Well invasive plants, or plants that become introduced from a different biogeographical region of the earth, can cause a lot of problems. One of the biggest problems in our public lands that invasive plants can contribute to is loss of species richness and biodiversity. Many of these invasive plant species can form dense monocultures and outcompete native plants. They can alter entire ecosystems and increase the frequency of fires. In public lands where grazing is permitted, they can reduce forage quantity and quality for livestock or even poison them.
An infestation of musk thistle Carduus nutans
Now that we have talked about why we manage invasive plants, we can talk about how to manage them. The first step is finding where they are, and how big the infestations are. The Pike National Forest covers a little over 1 million acres, so that is a lot of area to look in. Right now, my main goal is to learn the forest. I have been spending most of my work time driving forest service roads, hiking trails, and visiting known infestations of different invasive species. For some of our higher priority invasive plant species like orange hawkweed, once we find it, we try and treat it with herbicide as soon as possible. Since we only have limited resources and a whole lot of invasive plants in the forest, we have to prioritize certain areas and certain species. As I continue to learn the forest and the invasive plant problems within, I will hopefully be able to make better management decisions in the future.
A rare plant I found on the forest Telesonix jamesii
The other side of this job is to focus on educating and making connections with other land managers and members of the public in the area. In my area we have many different invasive plant managers at the city, county, state, and federal government level, and since invasive plants do not respect land boundaries, they can become problems for all of us. That is why a good working relationship is with these other agencies and land managers is vital for success. As for the public, they recreate and spend time enjoying the forest, so they can be a great help in detecting and halting the spread of these plants, but only if they know about them. In some areas, county agencies will put on “weed tours” and have members of the public come out to learn about different plants in their local area. There are also websites and apps where people can take photos of plants and have them identified. Invasive plants can become problems for everyone, but with tools like these and education, everyone can also be part of the solution.
Me standing next to a really cool native thistle
Agency: U.S Forest Service
Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)
Location: San Carlos Ranger District