Weed tour looks at invasive species
> CWMA 2012 Weed Tour of the Manti-LaSal National Forest
People came from Emery County and Carbon County for the tour. They were met at the Huntington Park by US Forest Service Range Land Technician Corinne Dalton from the Ferron office in preparation to tour recent impacts of the burned over area, the floods and potential weed problems caused by the Seeley Fire.
The Skyline Cooperative Weed Management Area includes Carbon and Emery counties and is a collaboration of federal, state, and local agencies. All of these groups, along with private landowners have a vested interest in the control and management of weeds across jurisdictional boundaries.
Some of those on the tour were, James Nielsen, Les Reese and Sherrel Ward from Emery County Weed Control, Dennis Worwood the Emery County Extension Agent, Mikita Hansen, Division of WildLife, Melissa Frazee, Daniel Gunnel, Laurel Nielson and Karl Ivory from the Bureau Of Land Management.
The first stop on the tour was the Stuart Guard Station in Huntington Canyon where the group was shown the devastation caused by the recent fire and floods. They observed the new growth of aspen trees, grass and weeds in Nuck Woodward Canyon North of the Stuart Guard Station.
In Nuck Woodward Canyon the forest service had equipment constructing catch basins or settling basins to restrict some of the debris and mud flowing down the canyon when rain events happen. The forest service plans to put in about 100 catch basins across the burned areas in the forest. The excavators are working to get all of the large sized logs and rocks out of the creek bed in preparation for the expected flooding from rains and snow melt. This should help prevent major road damage next year.
Dalton said the fire jumped from place to place forming a type of a mosaic as it burned the forest. However the fire was contained enough around the Guard Station so that none of the buildings were lost. As the fire progressed up the mountainsides the heat of the fire sterilized the soil to a depth of about 4 inches. The sterilizing of the soil kills the seed bank normally in the soil. The Aspen root system is below that depth and is already starting to re-grow. Aspens like fire and will grow back better after a fire. Cows and sheep eating the young Aspen sprouts is a concern. Therefore domestic animals are kept out of burned over areas.
Using airplanes, 7,000 acres that were severely burned have already been reseeded. These planes have also dropped straw to cover the seeds. They are trying to get the grass and native plant species to grow back as soon as possible. So far this year $1 million has been spent on reseeding.
The cheat grass in Gordon Canyon is a concern and it is like aspen in that it likes fire and will come back stronger after a fire. Cheat grass is very flammable when dry. The major weed issues in Nuck Woodward Canyon are musk thistle, hounds tongue and a small amount of toad flax.
Dalton said, "We have had crews on the edges of the burn gathering musk thistle and hounds tongue to prevent these weeds from contaminating the seedbed in the burned area. These weeds are then hauled away in trash bags. We are using bugs that are attracted to and eat on certain weeds in our battle with weeds.
"Our biggest concern is over on Castle Valley Ridge where we have a huge issue with the musk thistle. Our crew spent two weeks there pulling up the Musk Thistle. We are trying to keep the vegetation growing so that we have something to retain the water in the spring.
"The fire has already affected the grazing permit holders. Some of the allotments are more than 90 percent burned off. The forest plan policy is for zero livestock in the burned part of the forest. We do not want them to eat the succulent shoots of re-growing plants. In one area we are putting in eight miles of electric fence to keep animals off the burn. A big portion of our budget coming from the burn will go to bugs and or spray to control the weeds that we have issues with. In Mill Canyon we have one entire wall of just musk thistle weeds.
"We are trying to get sheep that have learned to do natural grazing on the musk thistle, but not all herders have sheep trained to eat the musk. The elk are helping a little as they are eating the flowering heads on the musk. Tarweed is worse for us than cheat grass. Tarweed grows under musk thistle and under sagebrush. The tarweed does not like fire and may not be as successful in re-growing as some other plants. The tarweed shows up more on sheep allotments than on cow allotments," said Dalton.
Dalton pointed out some hounds tongue plants and said that it is a frustrating plant but it doesn't do as much damage and it doesn't crowd out the other vegetation like musk thistle does.
The tour group then drove west along Huntington Creek on SR-31 observing the changes made by the floods to the river. A stop was made at Mill Canyon to view the North-facing slope that had been spared from the fire and a moose browsing in the willows along the river. After leaving Mill Canyon the group drove to the mountaintop and the North Skyline Drive turn off and parking lot. There the Emery County Water Conservancy District was set up to provide a lunch for the tour. Jeff Tuttle, Monroe Magnuson and Nacole Toomer were the camp chefs. The lunch they provided was a Dutch oven cube steak, boiled potatoes, gravy, and corn on the cob with a Dutch oven cobbler with whipped cream.
When the lunch was over the group visited a nearby area of weed infestation by musk thistle, hounds tongue, common golden eye and yarrow weeds. Those wanting more information about the weeds on this tour can look on the Internet. Many of the weeds of concern are sold in gardening shops for decorative plants. Photos and descriptions of most of these plants can be found on the Internet.
Musk thistle starts out with large thorny leaves and later grows a purple flower on a long stem with spiny thorns on the leaves. Musk thistle is a biennial weed that grows only from seed.
Hounds tongue has wide flat green leaves in the spring. When the plant grows taller, flowers and small burrs are formed that stick to animals and humans to spread the seeds. Yarrow has a cluster of tiny white flowers on the end of the stem.
Dalton said this mountain top campground and surrounding area has been sprayed for musk thistle and after that spraying the forest service put down some straw and wood chips to get rid of the tarweed. When that was complete native seeds were broadcast over the area. She showed a photo of the weed infestation before it was sprayed. Wheat is starting to grow as a ground cover on this ground. The golden eye weed is a native plant and was not in the seed mix, but it is growing well. Golden eye has a small yellow flower.
"The sheep graze the plants and then bed down on them and we cannot get anything to grow back due to the high elevation and lack of water. Pocket gopher burrowing activity is also hindering the regrowth of plants. This project came about because of Regional Advisory Council funding. This is a $250,000 two year project and we will be meeting with the Regional Advisory Council Friday to see what else they will let us do. The DWR donated some of the seed as we went over our seed budget. There is more vegetation here now than before we started this project. This project is considered a success because we have been able to get vegetation growing here instead of tar weed. Unfortunately we still have some musk thistle coming back. We did not kill all of the musk seeds," said Dalton.
The last stop for the tour was at the state road shed. On the hillside above the valley north of the parking lot where there is a lot of the toad flax weed. Toad flax resembles a miniature snap dragon with small yellow flowers. Dalton said, "We sprayed this hillside for toad flax last year. The crew sprayed a chemical named Tordon just on the toad flax so they wouldn't kill the other vegetation. We did not spray some of the toad flax because the weed was under and around some of the camp trailers. This area is above Fairview and looks off toward Scofield. The crew worked three weeks here spraying toad flax weeds and they did not get all of it."
Worwood pointed out that there is knap weed, another very invasive plant, on the west side of Joes Valley. The forest service has marked that knap Weed location.
Dalton said, "Other concerns we have are ox eye daisy and white top weeds that are starting to invade the forest. We expect to send a crew out to spray those weeds the middle of May."
Dalton thanked everyone for participating and said if there are any more questions you may call the forest service office in Ferron.