Officials know they can't stop non-native plants; they can only hope to contain them.
Timed to happen with a new "Oregon Field Guide" TV documentary on combating invasive species, local government agencies and environmental groups are teaming up this spring for a mass weed-pull and informational barbecue, a free screening of the show and an ongoing recognition/suppression campaign — with the understanding that the region's many alien weeds can only be controlled, not eradicated.
The campaign is being mounted by a gaggle of agencies — Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Agriculture, Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District, Seven Basins Watershed Council — who united their efforts in the county a few years ago as the Coordinated Weed Management Area.
With the recognition that more than $100 million a year is being spent in Oregon fighting invasive plants, Bob Budesa of Jacksonville, recently retired from the BLM, says the battle to make good citizens out of invasive weeds means there will be a balanced environment where native plants and animals can thrive.
Some plants are so invasive they will create a monoculture, driving out all other plants, so only herbicides like Rodeo and Roundup will do, even though many environmentalists oppose them, said Budesa.
Another weapon in the battle is importing bugs from the noxious plants' home environment, so they can feed on the plant, but only after the critters are tested to make sure they don't devour anything else, Budesa notes.
Where citizens come in is learning to spot unwelcome plants and using the old-fashioned tools — pulling, chopping, mowing and scorching.
"People have been bringing in exotic plants for centuries, to have their helpful properties near at hand, but it's only been in the last 20 years, with the environmental movement, that people really took a look at the impacts and started collaborating," he said.
While it's nice to think we can eradicate these and many other invasive plants, it's not going to happen, says Budesa, because once a species gets established and insects are brought in to fight it, if you kill off the plant, the bugs die, too — then, someday, someone will bring a few seeds or plants in and they will take off like wildfire.
"A balance of nature is the best we can hope for," he says.
"Thousands of acres a day in this country are being taken over by invasive species, animals and plants. They're overtaking space normally occupied by native plants and those plants support native animals, birds, insects, lizards. They can create a desert of a single species and some even exude chemicals into the soil, so nothing else can get a toehold. They're that aggressive," he notes.
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.