The most recent Oregon State Weed Board meeting was notable for two reasons.1. There were a large number of high-priority grant applications.
The Board considered 86 applications and was able to fund 60 for a total of $1,370,000. The funded projects targeted weeds which have small infestations and containment or local eradication is possible. The Board skipped over “hole-in-the doughnut” projects that would treat small areas in a larger sea of weeds and "treadmill" projects that would only suppress weeds temporarily.
2. The second notable part of the agenda came during consideration of species to add to the State’s official noxious weed list.
Typically, the Board considers non-native invaders that are spreading in Oregon or knocking on our door. Oregon Dept. of Agriculture (ODA) staff assess the risk of these invaders and recommend to the Weed Board those weeds that are likely to cause economic or environmental harm. Currently, the Weed Board lists 118 weeds and divides them into “A” “B” and “T” categories.
- These are the worst threats and are targeted for eradication or containment. There's a good chance you've never seen A weeds, which include: kudzu, Paterson’s curse, and purple starthistle.
- All known infestations of these weeds are under intensive control.
- If you do see an “A” weed, we’d like to know about it (1-866-INVADER).
- B weeds are “A” weeds that get out-of-hand. There's a good chance you've seen B weeds, which include: blackberries, Scotch broom and yellow starthistle.
- Abundant regionally or even statewide, suppressing their grown is the best we can do.
- Many “B” weeds are targets for biological control.
- T weeds are "Targeted" weeds. The Weed board directs ODA Noxious Weed Program staff to pay attention to these.
- T weeds include all A weeds and some B’s that haven’t spread throughout their potential range.
What to do with 3 odd balls?Ribbon grass, cheat grass, and Western juniper didn’t fit the usual pattern when they came before the Board.
Ribbon GrassRibbon grass is a pretty horticultural variety of reed canary grass, Phalaris arundinacea. There is an infestation along the Metolius River starting at Camp Sherman and spreading downstream along the banks for a couple of miles. I’ve written about it before (post Aug. 24, 2011).
Reed canary grass itself is both a wetland weed and a valuable forage species. The challenge for the Weed Board was how to handle a unique local weed issue in an otherwise pristine habitat involving a horticultural variety of a widespread, sometimes-weedy, forage grass!
After an interesting discussion, the Board voted to list ribbon grass as both “B” and “T.”
The management plan for ribbon grass will focus on the banks of the Metolius. Treatments will start this fall. Hopefully, we can clean up the infestation and preserve one of Oregon’s most scenic spots for future generations of fly-fisherman, photographers, and visitors.
Cheat GrassCheat grass isn’t pretty and it has annoying seeds that stick to your socks. It is well-adapted to dry habitats and it has been spreading in the West for over a century. Cheat grass is important ecologically because it shortens fire cycles. When cheat grass moves in, rangeland burns more frequently, and that is bad for sagebrush. Sage-grouse and other native species hat depend on sagebrush decline. Next year the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will consider whether or not to list sage-grouse as a threatened species. Thus there is renewed attention on cheat grass.
It would seem to be a no-brainer to list cheat grass as a noxious weed, but, as was pointed out at the Board meeting, it is also an important forage species where little else will grow.
In the end, the Board decided not to list it but instructed staff to come up with an official policy recognizing that cheat grass can be a problem and keeping it out of important sage grouse habitat should be a priority.
Western JuniperThe Board took a similar path with Western juniper, a native tree that is spreading like a weed (post June 1, 2013). Juniper encroachment is another reason sage grouse are declining and ironically, fire suppression favors juniper. Soon Oregon will have an official policy recognizing juniper encroachment as a problem. Hopefully that will encourage juniper removal from invaded habitats. It is unlikely that the Board would ever approve a grant for juniper removal by itself, but I expect we’ll see projects that include survey and treatment for cheat grass and other weeds that can move in after disturbances including juniper removal.
It is all related – nature is complicated!
-- post written by Dan Hilburn