the survey was never returned plus the manual was not completed in time for the workshops. Never the less, 200 weed books are being printed for distribution at future workshops.
Secondly, Navajo RC&D staff took on the task of meeting some Navajo medicine man and tribal elders on the Navajo Traditional approach to weed management. Because there are so many non-native species, it is hard to tell if a plant is a weed until it start taking over the land. Some medicine men found certain weeds have medicinal purposes. One medicine man said longtime ago you practice range management by actual herding of your sheep to different locations on continuous bases thus prevent overgrazing. The key is keeping the sheep on the move not graze at the same spot.
Navajo RC&D plans to: (1) continue the outreach education to chapters, SWCD, grazing committee and schools on the problems of noxious weed on the Navajo Nation; (2) request the Department of Agriculture to continue to pursue the proposed Navajo Nation Weed Act; (3) distribute the weed book to SWCD, grazing committee, chapters and schools for their use.
Total In-kind provided by Wallace Tsosie, Navajo RC&D Council, Navajo Nation Soil and Water Conservation Districts and Others:
Navajo RC&D, Inc.
Professional Bldg. #2, Highway 264
Post Office Box 499
St. Michaels,, AZ 86511
Navajo Resource Conservation & Development, Inc.
Professional Bldg. #2, Highway 264
Post Office Box 499
St. Michaels,, AZ 86511
Office Phone: 9288714528
Post Office Box 1739
Tohatchi, NM 87325
Office Phone: 5057225600
Bureau of Indian Affairs
Post Office Box 619
Ft. Defiance, AZ 86514
Office Phone: 9287297218
213 A. South Oliver Drive
Aztec, NM 87410
Little Bear Development Center
Post Office Box 365
Oneida, WI 54155