Weed control tops local issues at forum

Written by Katy Nesbitt, The Observer October 19, 2012 01:51 pm

Wallowa County is gearing up for the election, hosting two voters’ forums Thursday in  Wallowa at the Senior Center and in Enterprise at the Wallowa County Fairgrounds’ Cloverleaf Hall.

Topping local issues, the Wallowa County Weed Board is asking voters to renew the weed levy that supports weed control in the county. The five-year levy passed in 2002 and 2007. The $.19 per $1,000 of assessed property value brings in $112,000 a year and covers the basics of the county’s weed program, said Allen Schnetzky, county weed coordinator.

This funding supports not only a full-time coordinator who works with landowners on cost-share projects, but also supports two other positions.

Weed Board Chairman Mark Porter said, “The cost-share has really benefitted landowners in Wallowa County.”

In the past five years $64,000 has been given back to county landowners, 4,000 acres have been treated, and 10 contractors were employed. The money raised through the levy leveraged $160,000 in additional grant funds put directly back on the ground.

The Wallowa County Noxious Weed Control District has been in existence since 1921 and is the oldest in the state, said Schnetzky. At the time, Canada thistle, Jim Hill mustard and devil weed were the big concerns. Ninety years later, the weed list has expanded 10-fold.

“If you want to see what we’ve done, go to Idaho or Montana and see the difference,” said Porter.

This spring a cost-share project, with help from the Wallowa County Soil and Water Conservation District, put 900 goats out to pasture combatting leafy spurge along Leap Road. The project is for five years and is a combination of grazing, herbicide and insects. Leafy spurge can have roots up to 30 feet long and is extremely difficult to combat with herbicides alone.

The district participates in educational projects throughout the year. The most visible is the hay station in Minam at the county border and a sign reminding visitors that the county requires weed-free certified hay.

The board hosts a weed tour each summer and meets twice a year with the county commissioners. Porter said the most important outreach is Schnetzky meeting one-on-one with landowners.

Bill Hansell and Antone Minthorn, facing off in the Oregon senate race, and Bob Jenson, running for his seat in the house, visited with voters in Wallowa Thursday afternoon and discussed how best they would steer the state legislature in the coming session.