By: Melissa Brown – Consultant – Helena, MT
The purpose of this document is to 1) summarize historical information regarding management of leafy spurge on the Smith since 1996; 2) discuss current management program; and 3) identify the needs for action. Recommendations for action are proposed to assist the Smith River Habitat Project in establishing programs to improve wildlife habitat and rangeland along the Smith River.
Data for this summary was provided by Meagher County Weed District, USFS White Sulphur Springs Ranger District (a.k.a. Kings Hill RD), Cascade County Weed District, and Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks. Information was collected from various public entities via telephone, personal interviews, email, and written letters. Individual landowner contact was beyond the scope of this preliminary research effort, however, landowner participation is critical to the development of an effective weed management program, and they should be contacted by your organization (see recommendations at the end of this document).
Information is presented in four sections including 1) a chronology of efforts from 1996 to 2003; 2) current weed management program; 3) need for action; and 4) recommended action.
Chronology – 1996 to 2003
In 1996, Weed Management Service (WMS) prepared a report titled “Leafy Spurge Management on the Smith River” for the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP). The purpose of the report was to 1) summarize historical information regarding management of leafy spurge on the Smith River; 2) discuss management activities conducted in 1996; and 3) outline management options and strategies for noxious weeds within and adjacent to the Smith River corridor.
Prior to 1996, leafy spurge management along the Smith River corridor had been sporadic since 1976. There was an active inventory and chemical control program from 1977 through 1985. However, environmental constraints, reduced budgets, and difficult access along much of the river made management with herbicides extremely difficult. The availability of biological control agents enhanced management options for leafy spurge after 1991 (116 releases). Most insects available for release on leafy spurge had been placed in the area, although the status was unknown because of difficulty of access and vague descriptions of sites.
There was little information regarding noxious weed infestations and control efforts available for lands within a 1 to 2 mile border of the Smith River. This information is critical for developing management strategies for weeds within the river corridor.
A cooperative meeting was organized in spring of 1996 that included FWP, USFS, and Cascade and Meagher County Weed Districts (Smith River Coordinated Weed Group). The purpose of the meeting was to develop strategies for weed management along the Smith River corridor. A trip was organized in late June to review and map wee populations along the river, and develop long-term management goals. Participants on the float trip included Tim Bond, Jim Olivarez, and George Markin with USFS, Doug Haberman and Tom Sabol with FWP, and Celestine Duncan, consultant.
Leafy spurge was inventoried from Camp Baker to Eden Bridge. Infestations along the river were identified from the ground and an aircraft was used to detect infestations on open grassland sites above the corridor. Total acreage infested with leafy spurge was 1551. This accounted for a 230% increase in acres from previous inventories.
Strategies were developed for three management zones; 1) Camp Baker to Tenderfoot Creek [river mile 0 to 16]; 2) Tenderfoot Creek to Eden Bridge [river mile 16 to 59]; and 3) Above River Corridor. The table below summarizes options for these three management zones.
*specific activities/strategies are recommended for private lands, boat camps, and other special management areas
Leafy spurge is well established throughout the Smith River corridor. There were no other noxious weed species of significant concern located along the river during the inventory in June, 1996. Most infestations of leafy spurge located above Tenderfoot Creek could be contained or eradicated with a consistent herbicide program.
The following areas were identified as PRIORITIES FOR MANAGEMENT OF LEAFY SPURGE on lands within and adjacent to the Smith River corridor:
1. Initiate a prevention strategy to maintain the area free of other noxious weeds listed on the state noxious weed list. Annual or biannual inventories should be conducted along the river with the specific objective to monitor for noxious weed invasion. High recreational use makes this area susceptible to invasion.
2. Organize a management team comprised of county, federal, state, and private individuals to develop goals and objectives for weed management along the Smith River.
3. Contain leafy spurge within the river corridor by initiating containment and control programs on leafy spurge infestations adjacent to the corridor.
4. Control and eradicate leafy spurge where possible along the river and tributaries between Camp Baker and Tenderfoot Creek.
5. Expand release of biological control agents. County weed districts should be involved with all release of bioagents; additional contacts include USFS, APHIS, ARS, UM, and MSU.
6. Expand inventories to uplands adjacent to the river corridor and on stream tributaries flowing into the Smith River to determine the extent of leafy spurge infestations. This information is vital to maintaining containment and control programs within the river corridor, and will ultimately affect the success of the program.
7. Develop educational and awareness brochures, displays, etc. on noxious weeds for recreational users.
8. Consider development of a Noxious Weed Trust Fund grant request to assist private landowners and federal agencies in implementing control programs, and/or conducting weed inventories.
Doug Haberman prepared a summary of weed activities in 1997 and a project action plan (attached). He reported 23 additional biocontrol releases, and 16 acres treated with herbicides – the first herbicide treatments since 1987. SRCWG presented their accomplishments at the Montana Weed Control Association’s annual meeting.
Haberman’s notes also indicated that contact had been made with private landowner Greg Carlson regarding biocontrol releases on his land. Carlson welcomed releases and related monitoring.
SRCWG revised the floater’s packet to include information on leafy spurge requesting that they wash vehicles and gear before coming to the river.
SRCWG held two informational meetings, and two workshops for landowners. Various materials including the Smith River Weed Report and updates were sent to landowners.
Tim Bond (USFS) held a follow-up meeting to the 1996 recommendation report probably during January 1997 (no date indicated on notes / attendance list not included). The meeting notes describe the status and ideas for implementing eight priority areas identified in the 1996 recommendation report. An additional priority was identified to develop a cooperative spatial database. Agencies and landowner information was maintained separately, and the objective would be to standardize the data in GIS format to be maintained annually. See attachments for complete report of status and ideas.
Supplemental to the meeting notes was a proposal for the FY97 Smith River weed treatment program. Proposed herbicide rates and treatment acreage would be implemented as a 1 year trial to be modified in subsequent years as needed. The proposal planned to treat a total of 30 acres of leafy spurge in 1997 —17.9 acres were treated.
Weed management strategies identified in 1997 were continued for 1998, with a total of 29.7 acres treated with herbicide. Inventories of tributaries were planned. A grant was awarded to fund an educational brochure, and a spatial database system.
Doug Haberman left his position as Smith River District Park Manager and is replaced with Joe O’Neill (current). Haberman compiled “recommendations for future Smith River weed control activities” which included; attend noxious weed short course, evaluate herbicide treatment efficacy, establish “hug a bug” biocontrol education & fundraising program, map biocontrol agent distribution/status, make new releases in specified areas, follow up on Carlson (private) biocontrol releases, develop weed mgt plans with larger landowners, bring new landowners into the program, remap infestations and monitor spread/control in 2001 (recommend Celestine Duncan).
FWP and USFS entered into a cost/share agreement that outlined shared responsibilities in managing various resources on the Smith River. The agreement designates USFS as responsible for applying herbicide treatments to FWP and USFS lands, and collecting biocontrol agents from a source in North Dakota. FWP is responsible for distributing biological control agents later in the season and performing various maintenance activities on USFS and FWP boat camps.
Weed management strategies were refined by Tim Bond, identifying three river sections; Upper River Weed Management Area (Camp Baker to Tenderfoot); Middle River Weed Management Area (Tenderfoot to Deep Creek); and Lower River Weed Management Area (Deep Creek to Eden Bridge). Specific management objectives were established based on extent and character of infestations. Objectives range from eradication of isolated infestations in the Upper River WMA, to containment of large scale infestations in Middle River WMA.
Chemical treatments were hindered by rain (25 acres treated).
A helicopter contractor was employed to conduct inventories and release biological control agents.
The Montana Weed Control Association recognized the Kings Hill RD for their weed management efforts on the Smith River.
Tim Bond left his position at Kings Hill RD. A detail employee filled the position for nearly a year before Kaylene Monson took over the program. Bond’s plans for 2000 included continuation of current weed management strategies with more efforts put towards nurturing landowner cooperation especially in the Tenderfoot and Cabin Bar areas. Treatment records for 2000 were not available.
Biocontrol agents were released at 36 locations.
Kaylene Monson took over Tim Bond’s position at what is now called White Sulphur Springs Ranger District. Records provided indicate a total of 5 acres were treated with herbicide.
Biocontrol agents were released at 16 locations.
Six (6) acres were treated with herbicide.
Biocontrol agents were released at 3 locations.
Herbicide treatments are applied, however records were not available. Location and size of treated areas were recorded with a GPS and stored electronically. These files may be lost.
Biocontrol agents were released at 20 locations.
As defined in an ongoing cost/share agreement between FWP and USFS, herbicide treatments on federal and state lands are applied by the USFS, and biological control releases are conducted by FWP. General management strategies remained consistent with those identified in the 1996 recommendation report. Chemical efforts were focused on smaller isolated infestations above Tenderfoot where control and possibly eradication were reasonable objectives. Biological control agents were released and numerous locations annually below Tenderfoot where infestations are more widespread and severe.
Lewis & Clark NF has treated over 100 acres since 1997 with annual treatments ranging from 6 acres to 36 acres. In general Tordon 22K (1qt/ac) + 2,4-D (1 qt/ac), or Tordon 22K (1 qt/ac) are applied 10 feet or more above the water’s edge, and 2,4-D (1 qt/ac), Krenite S (1.5 gal/ac), Rodeo (2 pt/ac) 10 feet or less from the water’s edge. Most applications are made using a backpack sprayer.
Although records are sporadic, there have been almost 100 additional releases of biological control agents since 1996 for a total of at lease 214 biocontrol release sites. Some monitoring has been conducted by George Markin (USFS, Bozeman), and both USFS and FWP crews informally monitor during their annual treatments.
County weed districts coordinate assist private land owners with developing weed management plans and contract herbicide application. Spray records are on file with Meagher County and Cascade County Weed Districts for treatments applied by the county or through county contracts.
Meagher County coordinates contracts to primarily treat roadsides on private lands adjacent to the Smith River. A Noxious Weed Trust Fund grant was awarded to assist several landowners above Tenderfoot in the treatment of 458 acres ($19,021.00) with herbicides and biological control agents. Grant records are on file with MT Department of Agriculture. County weed supervisor, Otto Ohlson provided maps representing chemical applications and insect releases since 2000.
Cascade County is not currently involved in leafy spurge management with any private landowners along the corridor within Cascade County.
Leafy spurge is widespread throughout the corridor with most severe infestations below Tenderfoot (river mile 16). Extensive ground work was done in 1996 to develop a comprehensive cooperative weed management program on the Smith River through the Smith River Cooperative Weed Group. Although some components of the recommendation report were put into action from 1997 to 1999, staff turn-over and budget constraints has resulted in loss of program ownership by cooperating entities. The most critical element of the Smith River Cooperative Weed Group’s efforts was that of private landowner partnerships. Although both FWP and USFS continue efforts through annual chemical treatments and biocontrol releases, a comprehensive cooperative approach that includes neighboring private lands has not been feasible with new agency staffing structures and budgets.
The scope of the Smith River leafy spurge problem is large and complex and requires careful strategic planning. With 114 private and public waterfront property owners, a coordinated effort is critical if progress is to be made towards controlling weed populations. Effective weed management programs include six critical components; 1. awareness & education; 2) prevention; 3.) early detection & rapid response; 4.) management; 5.) inventory & monitoring; and 6.) research & new technology. Because of the mixed ownership and critical need for cooperative efforts on a river corridor, an eighth component “partnerships” should be added to the top of the list.
Weed management strategies established in 1996 are still valid, and are incorporated into the recommended management program components listed below. These strategies and priority areas need to be implemented and monitored consistently. Updated weed inventories, and biocontrol agent distribution and status are critical to developing a comprehensive plan of attack between all private and public land owners in the corridor.
1. Partnerships –
a. Organize a management team comprised of county, federal, state, and private individuals to develop goals and objectives (cooperative weed management plan) for weed management along the Smith River.
b. Seek funds through the Noxious Weed Management Trust Fund, and other invested entities to develop a comprehensive cooperative weed management plan. Development of the plan includes updated weed and biocontrol inventories, establishment of weed management areas, prioritized goals and objectives, and action items with responsible entities identified.
c. Consider development of a Noxious Weed Trust Fund grant request to assist private landowners and federal agencies in implementing control programs, and/or conducting weed inventories.
d. Develop partnerships and good working relationships with public and private land owners along the Smith River Corridor. Interview land owners to find out what their current efforts are, and educate them about noxious weeds and SRHP’s mission. Confirm some level of participation commitment from landowners or potential funding sources.
e. Pursue a contract or memorandum of understanding from the USFS and FWP for SRHP to act as a program coordinator.
2. Awareness & Education –
a. Develop educational and awareness brochures, displays, etc. on noxious weeds for recreational users.
b. Coordinate workshops and meetings to raise awareness, and involve private and public landowners. Maintain communication and coordinate periodic meetings with all partners (newsletter).
3. Prevention - Initiate a prevention strategy to maintain the area free of other noxious weeds listed on the state noxious weed list. Annual or biannual inventories should be conducted along the river with the specific objective to monitor for noxious weed invasion. High recreational use makes this area susceptible to invasion.
4. Early Detection & Rapid Response – consider sponsoring launches that employ trained volunteers to identify and report locations of new invaders or new infestations of leafy spurge.
a. Contain leafy spurge within the river corridor by initiating containment and control programs on leafy spurge infestations adjacent to the corridor.
b. Control and eradicate leafy spurge where possible along the river and tributaries between Camp Baker and Tenderfoot Creek.
c. Expand release of biological control agents. County weed districts should be involved with all release of bioagents; additional contacts include USFS, APHIS, ARS, UM, and MSU.
6. Inventory & Monitoring –
a. Expand inventories to uplands adjacent to the river corridor and on stream tributaries flowing into the Smith River to determine the extent of leafy spurge infestations. This information is vital to maintaining containment and control programs within the river corridor, and will ultimately affect the success of the program.
b. Facilitate development and monitor implementation of a cooperative weed management plan. Perform annual reviews that hold each entity accountable for their assigned action items, and evaluate effectiveness of action items.
c. Maintain consistent records related to treatments and other activities performed by each participating entity.
7. Research & New Technology – Develop a cooperative spatial database that integrates records of private and public land owners along the Smith River corridor. Maintain the database annually.
Documents, Records & Notes:
2003 Smith River Annual Report, Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks
1996 Leafy Spurge Management on the Smith River – Final Report, Celestine Duncan
1996 Smith River Management Plan
1997 Update, FWP (Haberman)
1998 Recommendations for future Smith River Weed Control Activities, FWP (Haberman)
1997 Follow-up meeting notes, USFS (Bond et al.)
1999 Weed Management Strategies, USFS (Bond)
2000 Overview, USFS (Bond)
Otto Ohlson, Meagher County Weed Coordinator, in-person
Kaylene Monson, White Sulphur Springs RD, in-person
Joe O’Neill, Smith River District Park Manager-FWP, email
Jim Freeman, Cascade County Weed Coordinator, telephone
Doug Haberman, former Smith River District Park Manager-FWP, telephone