Extension by Brian MealorWritten by Brian Mealor
By Brian Mealor, Assistant Professor and Extension Weed Specialist
The negative impacts of invasive weeds on Wyoming’s natural resources in terms of livestock production, wildlife habitat and biological diversity are likely well known to most Roundup readers. What may not be as well known is that each person has the ability to play an integral part in protecting our resources from spread and impact of weeds in some very creative ways.
One of the largest challenges in managing weeds over large landscapes is the ability to detect small populations of problematic weeds, sometimes in remote areas, before they become well established and, therefore, more difficult to successfully control. Constraints on time, funding and personnel limit the capacity for agencies, such as Weed and Pest, Game and Fish, BLM, etc. to adequately search large parcels of land. Remote, backcountry locations off primary roads and trails sometimes receive very little attention from someone whose occupation deals directly with weed management. However, those areas are often visited by ranchers checking on their livestock, hunters pursuing game, fisherman seeking un-fished waters and hikers stretching their legs for solitude. But how can these different people contribute to Wyoming’s war on weeds?
There is an increasing movement within the natural resource management and scientific community to involve citizen-scientists for data collection to inform management decisions. In some cases, people interested in bird-watching participate in annual bird counts for their area. Amateur botanists and entomologist participate in field days to document species diversity in different management areas. While efforts like these often result in information which is important for understanding trends in migration or the biological significance of an area, the short-term feedback of a management action in response to the data collected may not be apparent. Reporting weed patches that were previously unknown to local weed management personnel may elicit an immediate response, which may lead to the protection of many acres from further negative impacts of weed infestation.
Finding and reporting weed populations can be relatively easy. The process is as simple as 1) find a weed, 2) record the location and 3) report the information to someone who can take action. It might be useful to become familiar with weeds of importance in your part of the state. A visit to your local UW Extension or Weed and Pest office will give you an opportunity to obtain resources to help you recognize weeds of interest.
Alternatively, if you are in one of your favorite locations for outdoor recreation and come across a plant that seems unusual or is forming a large, dense stand, take several photos of the plant, or collect it including part of the roots, stems, leaves and flower (if available), and bring it to one of these same offices for assistance with identification.
Marking the location of where you found the plant is very important. If you have a GPS unit available, simply mark the location using the unit. If not, making notes of where it was found or drawing an area on a topographical map can allow for follow-up actions on the weed population. Many people carry a portable weed-mapping device with them all the time: a smart phone. Most smart phones have digital cameras, applications for making brief notes and GPS capability, all rolled into one.
The Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, in cooperation with the Missouri River Watershed Coalition and other partners, has developed an online system that allows anyone to report weed infestations called EDDMapS (Early Detection and Distribution Mapping System), which can be accessed at eddmaps.org/mrwc. EDDMapS is a nationwide system for reporting weed infestations, verifying the identity of suspected problematic weeds and documenting the distribution of invasive weed species. Anyone can use it, and it is relatively easy to use. Locations of suspected or known weed infestations can be easily uploaded from a GPS unit, or a user can access a map of the area where the weeds were found and manually insert a point on the map at the website. Users can also upload images to aid in verifying the identification of the plant. Another benefit of becoming a user of EDDMapS is that you can request to be alerted when a new weed species is found in your area.
There is also a version of EDDMapS available as an application for iPhones, and a version for Android smart phones is expected to be available by spring. These smart phone “apps” will allow EDDMapS users to photograph, document and report weed infestations in real time while in the field. If cell phone service is not available in the area, the records will be stored in the phone so they can be uploaded and reported once service is again available.
If you are concerned with conserving the value of Wyoming’s natural resources and interested in plants, you can easily contribute by finding and reporting invasive weeds in your area. This program also provides an excellent opportunity for youth groups, 4-H or FFA clubs to learn about plants and technology and to assist in protecting our resources for the future. If you are interested in learning more about these opportunities, or would like to host a training for a group in your area, contact your local UW Extension or Weed and Pest office, or get in touch with me directly.