October 21, 2010 in Washington Voices

Weed-fighting project asks for volunteers

Meeting planned at Jefferson Elementary on Monday at 7 p.m.
By The Spokesman-Review
FILE photo

Lynn Smith, left, and Randy LaBeff bundle stalks of rush skeletonweed they cut along the south bluff trails off High Drive in August. They were among a dozen volunteers working on a test project to boost the use of biological agents to control the area’s infestation of noxious weeds.
(Full-size photo)

County weed experts are going public on the South Hill.

Hikers, bikers, runners and walkers who enjoy the trails and open spaces of the public land below High Drive are being invited to join the effort to counter a troubling noxious weed infestation.

Neighborhoods also can join the cause to thwart the fire danger for trees and homes posed by non-native plants that take over in spring and turn tinder-dry by August.

Diana Roberts of Washington State University Spokane County Extension has scheduled a workshop on the issue and a start for a community volunteer group to help manage the bluffs. The meeting is set for Monday, 7 p.m. at Jefferson Elementary School on 37th Avenue and Grand Boulevard.

“We held two work parties this summer to spread the biological control insects that attack rush skeletonweed, which is the most prevalent invasive weed on the bluffs,” she said.

“Biocontrol of this weed reduces seed production and vigor of the plants. We established two test areas where we will track the progress of the biocontrols. We will overseed these areas with a well-adapted grass that will compete with the weakened weeds for water, light, and nutrients.”

If the demonstration proves effective, Roberts said she would try to find funds to overseed grass on larger areas of the hillside to accelerate the demise of rush skeletonweed.

Fire is a threat to the bluffs and homes that’s growing with the weed problem, according to Roberts’ colleagues – Chris Hilgert, a horticulturist, and Erik Sjoquist a forester. Some thick tree stands should be thinned.

“We propose forming a community driven, volunteer group that will help manage the bluffs to reduce the impact of fire and weeds,” Roberts said.

At the workshop, WSU Spokane County Extension educators will discuss managing invasive weeds, fire safety for the forest and homes on the bluffs, and how volunteers can assist with this process, she said.

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