Media Release for Aug. 10, 2013
Boots on the Ground
Cooperative weed fighting effort hosted by Park County Weed and Pest helps protect Beartooth Mountains from invasive species.
Link to photos and captions: Boots on the Ground
CRANDALL, Wyo — Step by step, mile after mile, they marched.
For the sake of protecting wildlife habitat, more than 70 weed sprayers forged rivers, climbed steep embankments above and below the highway, and hiked along the power line routes, snowmobile trails and old logging roads of northern Wyoming’s majestic Beartooth Mountains.
From Aug. 6-8, volunteer workers from a dozen federal, county and local agencies from three states gathered in the Beartooths for the the Second Annual Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee’s Terrestrial Invasive Species Work Day, a collaborative multi-agency effort to protect the Greater Yellowstone Area from the threat of invasive species.
“It went amazingly well. This event surpassed all of our expectations,” said Josh Shorb, supervisor of the Park County Weed and Pest Control District, the agency that organized and hosted this year’s event.
While workers found and treated the usual suspects of known populations of noxious weeds that tend to pop up here and there in the Beartooth Mountains, they also found a few surprises … and with a few waves of their backpack sprayer wands wiped out the noxious invaders.
Within the work area, the project yielded:
* The discovery of the first roadside infestation of common tansy — a single plant found alongside the Beartooth Highway.
* The first detection of spotted knapweed along the Upper Clark’s Fork of the Yellowstone River — a small group of plants along the stream banks.
*The first known occurrence of tall buttercup in the Cooke City area of Montana.
“It’s so important to find infestations early like that so we can stop them. Because of those early detections, we have eradicated those populations of invasive plants,” Shorb said.
Crews also GPS-mapped and chemically treated a previously undocumented infestation of oxeye daisy they found snaking along the snowmobile trails and old logging roads of the Pilot Creek area. In future years, that discovery will require additional treatments and monitoring. Crews also identified and GPS-mapped Canada thistle infestations that will be treated with biocontrols (insect releases).
“We gathered so much good information from this project,” said Jacob Jarrett, assistant supervisor of the Park County Weed and Pest Control District. “It’s going to change how we work-plan up here.”
In the days leading up to the event, Park County weed sprayers mapped and treated areas south of the volunteer work area, including in and around the community of Crandall, linking treatments along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway corridor to the Beartooth Highway corridor up to Crazy Creek.
The volunteer day’s project area stretched along the roads, waterways, power lines and virtually all accessible points in between of the Shoshone National Forest from Crazy Creek up to the Wyoming-Montana state line. Crews also worked in Montana in and around the mountain communities of Cooke City and Silver Gate near the Northeast Entrance to Yellowstone National Park.
An important aspect of the project was public outreach — educating mountain residents on the threat of invasive species such as oxeye daisy, which can take over a landscape. It’s hard to convince everyone of that, especially since some people think they’re pretty flowers, said Mickey Pierce of the National Park Service’s Northern Rocky Mountain Exotic Pest Management Team, which worked in the Silver Gate area.
“Some people are actually cultivating and protecting them there,” Pierce said. “With the town so close to the park they need some more education on this topic around there. Many people don’t know that it’s an exotic plant. It was even in vases in front of some places.”
The mountainous, forested region high in the majestic Beartooths is home to numerous grizzly bears and elk. The area is known for its incredible scenery, numerous hunting and fishing opportunities, vast wildlife habitat and the biological diversity of its native flora.
Noxious weeds are foreign, invasive species that reduce wildlife habitat by taking over an ecosystem and squeezing out native plants that animals need for food, nesting and other purposes.
By the end of the massive work project, which ran all day Wednesday and some of Thursday morning, the dozens of volunteer weed sprayers had covered all planned work areas plus several miles more: an estimated total of nearly 10 miles of river banks, 10 miles of power line routes and about 5 miles of forest trails and roads.
The volunteer labor the agencies donated to the Beartooth project is great for Park County and the Shoshone National Forest, which are important gateways into Yellowstone National Park, said Shoshone National Forest Supervisor Joe Alexander.
“It’s always exciting to see the passion when you get so many talented, inspired people together,” Alexander said, adding that noxious weeds can be so much more damaging than a forest fire. “Fire is a normal process in the ecosystem and the land tends to recover. With invasive weeds they come in and take over and we may never see native vegetation again in those places, not in our lifetimes.”
It was fire, specifically the aftermath of the 1988 Yellowstone Fires, that inspired the formation of the Terrestrial Invasive Subcommittee of the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee — the cornerstone agency and main funding source of the annual collaborative event.
“I’d like to sincerely thank all the volunteers and agencies who participated in this project,” said Shorb, Park County Weed and Pest Supervisor. “It was an amazing effort from everybody.”
Agencies that took part in the collaborative project included: Park County Weed and Pest Control District, Teton County Weed and Pest Control District, Bonneville County (Ida.) Weed District, Cooke City Area Council (Mont.), Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, National Elk Refuge, National Park Service-Northern Rockies Exotic Plant Management Team, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Madison Ranger District of Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest (Mont.), Gallatin National Forest (Mont.) and Shoshone National Forest.
Funding was provided by a grant from the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee with additional funds from the Park County Weed and Pest Control District and Shoshone National Forest.