- Education and Training: networking, participatory research
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
- Natural Resources/Environment: wildlife
- Pest Management: biological control, prevention
- Sustainable Communities: partnerships, analysis of personal/family life, social psychological indicators
Over the past 10 years, noxious weed occurrences have increased in Garfield County. The increase can be attributed to: increased vehicle traffic on the bisecting highways, hunter activity on secondary and private roads, and increased reliance on out-of-county hay. In an effort to maintain and reduce the current noxious weed levels in Garfield County, the Weed Prevention Area (WPA) concept was developed. The principle is to limit new infestations by increasing landowners and visitors’ awareness of the detrimental impacts of noxious weeds to the environment. To track the weed status of lands, GPS technologies are used to map weed locations and to verify locations and acreages of non-infested lands.
Noxious weed encroachment has been an ongoing problem in the western US since the early 1900s. (A) In Montana, the spread of spotted knapweed has been documented since 1920. Spotted Knapweed started in Missoula County and today infests every county in the State. Montana currently list 32 plant species in 4 categories as noxious weeds in need of management. Economic and ecological impacts represent a tremendous cost to state each year. Current estimates place the cost of noxious weed control in Montana at between 200 and 300 million dollars annually, with an estimated 42 million dollars for the control of spotted knapweed alone. In addition it has been estimated weeds cost farmers in excess of 100 million dollars annually in control expenses and decreased production.
In 2005, Shelley et al reported noxious weeds negatively impact the native ecology by; displacing native plants, reducing biodiversity, altering the normal ecological processes, decreasing wildlife habitat, reducing recreational value of lands and increasing soil erosion and stream sedimentation.
In recent years there has been a shift in the paradigm of weed control. Instead of the historical thought of waiting until there is an infestation and treating the situation, today land managers are working on the prevention concept. There are still vast stretches of land that are either weed free or have minimal noxious weed impacts. In these areas it is for both labor and economically cost effective and proactive to keep new invaders from becoming established. Prevention is the least expensive weed control method and most effective means to halt further weed spread. There have been several publications in recent years touting the benefits of weed prevention. The methodologies of these strategies are similar and call for many of the following practices:
Education of land owners, land users and the general public; proper weed identification; aggressive monitoring of high probability sites on a regular basis; the use of weed seed free products; aggressive control plans and eradication of new weed infestations; prevent movement of products from weed infested areas to non-weed infested areas; mapping weed areas; limiting access to vehicle travel; and utilizing best management practices of grasslands.
Garfield County Montana is comprised of 70% rangeland. The vast majority of the rangeland is free of noxious weeds, which provides both ecological and economic benefits for all users. Benefits include a decreased cost of production and increased carrying capacity for livestock producers, native habitat for wildlife and native plant and grass species for recreationalists.
Widespread noxious weed infestations have not historically been a problem in Garfield County due to the county’s remoteness and lack of bisecting waterways. Over the past 10 years, noxious weed occurrences have increased in the county as they have in much of Montana, due in part by the lack of general lack of interest or recognition of noxious weed seed impacts by the general population. The increased invasion of non-native species from high density areas can be attributed to: increased vehicle traffic on the bisecting highways, increased hunter activity on secondary roads and private roads, and increased reliance on out-of-county hay. These experiences mirror reports from many other locations in the Western United States.
In an effort to maintain the current low or non-existent noxious weed levels in Garfield County, the Weed Prevention Area (WPA) concept has been embraced. Large, contiguous acreages have been included in the WPA with many of the landowners working jointly to scout for new weed threats. The principle behind the concept is to limit new infestations by increasing the awareness of private landowners, hunters and other visitors to the detrimental impacts of noxious weeds to the environment. In addition to the awareness message, landowners are encouraged to routinely monitor their private and leased lands for new weed infestations and work aggressively to eradicate any noxious weeds they located. To assist the landowners in tracking the weed-free status of their lands, GPS technologies have been employed to map current weed locations and to verify locations and acreages of non-infested lands.
This project was designed to promote the following topics:
Outcome based education program
Early weed control methods
Provide tools to restrict weed spread
Protect weed free ecological state of the area
A minimum of 14 ranches will participate in the program
These topics will be provided by striving to meet the following objectives:
Delineate and protect weed free areas from invasive species.
Establish a Weed Prevention Area and educate ranches about the benefits of participation in a Weed Prevention Area.
This objective will be accomplished by:
Raising stakeholder awareness of early weed control, the tools available for early weed control that will restrict ecological and economic impacts through local level awareness and social marketing.
Delineating and prioritizing weed free areas for Weed Prevention Area participation.
Maintain a healthy weed free ecological state by implementing rancher designed Weed Prevention Areas with specific integrated prevention and management plans.
The components used in the process include:
Education and weed identification
Developing and implementing weed prevention strategies
Early weed detection and rapid response to infestations
Global positioning systems (GPS), monitoring and mapping