October 08, 2002 11:00 pm
BATTLING WEEDS FROM RAFTS: Cooley River Expeditions used rafts to attack streamside weeds along the lower Grande Ronde River. (Submitted photo).
BATTLING WEEDS FROM RAFTS: Cooley River Expeditions used rafts to attack streamside weeds along the lower Grande Ronde River. (Submitted photo).

ENTERPRISE — Local forces formed an alliance to wage war on weeds on all fronts of the lower Grande Ronde River this summer.

The Lower Grande Ronde River Noxious Weed Program is a cooperative effort among the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, nearly all landowners in the area, and Wallowa Resources, a community based non-profit organization dedicated to sustaining Wallowa County's economy and ecosystems.

The weed program's goal is to create an effective treatment program, which is economically and ecologically responsible, according to a Wallowa Resources news release.

The river, downstream from Minam, is popular for rafting, fishing and hunting. The area has been invaded by weeds that can displace native vegetation, and reduce productivity for recreation and grazing.

Some noxious species like yellow star thistle can be carried in by the wind or wildlife.

Other species were flushed downstream by the 1996 Grande Ronde flood. It spread weeds along both sides of the course of the river.

A potential complication was the different ownerships along the lower Grande Ronde, including private ownership as well as BLM and Forest Service lands.

The operation's effectiveness was greatly increased by cooperation between landowners, allowing access, for teams to follow the spread of weeds across property lines, from the river's edge to the ridgetops in the steep canyon country.

Various methods were used. Skip Royse of Joseph converted his pack string to carry spray rigs into the backcountry to wage chemical warfare on the relentless enemy.

Aerial assaults were carried out in some areas, and amphibious landings were made by Cooley River Expeditions of Joseph.

"It's great to be contributing to the health of the riverbanks in Eastern Oregon," co-owner Larry Davis said about Cooley's new mission.

Cooley transported several teams from Wallowa Resources down the Grande Ronde to pull and spray weeds.

On the first trip, Wallowa Resources' range stewardship technician Allan Schnetzky and six members of the Salmon Corps from the Nez Perce tribe worked together.

"Having Cooley River Expeditions navigate us ... to a specific site freed us up to evaluate the weed situation along the river. Pulling and spraying weeds all day is very strenuous work," said Mark Porter, Wallowa Resources rangeland stewardship coordinator. "(It) made it possible for us to (use) all our energy to do our job."

Cooley River Expeditions guides and owners, Davis and Nicole Bellows, relocated from Albany to Joseph last spring. They run unique recreational trips where participants learn river skills and how to row a 12-foot raft or paddle an inflatable kayak on the Grande Ronde, John Day and Salmon rivers.