MDF Spot Light, Weed Control

July 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Conservation


Mule Deer Foundation Chapter Spotlight

Southwest Montana (Belgrade/Bozeman) Chapter Project – FINAL

By Tracy Watt

Intensive, long-term, integrated management is necessary to reduce noxious weed infestations. Ron Carlstrom, Agricultural Agent for the Gallatin County Extension Service, knows this as well as anyone and for the past couple of years, Carlstrom has been working with a group of private land owners who control about 115,000 acres in southwest Montana. The Extension Service wrote and submitted Noxious Weed Trust Fund Grants and obtained monies to treat weed-infested areas on the privately held acreage. The Trust Fund is administered through the Montana Department of Agriculture and provides weed control cost-share dollars for private lands. The funds were used to aerial spray for noxious weeds.spraying weeds

Spraying for noxiuos weeds

Much of the private property, however, lies adjacent to or in the vicinity of Montana’s first state park, Lewis and Clark Caverns. The park spans some 3,000 acres and is located on the  HYPERLINK “” Jefferson River, between the towns of Three Forks and Whitehall. There is no livestock grazing plan in the park, nor do any license fees go toward park maintenance. Therefore, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks have been treating for weeds on a very limited basis, with access to about $4,000 per year from their operating budget. They utilize very limited in-house and contracted spraying techniques for weed control, with no ability to treat outlying areas. It became obvious to Carlstrom that if noxious weed management was to be successful on the private lands, something needed to be done for the park, as well.Helicopter on water tender - How they fill water and chemical

Reloading the helicopter with spray!

Mule deer are the largest wildlife population in the Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park, and the area is vital mule deer territory in a part of Montana where good habitat is scarce. Host to rough mountain terrain and sagebrush flats, cedar groves and hardwood draws, blue ribbon trout streams and rushing rivers, and with minimal winter snowfall, the park offers excellent winter range for mule deer. With this in mind, Carlstrom contacted David Rickett, MDF chair for the Belgrade/Bozeman area, who happened to have some Chapter Rewards dollars burning a hole in his pocket. Rickett shared the project idea with his chapter, and the committee members agreed it would be a worthwhile endeavor.

They say luck is when preparedness meets opportunity, and such was the case when Carlstrom and Rickett approached the park manager. With the EA having already been passed through the public process, all systems were a go. In June 2008, MDF’s Southwest Montana Chapter put $7,400 towards the eradication of weeds on 160 acres of this rough and remote mountainous terrain. Noxious weeds were targeted with aerial spraying using a helicopter and the herbicide Transline. Care was taken to not harm the sensitive area, which includes ponderosa pine, cottonwood, hardwood, alder, juniper and mountain mahogany, by using a more expensive chemical that lingers in the soil for a shorter amount of time than other, more harsh treatments.Leafy Spurge Spreading Downhill-1

Leafy spurge spreading down hill.

MDF’s Rickett is calling the summer effort “Phase One.” Phase Two will consist of MDF volunteers, and others, hand spraying weeds in accessible areas of the park, along roads, and in the camp grounds. The Southwest Montana Chapter hopes to invest $3,000 per year for the next five to seven years to help eliminate the threat of invasive weeds on this vital mule deer habitat.