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Weeds on Rocky Mountain Front mean $415K in lost livestock production annually

July 7, 2010

Spotted Knapweed

[Source: Associated Press and The Missoulian]

Leaving noxious weeds unchecked along the Rocky Mountain Front could cost counties there $415,000 a year in lost livestock production.

A survey of land managers along the Rocky Mountain Front estimates that more than $1 million was spent last year to fight noxious weeds but concludes that more is needed.

The survey released Wednesday was commissioned by The Wilderness Society on behalf of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front. It questioned 10 different federal, state, local and non-governmental agencies that manage land on or near some 2 million acres where the Rocky Mountains meet the Great Plains.

Nine of the 10 agencies told surveyors that their budgets aren’t large enough to do all they need to control the spread of the weeds.

They say they more work is needed in mapping existing weed infestations and locating new ones, documenting the effectiveness of treatments and sharing information.

“We hope Congress would designate a noxious weed management area across 400,000 acres on the Rocky Mountain Front,” said Jennifer Ferenstein of the Wilderness Society, part of the coalition of groups working on legislation to protect that landscape. “Our hope is to drive the Forest Service and BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in the right direction a little bit quicker than they’re going right now. We want to have Congress tell the Forest Service to come up with a comprehensive strategy within a year.”

The Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act includes a section specifically dedicated to fighting weeds like leafy spurge, spotted knapweed and other invaders. A survey of local, state and federal land managers in the area found those agencies already spend $1.1 million a year on weeds, but need about $1.9 million to fulfill their existing missions.

“The Rocky Mountain Front is in a unique position,” said Paul Wick, Teton County’s weed district coordinator. “Weeds have not totally taken over this environment. We have a real opportunity to keep them under control from a state and regional perspective.”

The proposed act hasn’t been introduced in Congress yet. Its supporters hope to get it introduced by one of Montana’s congressional delegation this year.

The groups released their “weed economics” report and survey late Wednesday morning.

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