My Story 1: A Landowner-Funded Cooperative Approach to Managing Weeds
Bob Wilson is the Extension Educator for the University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. For the past 9 years, Bob has been coordinating efforts to fight invasive weeds in Eastern Nevada. About 5 years ago he started a demonstration program to show that an effective weed control program need not be solely dependent on local taxes. As part of a tri-county coalition comprised of White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties Bob developed the Tri-County Weed Management Program, a landowner funded program with public and private stakeholders. Additional funding for local projects also comes from grant sources such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the state of Nevada, and others. The program covers about 23½ million acres, nearly one-third of the state of Nevada.
Cooperative Weed Management Areas (CWMA), local organizations comprised of private and public landowners concerned about invasive weeds and their effects on lands, are one component of the Tri-County Weed Management Program. There are currently eight CWMAs within the tri-county area with more being formed. These groups bring together individuals, weed management experts and government agencies to inventory, monitor and manage invasive weeds within their local area. In addition to their local weed management activities, CWMAs have become an important channel for educating the public on issues concerning noxious weeds. As people become more aware of weed management and their own roles in maintaining land health, they become more aggressive in the management of invasive weeds on their own land as well as more supportive of the efforts of their CWMA. County governments are also supportive of CWMA because they share the responsibility of weed management between government and private landowners.
While CWMAs have proven useful vehicles for promoting weed management on private lands, over 95% of the land in Nevada is owned or managed by federal, state or local government, and the Tri-County Weed Management Program also supports their weed management needs by providing weed mapping and management to government agencies on a contractual basis. The Bureau of Land Management has contracted for these services with the Tri-County Weed Program for most of its land in the tri-county area. The Program has developed a mapping protocol to determine where noxious weeds are most likely to be found, and an integral part of that protocol is the collection of information using global positioning systems (GPS). "We could not manage such a large area without the use of GPS; it makes our job possible" declares Bob Wilson, "but with the mapping and treatment programs, teams have been reasonably effective in keeping weed infestations from getting out of hand." The Program uses several methods to manage weeds including spraying with herbicides, cutting, manual pulling, grazing by livestock, and occasionally fire. Bob notes that weed management methods are often accompanied by some risk, in particular herbicide toxicity, fire control, and grazing by livestock present unique challenges. Managing each infestation individually however, allows the Program to tailor control methods to the site so that risks can be minimized.
Weed control treatments need to be repeated annually according to the biology of each species, and if follow up treatments and restoration are not completed, weed control costs increase. With a systematic treatment program however results can be dramatic, as in the case of Highway 50 in eastern Nevada. The area requiring herbicide there was reduced by two-thirds after the first year of treatment. Within three years the treatment area was reduced again by one-third. All of this was accomplished while increasing the diversity of native plant populations in the area. Bob points to this as a testament to an effective and persistent management program.
Along with systematic treatment, restoration is also an important component of good weed management. Once the land has been cleared of weeds, it must be replanted with other native species in order to maintain good land health. Unfortunately, lack of availability of native seed and drought conditions sometimes limit restoration efforts. Ongoing funding for land management is needed to perform the essentials of mapping and treating noxious weeds and restoring the cleared land. If weed control is postponed or suspended due to lack of funding, the problem has the potential to explode, causing large tracts of land to be unsalvageable. In a job that can often be frustrating, Bob Wilson is encouraged by the cooperation of private and government stakeholders in the fight against noxious weed infestations. He is proud of the many successes of the Tri-County Weed Management Program and offers it as a model for incorporation in other areas of the western U.S.