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EDUCATION AND OUTREACH YOUTH EDUCATION Educating Missoula County’s youth on native and non-native vegetation and the ecology behind the maintaining healthy plant communities and the effects noxious weed invasions have on them. The Missoula County Weed District approaches this task by cultivating children’s interest in healthy native plant communities with hands-on, place-based outdoor experiences. Leave No Weeds: Area 5th graders learn to identify healthy plant communities and the impacts invasive species have on the communities. Students are given an introduction to biological concepts that include; habitats & ecosystems, healthy plant communities/biodiversity and integrated weed management strategies. These concepts are explored further on a half-day fieldtrip where students participate in a native plant walk, weed pull, biocontrol observations and revegetation activity spreading native grass and flower seeds to disturbed sites. Naturewalk Week: 400 area 3rd grade students visit their local National Forest and learn from experts in the field about the importance of nature and what public lands have to offer. The Weed District component demonstrates how to look for unique identification characteristics of native plants and noxious weeds. Students go away with a better understanding of the importance of native plants the potential threat noxious weeds have on local ecosystems.


1200 Kids

learned about native plants and noxious weeds Visited Riparian Health Workshop: Partnering with the Watershed Education Network, 80 Washington Middle School 8th graders learned about healthy habitats and the importance of plant diversity and why invasive species threaten local watershed ecosystems. Potomac Outdoor School: Potomac 7th grade students learned the basics of using a dichotomous key to identify plants. Students practiced using a “candy dichotomous key” from the kNOweeds Curriculum. This activity uses different types of candy to teach the process of using a dichotomous key. The students answer a series of questions regarding the candy’s features which lead to correctly identifying the type of candy. They continued practicing the use of dichotomous keys by observing parts of plants to distinguish differences that enabled them to identify the plant.

Kids spent

135 hours



outdoors learning about plant diversity


miles hiked on conservation lands

47 bags

25 lbs. of native seed spread

of spotted knapweed removed

YOUTH IN RESTORATION Missoula County Weed District provides 4 high school students a unique opportunity to participate and learn about local stewardship projects within Western Montana. YIR is a cooperative program that builds collaborative partnerships between diverse land management organizations, while providing youth crew members with career mentoring and on-the-ground training in natural resource conservation work. The youth crew participated in a variety of hands-on activities over their 8 weeks of service. A typical day may have included: removal of noxious weeds on public and/or private land, monitoring and mapping vegetation such as newly discovered invasive grass species, collecting and releasing thousands of biological control insects, removal of fencing that inhibits wildlife movement, removing browse cages as part of an ongoing stream restoration effort to enhance native trout populations, thinning for fire suppression in an old-growth ponderosa pine forest, backpacking into the Bob Marshall Wilderness to remove noxious weeds, or floating the local rivers and lakes to monitor for aquatic invasive species. The Missoula County Weed District looks to enhance and expand the Youth in Restoration program each year by finding new partnerships and experiences that will provide knowledge and training in natural resource and conservation work.


6 lakes 3 rivers


and for aquatic invasive species Partnered PARTNER SUPPORT • Five Valleys Land Trust • The Nature Conservancy


with land management organizations

Helped restore

2 miles of streams

• Bureau of Land Management (BLM) • Missoula Parks & Recreation • Missoula County Parks • Department of Natural Resources (DNRC) • US Forest Service- Lolo National Forest • Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) • University of Montana Natural Areas • MPG Ranch • Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation • Montana Biological Weed Control Project

Mapped noxious weeds over


268acres 2.5 miles

of barbed wire fencing

Collected and redistributed


biocontrol insects

ADULT EDUCATION CONNECTING LANDOWNERS AND COMMUNITIES THROUGH EDUCATION TRAININGS AND SEMINARS Healthy Acres Landowner Seminar: 40 participants were provided a forum to discuss land management issues that affect the health of their land. This years’ seminar focused on the changing climate and responses to this change. Resources, scientific research, personal experience and predictions were shared to assist landowners in making informed decisions on future land-use and management on their properties. Private Applicator Training: Each spring the Missoula County Weed District trains new private applicators (25) on how to safely and effectively treat their property with herbicides, as well as, educate them on the importance of an integrated approach to vegetation management that includes the principles of IPM (Integrated Plant Management).

Missoula County varies with land-use needs and vegetation issues. The Weed District plans programs to meet the needs of an array of land management issues. The Missoula County Weed District’s approach to educating an ever changing demographic of landowners is based on providing the necessary tools and resources to help landowners make informative decision to managing their vegetation towards their goals for the land.

Master Gardener: Partnering with Missoula County Extension, 30 participants of the Master Gardener program learn the history of the Missoula County Weed District program, plant identification and principles of IPM (Integrated Plant Management). This includes a hands-on biological control activity dissecting spotted knapweed roots and seed heads. AMTOPP: Contributed to the Association of Montana Turf, Ornamental and Pest Professionals annual conference. 25 professionals learned how to identify invasive ornamental plants and techniques for dealing with a concerned public on pesticide use.

WORKSHOPS Building Bridges Workshop: Returning to Leafy Spurge Plots 10 Years after the Original Study. Researchers, land managers and interested public spent a day counting grass stems and clipping vegetation to assist in a study that was set up to assess and demonstrate efficacy of integrated management of leafy spurge in 2002 on the Sapphire Ranch. 30 volunteers followed the scientific protocol from the initial study to help researchers find out if leafy spurge returned and what reseeded grass species established and held the line of invasion 10 years after the completed study.

Bison Range Bio-control Workshop: 40 volunteers attended the 3rd annual Bison Range Biocontrol Workday. Participants helped collect 19,000 Dalmatian toadflax stem weevils from an infestation of toadflax on the National Bison Range (NBR) where they were abundant and were greatly impacting the weed. Majority of the insects were relocated to an infestation of toadflax on NBR where the insect population needed a boost. Participants in need of insects for their own toadflax infestations were allowed to take home insects. Vertebrate Pest Control Workshop: 25 attendees learned identification characteristics of various vertebrate pests in our area through biology and damage identification. Participants practiced proper trapping methods and safe pesticide application techniques.

225 adults 420

hours were volunteered redistributing 19,000 biocontrol insects & monitoring vegetation

received land management training


private applicators trained

BIOCONTROL MONTANA BIOLOGICAL WEED CONTROL COORDINATION PROJECT Some folks may wonder why a statewide program is housed within a county weed district. If you are asking this question, here is a brief background of how the Montana Biological Weed Control Coordination Project (MTBCP) came to be. In 2012, a need for better coordination and communication amongst biocontrol practitioners and land managers was identified. In 2013, the Montana Biocontrol Working Group worked to raise funds from county, state, and federal agencies to hire a statewide coordinator. Due to the grassroots effort and multiple funders that resulted in the creation of MTBCP, it is ever-evolving and strives to provide the deliverables that land managers are currently interested in. Missoula County was willing to house MTBCP because they recognize the importance of such coordination and also understand the benefit for their own county. The mission of the MTBCP is to provide the leadership, coordination, and education necessary to enable land managers to successfully incorporate biocontrol into their noxious weed management programs. MTBCP was established in 2013 and has grown significantly in 3 short years; increasing the number of people reached at workshops, number of workshops held, locations of workshops, number of collection days held, and number of insects distributed throughout the state. MTBCP will continue to focus on these priorities for at least a few more years before we survey to re-evaluate land managers biocontrol needs. As long as the numbers continue to increase, we can be confident that these focus areas are still benefiting weed management programs in Montana.









LEGEND Workshops Received Insects Both Workshops & Insects

Legend Workshops Received Insects Both Workshops and Insects


34 days spent collecting insects (10 days in 2014 & 32 in 2015) 6 insect species collected (yellow toadflax stem weevils,

Dalmatian toadflax stem weevils, leafy spurge flea beetles, leafy spurge stem borers, spotted knapweed root weevils, and spotted knapweed flower-head weevils)

3 insect species (bindweed gall mite, loosestrife root weevil,

and klamathweed beetles) were shipped to MT from other states for field bindweed, purple loosestrife, and St. Johnswort management

42 counties collected or received insects (25 counties in 2014 & 35 in 2015)

6 species collected = 1.3 Million Insects

7 other states received insects (Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Idaho, New York, and Washington) Over 2.2 million insects distributed (500,000 insects in 2014 &

1.76 million in 2015)

23 workshops were coordinated or presentations were given in

Joliet, Helena, Bozeman, Big Timber, Augusta, Dixon, Phillipsburg, Harlowton, Colstrip, Fishtail, Eureka, Kalispell, Ennis, Raynesford, Geyser, Missoula, Miles City, Jordan, Sidney, Browning, Conrad, Plentywood, and Wibaux (19 workshops in 2014 & 15 in 2015).


insects released


acres treated

Value of insects released

= $4700

($2820—Missoula County Contribution, $1880—Landowner contribution)

MAPPING inventory were highways 12, 200, 93 and the southern half of highway 83. While sections of these highways were mapped in 2013, this was the first comprehensive remapping since they were originally mapped in 2005-2006. GIS analysis reveals that, while our highways are not yet weed free, there are far fewer weeds in the right-of-ways than there were ten years ago. The mapping shows a 90% reduction in weed acres along Missoula County’s highways! Notably, there has been a significant reduction of new invaders such as leafy spurge and Dalmatian toadflax on highway 200 along the Blackfoot River and on Interstate 90 east of Missoula along the Clark Fork River. However, there is still much work to do.

The Missoula County Weed District mapping program is a cornerstone of the county’s approach to weed management. By monitoring the presence of weeds over time, important observations can be made to inform future management decisions. Mapping projects include county and state highways as well as rivers and water ways. In the fall of 2016, MCWD mapped over 450 miles of state highways, frontage roads and Interstate 90. Included in the

MAPPING IN NUMBERS The majority of the reduction of weeds on Missoula’s highways is due to aggressive control work in Zone 1 (the first 15’ from the edge of the pavement). Only 5.6% of the weeds mapped on the highways in 2016 were in Zone 1. The majority of the weeds in the right-of-way are in Zone 2 (15’ from the edge of the pavement to the right-of-way boundary). Weed control is much more challenging in Zone 2. Zone 2 can include steep cut banks, more rugged topography and obstacles such as trees. Many of the weed infestations in Zone 2 spread across the rightof-way boundary into adjacent landowner’s property. Now that we have mapping data to back up our anecdotal observations that Zone 1 is relatively noxious weed free, we will work to extend our weed control efforts to Zone 2 in 2017.

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HIGHWAYS 16 days of mapping 452 miles

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CLEARWATER RIVER 4 days of treatments 489 yellowflag iris treated 13 purple loosestrife treated

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Other weed mapping projects in 2016 included seven days of floating and walking the Bitterroot River mapping and treating yellow flag iris, nine days of floating and walking the Clark Fork River mapping and treating yellow flag iris and perennial pepperweed and four days mapping and treating yellow flag iris and purple loosestrife on the Clearwater River. We also worked on mapping projects with the City of Missoula’s Conservation Lands Management program, Missoula County Parks, the DNRC and BLM. We once again coordinated two days of medusahead mapping with the Salish Kootenai Tribe, US Fish & Wildlife Service, Lake and Sanders Counties. These efforts will help land managers strategically plan their control efforts for these high priority weeds.

452 miles 90 miles 154 miles

CLARK FORK RIVER 5 floats, 4 walk-in days 70 yellowflag iris treated 203 perennial pepperweed treated 3 river beers rescued

BITTERROOT RIVER 4 floats, 3 walk-in days 103 yellowflag iris treated

RESEARCH AND MONITORING RESEARCH The Missoula County Weed District (MCWD) diligently works with land owners and managers to develop long-term, achievable goals regarding vegetation management. We focus on what should be present instead of simply what needs to be removed. In order to better understand how to effectively implement a variety of management options, MCWD reaches out and collaborates on research projects with partners from a variety of backgrounds. This approach allows MCWD to develop and support studies that address local issues. Environmental DNA for Aquatic Invasive Plants Environmental DNA (eDNA) is nuclear or mitochondrial DNA that is released from an organism into the environment. MCWD supports research being conducted by the Flathead Biological Research Station, to develop primers and field protocols for detecting the eDNA of Eurasian Watermilfoil and Curly Leaf Pondweed. Investigating Exotic Species Invasiveness in Eastern Montana Plant Communities MCWD supports research led by the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station to assess and rank invasive plant impacts on western wheatgrass (Pascopyrum smithii) communities in east-central Montana, that can be compared to similar research conducted on western montana plant communities that has already been completed.

Evaluating the Ecological Impacts of Common Buckthorn in Montana MCWD has partnered with the City of Missoula and the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station to gather data from across the state to quantify common buckthorn’s effects on native riparian plant communities in Montana. This project will provide a model for assessing the invasiveness of other species for listing noxious weeds in the state of Montana. Determining the Establishment Success of Revegetation in Leafy Spurge Management Plots Over Ten Years After the Original Study: Reassessing the planting recommendations for revegetation species ten years after establishment compared to the original recommendations given two years after establishment. Refining Outreach on Natural Resource Issues in Montana MCWD has partnered with the University of Montana and Montana State University to conduct a natural resource stewardship study to support Montana’s private landowners and to help public land management agencies across the state better design outreach programs. The survey work asks about land management decisions relating to wildfire risk reduction, human-bear conflict reduction and weed control on private lands; three issues that cross property boundaries and affect multiple landowners.

Aquatic Invasive Plant Monitoring Program The Missoula County Weed District (MCWD) received funding from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to continue monitoring high risk lakes in the Clearwater, Swan and Blackfoot Watersheds. In 2016, nine waterbodies were physically monitored for aquatic invasive plants. These waterbodies included: Seeley Lake, Salmon Lake, Placid Lake, Lindbergh, Holland, Frenchtown Pond, Blanchard Lake, Brown’s Lake and Blackfoot River FAS. No aquatic invasive plants were identified on these waterbodies. Monitoring crews included MCWD staff and Youth in Restoration ( YIR) crew members.

PARTNERSHIPS The Missoula County Weed District continues to make a meaningful impact on invasive weed management across the state through strategic partnerships. MCWD plays an instrumental role in the Montana Invasive Species Advisory Council, by serving as both the county weed district representative, as well as, the fiscal agent for the Council’s projects and operations. This partnership serves to help Missoula County and the state stay abreast of new invasions while coordinating efforts to manage current outbreaks.

prioritization across taxa for prevention, early detection and control, perimeter defense, data sharing, standardized mapping and monitoring, regulations and funding. These gaps and challenges were presented to approximately 200 interested stakeholders at the Governor’s Summit on Invasive Species held in Helena April 12-13, 2016. Over the course of two days, stakeholders helped to refine the gaps and challenges, began providing possible solutions and create the beginning structure of the Montana Invasive Species Framework.

The Council was established in 2014 for the purpose of “advising the Governor on a sciencebased, comprehensive program to identify, prevent, eliminate, reduce and mitigate the impacts of invasive species in Montana.” In order to accomplish this purpose, the Council identified three goals: to first conduct an all-taxa inventory of existing invasives in Montana; secondly, to sponsor an Invasive Species Summit to present these results and gaps in existing programs; and lastly, to create a strategic plan to serve as a prioritized roadmap for a collective approach to invasive species management in Montana. 2016 saw the completion of all three goals.

A draft framework was created from the results of the assessment and summit, and vetted through multiple listening sessions held across the state, from Miles City to Pablo. The Montana Invasive Species Framework, completed in November 2016, organizes prioritized invasive species tasks into five categories: Coordination, Prevention, Early Detection, Rapid Response and Control. Within these categories, the Framework provides recommendations for increasing coordination of current efforts to prevent and manage weeds including mapping and data sharing, as well as, staff training. In addition, the plan highlights the need to update and clarify current laws pertaining to invasive species into a single Invasive Species Act and increase funding for research to hone best management practices and provide staffing resources to underserved regions. The assessment, a summary report of the Governor’s Summit on Invasive Species, and the Montana Invasive Species Framework can all be found on the Council’s website at:

The assessment report, completed in March, compiled the responses of over 120 individuals, representing 85 organizations that manage invasive species, including federal, state, county, municipal and tribal government agencies, universities and non-profits. Clear gaps and challenges were identified in relation to coordination of effort across agencies and taxa, species

LANDOWNER GRANT PROGRAM Over the last few years the Missoula County Landowner Grant Program has assisted 40-60 landowners a year with their integrated weed management objectives. Individual landowners are eligible to receive up to $500 match for approved weed management practices and landowner groups are eligible for up to $1000 match. The program provides landowners with resources to begin management projects that may seem initially daunting. To encourage participation from a new audience, MCWD revamped the 2017 grant process shortening the application. The new process is a simple one page application that is due on December 1st. It is the hope of MCWD staff that this simple application will encourage new applicants that may have been intimidated by the previous application process. Applications are ranked based on five priorities set by MCWD: project location, priority weeds, parcel size, previous grants, and partnerships with neighbors. Chosen projects are asked to complete a budget and plan of work with the assistance of MCWD staff. Moving forward MCWD would like to put more emphasis on underserved areas of the county and to encourage new participants to the grant program. Where feasible and needed, MCWD will seek out larger grant funding sources to assist landowners and managers.

PREVENTION Efforts continued in 2016 to eradicate common buckthorn infestations found in Missoula County along the lower Bitterroot River and McClay Flats recreation area. MCWD staff again used cut-stump treatments to remove large diameter trees on both public and private property. In total, over 260 mature seed producing trees were removed over the course of the season. Follow up treatments and monitoring of removal sites will be necessary to ensure buckthorn doesn’t re-establish from the dense seed banks left behind in the soil. With continued community support and engagement from private landowners we will further push back the infestations of common buckthorn across Missoula County in 2017.

Buckthorn update In late 2015, common buckthorn was successfully listed as a Noxious Weed in Missoula County. Subsequently, a request was submitted to the Montana Department of Agriculture (MDA) for its consideration as a statewide noxious weed species. Common Buckthorn is known to be in 28 Northern US states and regulated in 8 of them. Naturalized populations have been reported in Missoula, Wheatland, Fallon, Teton, Lewis and Clark and Valley Counties in Montana. Currently common buckthorn is pending approval as a state listed 2a noxious weed species by the MDA. This potential listing would prohibit common buckthorn’s sale or cultivation statewide and mandate its eradication, containment and prevention outside of just Missoula County.

Orange Hawkweed Orange Hawkweed was first introduced to Washington in the mid-1900’s and has since traveled east across Northern Idaho and down into Western Montana. It readily inhabits disturbed wet areas in the forest understory and can even be found creeping into residential lawns across Missoula County. Orange Hawkweed is capable of producing up to 3,200 seeds a year and can spread through underground shoots called rhizomes making it a challenging weed to control. Historically the Missoula County Weed District has aggressively managed against orange hawkweed’s spread into the difficult to access wildlands surrounding Missoula. This year we coordinated spraying efforts with the Lolo National Forest on over 70% of the total private and public acreage infested across the county. The largest infestations that received treatments were located in Pattee, Miller and Marshall Canyons along roadsides and trail systems.

Prevention By The Numbers



Pur ple Loosestrife Found

Hours Spent Removing 262 Common Buckthorn Trees

New Invader Species Treated

Rush Skeleton Weeds Found





Acres Surveyed in Search of 3 Priority Weed Species


Dyer’s Wood Found by Search Dogs

30.2 acres Orange Hawkweed


96.8 Acres of New Invaders Treated with Herbicide

1.5 acres


37.3 acres

Russian Knapweed

15.3 acres

12.5 Acres Perennial Pepperweed

Yellow Flag Iris Treated Along 90 Miles of the Clark Fork, Clearwater and Bitterroot Rivers

WHAT’S TO COME We are one step closer to breaking ground on our new education center. The Missoula County Commissioners approved a plan for the Missoula County Fairgrounds. This plan includes four acres for the Missoula County Weed District/Extension Office. So far the department has raised $1.1 million for a facility that will include conference rooms, greenhouse, wet lab, and demonstration kitchen and education gardens. This enables the department to include more partners in reaching out to the public in carrying out our education mission.

PARTNERS Allied Waste America’s Great Outdoors Crown of the Continent Initiative Beaverhead County Weed District Bitterroot Biocontrol Project Bitterroot National Forest Blackfoot Challenge Blaine County Weed District Bureau of Land Management City of Helena City of Missoula – Conservation Lands Clark Fork Coalition Clearwater Resource Council Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Fergus County Weed District Five Valleys Land Trust Flathead Biological Research Station Flathead County Weed District Flathead National Forest Golden Valley/Musselshell County Weed Districts Granite County Weed District Lake County Weed District Lewis & Clark Conservation District Lewis and Clark County Weed District Lolo National Forest Madison Valley Ranchlands Group

Mineral County Weed District Missoula Conservation District Missoula County Community and Planning Services Missoula County Parks Missoula Snowgoers Missoula Valley Land Managers MT Biological Weed Control Coordination Project Partners Montana Department of Transportation Montana Invasive Species Advisory Council Montana Land Reliance Montana State University Extension Montana Weed Control Association MPG Ranch MT Association of Conservation Districts MT Department of Agriculture Department of Natural Resources & Conservation MT Noxious Weed Education Campaign MT Noxious Weed Trust Fund MT Fish Wildlife and Parks National Bison Range National Wildlife Federation Natural Resource Collaborative Working Group Natural Resource Conservation Service Ninemile Ranger District

North American Invasive Species Management Association Northern Rockies Invasive Plant Council PRISM Park County Cooperative Weed Management Area Powell County Weed District Ravalli County Weed District Ravalli County Extension Sanders County Weed District Seeley Lake Ranger District Stillwater Valley Watershed Council Swan Valley Connections Sweet Grass County Weed District The Nature Conservancy Teton County Weed District UM School of Forestry University of Montana – Natural Areas USDA Forest Service – Rocky Mountain Research Station US Fish and Wildlife Service USDA - Agricultural Research Station USDA –Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wheatland County Weed District Whitehall School Project Working Dogs for Conservation Yellowstone County Weed District

406.258.4217 2825 Santa Fe Court Missoula, MT 59808-1685

MCWD Annual Report: 2016  
MCWD Annual Report: 2016