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Topic of meeting is invasive weeds

The U.S. Forest Service's latest proposed battle plan to take on an invading army will deploy everything from boots on the ground to new chemical weapons.

The plan, to be reviewed during an open house today in Medford, is in the agency's draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) which addresses ways to stop the advance of invasive weeds on national forests in Oregon and Washington. It is one of eight open houses being held.

Specialists will provide information, answer questions and accept comments.

The emphasis is on prevention, not just killing weeds but trying to prevent the noxious weeds from getting into areas that are not yet infested, explained Steve Bulkin, noxious weed coordinator for the Rogue River and Siskiyou national forests as well as the forests' silviculturist.

These noxious weeds displace native vegetation, he added. With that, you lose habitat, both for flora and fauna.

— For example, invasive weeds such as purple loosestrife can choke off riparian areas, affecting species like coho salmon, he said.

We're talking about biodiversity issues here, he said.

Basically, the proposed action in the DEIS allows the expanded used of invasive plant treatment tools, including using a broader range of herbicides, biological controls, manual treatment and prevention by cleaning equipment that could carry invasive plants or their seeds into forests.

It would also focus on reducing ground disturbances that promote noxious weeds while limiting the introduction and spread of invasive species.

The final decision expected by the end of the year would amend all forest management plans in Oregon and Washington to allow the use of those tools and implement the use uniformly across the region.

Within the two states, some 420,000 acres in national forests are infested with invasive plants, according to the agency.

Locally, these invasive weeds comprise very small acreage right now, Bulkin said. But we need to stomp them out now, and not wait until they become such a large problem that we don't have any tools .

An estimated 40,000 acres are infested in the two local forests. The agency is treating fewer than 2,000 acres.

Invaders like bull thistle overtake clearcut areas but die away when native plants grow back, he explained.

Our concern is that some of these other invasive weeds are real aggressive or are durable in a shaded forest setting, he said, noting that toadflax and false broom are both shade-tolerant.

Other plants, like Scotch broom, have seeds that are durable for decades, he said.

Of the local area being treated, chemicals are currently being used on about 400 acres, he said.

We're not out there with helicopters, he said. We're using selective herbicides that don't affect the grasses. We are only targeting the broadleaf plants.

He acknowledged the use of herbicides is controversial.

But the opponents of herbicides need to understand the aggressive nature of these invasive weeds and what is at risk, he said. They need to understand we are treating individual plants.

Every year an area is treated, there are fewer noxious weeds in the vicinity, he said.

However, disturbances like the 2002 Biscuit fire, which scorched some half-million acres, have the potential for increasing the invasive weed population.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at

If You Go

WHAT: Invasive weed management proposal open house.

WHO: U.S. Forest Service specialists. Public is invited.

WHEN: 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. today.

WHERE: Douglas Fir Room, Red Lion Inn, 200 N. Riverside Ave., Medford.

Specific information about the DEIS is available at on the Web or by contacting Gene Skrine at (503)808-2685.

Public comments on the DEIS are requested by Nov. 24.

Comments can be submitted by regular mail to: Invasive Plant Project, USDA Forest Service, PO Box 3623, Portland, OR 97208.

The Dirty Dozen

These noxious, invasive weeds are a threat to the Rogue River and Siskiyou national forests in Southern Oregon:

Spotted knapweed

Biddy-biddy

Diffuse knapweed

Canada thistle

Non-native — hound's tongue

Yellow toadflax

Purple loosestrife

Gorse

Yellow star thistle

Scotch broom

Puncture vine

French broom

Source: U.S. Forest Service