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Observer 11/24/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow WAR ON WEEDS

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WAR ON WEEDS

INSECTS FOR WEED CONTROL: Dan Sharratt, of Union, with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, monitors the release of a new insect in an attempt to use a biological control of an infestation of the Dalmatian Toadflax weed on Day Ridge. (Submitted photo).
INSECTS FOR WEED CONTROL: Dan Sharratt, of Union, with the Oregon Department of Agriculture, monitors the release of a new insect in an attempt to use a biological control of an infestation of the Dalmatian Toadflax weed on Day Ridge. (Submitted photo).

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE — Wallowa County voters will be asked to consider a five-year, $85,000 per year noxious weed control levy in the Nov. 5 election.

At the request of the 11-member weed board, the county commission placed Measure 33-22 on the ballot for a levy of 19 cents per $1,000 of property value. A $100,000 property would be taxed $19.

The levy will fund a complete weed management program for the Wallowa County Noxious Weed Control District, including funds for a salary with benefits to attract a qualified vegetation manager, said Mark Porter, Wallowa County Weed Board president. A manager could look at the whole picture and coordinate weed removal with other land management agencies.

The most essential things to fund are the basics — the weed manager position and his vehicle, Porter said. Funding for treatment projects could be raised through grants, leveraged partly by the local levy, he said.

The invasion of noxious weeds is one of the most serious environmental and economic threats to Wallowa County, Porter said.

Just as with wildfire, the most effective way to stop infestation is to extinguish it immediately, not wait until it gets out of control, Porter said.

Weed seeds can remain viable for years, and extensive tap-root systems can sprout even after the tops have been destroyed, he said. Weeds rob native plants of water, light and nutrients.

Non-native weeds mainly from Europe and Asia have no natural predators here, unless a weed manager introduces some, like the bugs that have been effective against diffuse knapweed. Noxious weeds grow slowly for a long time and then explode.

A Dalmatian Toadflax infestation increased from four acres to 2,000 acres in 12 years in Northwestern Wyoming, Porter said.

Northeastern Oregon is sliding toward a weed population explosion, Porter said .

Once weeds have been allowed to take over a vast area, there's no going back, he said. If unchecked, weeds can make a permanent change, like the yellow starthistle infestation in the Lewiston area.

"We are finding new weeds like white top every year," Porter said.

When the county weed district began in 1921, the concerns were Canada Thistle, Jim Hill mustard and devil weed. Now the weed list has expanded some ten fold and involves species having the ability to enlarge their population up to 14 percent annually.

Conversely, county funding for weed control has been reduced along with county and agency budgets, as well as the loss of federal timber receipts. The current budget for weed reduction is not adequate, Porter said.

Oregonians lose $83 million per year to just 21 of the 99 state listed noxious weeds, he said.

Weeds decrease property values, reduce wildlife habitat and degrade recreation areas. The low-growing Puncture Vine is in several county areas, including Troy and Imnaha. The sharp spines on the bulb can puncture bicycle tires and hurt pets.

Pets can spread weeds, but motor vehicles are a common way to transport weeds. "People are the best movers of weeds," Porter said.

Wildlife ranks second and livestock third. There is less livestock in the county than historically, and they are more confined than wildlife. Floods, water and wind also spread weeds.

Noxious weeds can be found from the wilderness to every town in the county. Population and vehicle density is the highest in towns. A weed in a town can be spread far and wide by all the traffic concentrated there, Porter said.

Weeds know no boundaries, he said, and a weed manager can help take care of your neighbors weeds as well as yours.

If approved, the weed program will contain a $10,000 cost-share program for people in town or in the country. It can provide chemicals or biological controls like bugs, or matching money to contract a sprayer. Grass seed can also be provided.

For assistance or to report weeds call the Wallowa County Weed Control at 426-3332.

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