Weed Management Requires Planning, Action
There can be two different points of view when it comes to implementing a weed management program. Some believe action is the foundational key to all success. Others might believe in the adage that success doesn’t happen – it’s planned for. I am not sure I can tell you which philosophy I adhere to the strongest, but my ego keeps trying to assure me I live somewhere in the middle.
The value in the two philosophical approaches, when applied to landscape-scale, is weed management programs may be the perfect example of an antinomy, contradictive statements but both apparently obtained by correct reasoning. So instead of arguing over the two, we may be better served to look at the key elements shared by both planning and action when it comes to weed management.
It won’t take long for even the novice observer to see both share three broad categories – policy, capacity and funding. Each of these has their own set of challenges and barriers. The complexity of each also increases as we try to address them on the county, state and federal management levels. Yet, when a landscape-scale management program finds the balance between the three, typically planning and action are mutually rewarding.
A successful program doesn’t have to be perfect in all three categories. Where funding falls short, there may be ways through policy and capacity to balance the shortcomings. However, if one of the three elements is severely restricted or underutilized, the other two become ineffective. Likewise, none of the three will ever be perfected in a landscape-scale approach.
Capacity is the least concerning of the three in Wyoming. With Weed and Pest Control Districts established in each county, the availability of qualified and experienced help is readily accessible to both private and government land management practitioners. Not only does this resource assist landowners with noxious weed and pest management planning and control, they are also used by state agencies, such as the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Wyoming Department of Transportation (WYDOT) and Wyoming Office of State Lands and Investments, for professional assistance in their noxious weed programs. Federal agencies such as Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service and the Bureau of Reclamation also depend on the districts when it comes to implementing noxious weed management. Furthermore, when emergency situations such as West Nile virus and grasshopper outbreaks present themselves, most of the districts have found the capacity to assist or implement large-scale programs to address them.
Funding for noxious weed management in Wyoming may not be as consistent as capacity. However, it has been enhanced due to the capacity of the Weed and Pest Control Districts. Contracting with the districts reduces costs for state programs, such as WYDOT’s right-of-way noxious weed control. This minimizes additional costs and equipment burdens for WYDOT to run the program internally. Additionally, with the availability of established districts, utilization of state and federal grant funds is maximized for on-the-ground treatments without the need to charge program-crippling administrative fees.
This isn’t to say there isn’t a need for improvement in funding. Federal and state funding goes through trends sometimes associated with current events. Grants can be especially unstable from year-to-year, making long-term planning an intimidating endeavor. Recently, many of the state grant programs utilized for weed management and other natural resource projects have been reduced to offset budget shortfalls. To compensate, many Weed and Pest Control District boards have effectively utilized reserve accounts within their budget planning to stabilize long-term objectives and for unforeseen emergencies such as cyclic grasshopper outbreaks.
Policy often feels like the most abundant and burdensome of the three, especially when dealing with the federal lands. Federal regulatory policy, such as National Environmental Policy Act and agency pesticide risk assessments, can be unnecessary, burdensome and slow. However, federal policy can also be constructive such as the National Framework for Early Detection and Rapid Response; 2016-18 National Invasive Species Management Plan; Invasive Plant Management and Greater Sage Grouse Conservation; and Presidential Executive Order 13112 – Safeguarding the Nation from Impacts of Invasive Species update.
However, as Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman said, “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”
In the case of noxious weed management, too much policy without complementary funding and resources becomes ineffective and pointless. With the support of the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council, both Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) and Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) have tried to address this problem with federal legislation aimed at removing federal policy and funding barriers obstructing invasive species management.
As complicated and variable policy, capacity and funding can be on a landscape-scale weed management program, control is not an unachievable goal, but that isn’t to say it’s easy, either. The efforts of the Weed and Pest Control Districts to effectively address these three components is largely why they can routinely provide high quality weed and pest control.
The end result is successful actions and effective planning that is a benefit to the counties and the state.