Weed solutions Weed and pest offices offer bounty program to address weeds
Across the state of Wyoming, local weed and pest offices seek innovative solutions for both public education and information, as well as eradication of weeds.
Lincoln and Natrona counties have both implemented bounty programs to address problem weeds in their respective areas, and both agencies have seen success both in eliminating weeds and in increasing awareness.
During the 2018 Wyoming Weed and Pest Council meeting, held in Casper Nov. 6-8, representatives from both counties shared about their program, encouraging others from across the state to implement similar innovative solutions.
Nearly 20 years ago, Lincoln County concluded that Dyer’s Woad was a significant problem in the county.
“I don’t know if this program started as an eradication tool as much as a public awareness effort, but from an awareness standpoint, the program has been unbelievably successful,” said Lincoln County Weed and Pest’s Jason Trauntvein.
“If we ask almost anyone in Star Valley, they know what Dyer’s Woad looks like, and they know it’s a problem,” Trauntvein commented. “They might not know why it’s a problem, but they know it is a problem. I would say that’s our major success with this program.”
The weed bounty program was developed in cooperation with a partner association, who provides bags, and Lincoln County Weed and Pest provides funding.
The program has evolved over time to address necessary changes.
“We started with a three-day program, because of our funding. We budgeted about $40,000 and we would spend $38,000,” Trauntvein explained. “As time went on, we spent less and less of the money.”
The weed and pest office paid 50 cents a pound for Dyer’s Woad, but for payment, the root must be intact.
“Occasionally, we have to tell a kid he has mustard instead of Dyer’s Woad, and we can’t pay him for it,” added Trauntvein, noting that one boy made several trips, four miles each way, by bicycle to deliver Dyer’s Woad to the weed and pest offices.
However, some families took full advantage of the program. For example, one family helped fund a trip to Disneyland with the proceeds of picking Dyer’s Woad.
Several years into the program, local youth are hired to pick Dyer’s Woad from hard-to-pick areas, like steep hillsides where the weed is sparser.
“We call these kids our ‘Woad Warriors,’” he said. “Between the individuals and the Woad Warriors, we’ve made a significant dent in Dyer’s Woad. In Lincoln County, we feel like we’re trying our best to hold the line and not let it spread.”
In addition, Lincoln County Weed and Pest has hosted adopt-a-canyon programs, where families are paid a set amount. At the end of the season, if weed and pest employees don’t find any Dyer’s Woad, they are paid for their efforts.
In 2014, the county paid $26,000 for Dyer’s Woad.
“Each year varies, depending on conditions and how much of the plant we get. In 2016 and 2017, we had the lowest year we’ve had in a long time,” Trauntvein commented. “Reports we get from people out picking Dyer’s Woad is that it is tougher to find and patches are spread out.”
He continued, “I feel like our program has been a great success. We’re spending less money trying to control it, and the public awareness is awesome.”
Trauntvein believes the program could be implemented for almost any weed with similar results.
“If we continue this path, I believe we’ll be able to hold the line on Dyer’s Woad,” he said.
Bob Shellard of Natrona County Weed and Pest approached Trauntvein via e-mail after hearing of Lincoln County’s success to learn more about the bounty program.
“In the first year, we had a successful program, in our eyes,” Shellard says. “We wanted to engage the community by identifying public land sites that had heavy public use to help get rid of common burdock and houndstongue.”
The Natrona County program provided educational materials for plant identification and paid citizens 50 cents per pound for collection of the species.
At the same time, Shellard said they worked to avoid spreading the seeds of the plants unnecessarily, so they focused their program on education.
“The Garden Creek Falls Rotary Park is a heavily used area at the base of Casper Mountain,” he said. “It is also full of common burdock and hounds tongue.”
Both plants grow in shaded areas that are very sensitive.
“If we were to break out the herbicide, we would have more non-target damage than damage of the weeds,” Shellard noted. “We chose these plants because of this reason.”
Natrona County Weed and Pest supplied clear 55-gallon drum liners to the public, which allowed them to see the contents of the bag so they could pay for target weeds.
Members of the public was given six bags, at most, per visit, to enable expense tracking, as well.
“The board graciously put $20,000 in the bank for this program,” he said, noting they also paid 50 cents per pound of weeds collected. “Total bounty payments was $2,919. Our total cost was $5,000, when we included supplies and advertising.”
Shellard added, “We’re pretty sure this amount will go up in the future, because of the interest we see.”
After conducting the program, Shellard said members of the public were more likely to participate in groups, and the public awareness, as well as the community service aspect, was equally valuable.
Shellard said, “In the future, it makes sense for us to immediately expand the program and take advantage of the public’s interest in helping eliminate weeds.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.