Weed & Pest
Weed and Pests: a local resourceWritten by Jennifer Womack
“Throughout Wyoming every county has a W&P district and what we do is provide technical assistance to everyone who lives in the state of Wyoming on controlling weeds and pests,” explains Fremont County W&P Supervisor Lars Baker. He notes that each county has its own board and that services vary from one county to the next. “Most W&P Districts are also involved in the control of noxious weeds on public roads,” he says. Among other things, Fremont County W&P treats 500 centerline miles of highway, 3,000 miles of county roads and irrigation ditch banks within the county. The county has also been active in the use of insects to biologically control invasive weeds.
“I look at the Weed and Pests as the first line of defense against invasives in the plant world,” says Vickrey. “Without them I think we’d see Wyoming look like some of our neighboring states where invasives just destroy landscapes.” He says Wyoming has what’s called early detection and rapid response with the idea of finding problem weeds quickly and addressing the situation as soon as possible.
“We have a very successful weed program within our state,” says Wyoming W&P Coordinator Slade Franklin. Rapid response, he says, is key to that success. Franklin encourages landowners or citizens who discover an unfamiliar plant to take it to their local W&P office for identification.
Wyoming isn’t without its weed-related challenges. Widespread efforts are underway to bring salt cedar and Russian olive populations under control along the state’s waterways. Baker also points out the growing amount of cheatgrass in the state although it isn’t a designated weed at this time.
On the success side, Baker says, “The biggest thing we can talk about today is the biological control of leafy spurge.” Using herbicides Baker says the districts were able to contain leafy spurge. “In Fremont County where we’ve been very well funded, we have the same number of infested acres with leafy spurge that we had 30 years ago. In the 1990s we started working with biological control of leafy spurge. We now have nine or 10 insects established in Fremont County.” Baker says the leafy spurge has “sagged out” while native species have filled back in. Similar results have been seen in other parts of the state and region. Baker is hopeful equally successful species will be found for other problem weeds.
Throughout the convention Franklin says supervisors have an opportunity to learn about projects and research happening across the state and region including work to find potential new biological control specimens. During this year’s conference W&P officials also had the chance to hear from other states about how they’re addressing weeds and how their state statutes are written. Wyoming may be at a point where it needs to update and clarify its own statutes that Baker says were built a piece at a time starting in 1895.
“Weed and Pests play a significant role in the agricultural community in the eastern counties with the prairie dog programs and statewide with our weed control programs,” says Franklin. “Wyoming is one of the only states that has a statewide landowner assistance program. It’s good for landowners to know there’s a way to get help whether it’s cost share, the educational component or the integrated pest management programs they can take advantage of.”
Over the years Franklins agrees the toolbox available for weed control has broadened and become more refined in its application. “We see a lot of various pesticides that are registered, very ecologically friendly pesticides. We have biological control agents that do a great job, especially on large areas of infestation.” While it’s often downplayed, Franklin stresses the importance of the educational component.
“We’re constantly moving in a positive direction,” says Vickrey.
Franklin says, “One place we’re trying to reach out is to the small landowners. They don’t necessarily depend on the land they own and it’s a difficult group to reach….We’ve got to figure out a way to explain to them that what goes on on their land impacts their neighbors and impacts them.”
“If you have an opportunity to go and explore what Weed and Pest can do for you in your community, go,” advises Vickrey noting that it’s a service available to everyone from the back yard gardener to the rancher. “They’ll explain how to apply and what to apply. It’s a fraternity I’ve been fortunate to be a part of. The knowledge these folks have as to what ‘s going on in the world of herbicides and how to control invasives, is amazing.”