All posts by TCWeed

TCWP Will Test Wastewater for COVID-19

A partnership between Teton County Weed and Pest District , the Teton County Health Department, and the Town of Jackson was created to determine a way to test the wastewater from the Town of Jackson for COVID-19.  Weed and Pest worked with the Teton County Health Department to ensure they had the correct equipment and personal protective equipment to run the wastewater samples in-house.  COVID-19 can be found in human waste and the results will be another data point to understand the presence of COVID-19 in our community. With swab tests still troubled by capacity issues, and slow turnaround, testing wastewater for the novel coronavirus’ genetic signature could give the community a faster way to spot a rebound in cases. Samples are currently being sent to a lab out of state.

“This is a natural fit for the Weed and Pest District as part of our mission is focused on public health,. Our lab capacity was untapped and now with this partnership, we are making a meaningful contribution to save time and resources while providing same-day results. The previous lab used to test the wastewater was located out of state.”

Supervisor Erika Edmiston.

Despite being more experienced in testing West Nile virus than COVID-19, our lab is outfitted with the right equipment and expertise to help make a difference during this pandemic.

Samples will be collected from the Town of Jackson sewer system two times per week beginning July 13th, 2020.

Proudly a Trout Friendly Program Partner

We are proud to be a Trout Friendly Program Partner with the Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition. This program is designed to be simple for residents and landscaping professionals to implement. When our participants commit to this program they are improving our water quality for the health of all the plants, insects, fish, wildlife and humans that rely on clean water. We now have over 100 residents, businesses and public parks that have committed to these practices.

Trout Friendly Practices

1. LIMIT FERTILIZER

2. BE WATER WISE

3. PLANT NATIVES & MAINTAIN STREAMSIDE BUFFERS

4. USE HERBICIDES AND PESTICIDES APPROPRIATELY

The behavior we adopt into our lives have a direct effect on our ecosystem. As stewards of this great land we have a responsibility to take care of it.

“At its core, the Trout Friendly Lawns program encourages homeowners and caretakers to be mindful of how their landscaping activities can impact our unique ecosystem through water use, fertilization, the use of pesticides and more — right down to the plants that are selected for a landscape.”

Lesley Beckworth, Landowner Program Coordinator for Teton County Weed & Pest District

The Trout Friendly Landscaper & Business Partners program supports landscapers in creating and maintaining quality lawns and gardens, while limiting impacts on water from fertilizer and herbicide runoff.

The following local businesses are now Trout Friendly certified:

Be part of the solution

One of the reasons why we live here in Jackson Hole is to enjoy in the rich ecosystem including the streams and waterways. Each one of us have a stake in the future health of natural resources here. Let’s encourage our friends and neighbors to adopt this behavior outlined by Trout Friendly Lawns Certification Program so we may all take part in the solution.

TCWP’s Response to COVID-19

Teton County Weed and Pest District reminds that their mission strives for the protection of human health. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, TCWP’s mission stands more than ever before. 

Adjusted Hours at TCWP’s Office

TCWP will continually serve the community this season but from a safe distance. Our office will be closed to the public however we will be available for questions by phone messages (within 1-2 business days) and through our website’s Contact form.  Once our consultation begins on June 1st social distancing practices will be in place and virtual consultations will be made available.

Herbicide Curbside Pickup

We will not be loaning out backpacks for safety reasons this season however we will be selling them at a reasonable cost to our community. We have a Herbicide Request Form newly added to our site to make it easier to place orders in order to help meet your needs. All orders will be fulfilled by preorder curbside pickup and payment made over the phone or by dropbox at our office location.

Curbside pickup orders on: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 – 5pm and Fridays from 9 am – 5 pm. Same day pick up is NOT available.

We are taking all the proper precautions with personal protective equipment (PPE) including face masks and gloves. Our staff preparing orders will be wearing PPE and all TCWP team members will be continuing their social distancing and vigilant hygiene practices.

Our Highest Priority: Public Health

Our highest priority is the safety of the Jackson community and still we strive to protect our ecosystem from the highest priority species. Mosquitoes as we know are resilient pests and we plan to focus our treatments primarily on the areas where West Nile Virus has presented in the past. 

There is nothing like the summer season in the Tetons and though the pandemic has dampened the spirit of the season merely stepping outside into wide open spaces does serve as the best “therapy” there is. Enjoy the seasonal changes and do what you can to help stop the spread of invasive species while on the trail or out on the water. At a time like this, we need to all stick together (from a safe distance of course).

We realize that this is a time of uncertainty but we are here to provide education and resources to best serve Teton County. At times such as these we re-prioritize and continue to guide our community in how we can all do our part in the protection and restoration of our beloved ecosystem.

Meet our Team: Mark Daluge

Name: Mark Daluge
Job Title: Assistant Supervisor

Where were you born/raised and what brought you to Teton County?

Madison, WI. Skiing

What has been the most unexpected/difficult part of your job and why?

Learning to fly a drone to spray weeds.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job or a favorite project you’ve been a part of and why?

Cheatgrass. It grows where it is hard to treat and expands extremely rapidly!

If you could influence every adult in Teton County to practice “Play Clean GO”, which habit would you most advocate for and why?

Be sure to clean your camping gear before and after each trip!

If you could change one local or state law related to weed/pest management or natural resource management, which would it be and why?

Stricter penalties for not controlling weeds on private property.

If money and time were no object, what type of project would you like to start, or what kind of tool would you create, for long term weed/pest management/eradication in Teton County and why?

More effective bio controls that would affect all species – providing natural enemies that control and keep weed species in check.

What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?

What free time? Two kids keep me busy, but I enjoy anything related to the Wisconsin Badgers.

What motivates you to work hard and why?

Knowing that I’m making a difference protecting uninfested areas from the detrimental effects of invasive species.

What accomplishment are you most proud of and what did it take to make that happen?

Finding a way to make living in Jackson Hole possible. It took and is still taking many sacrifices to make it happen, but well worth it!

Who has been the most influential person in your life and what have they inspired you to do?

My parents. They taught me that with hard work, dedication, persistence, resourcefulness, and creativity, anything is possible.

Meet our Team: Amy Girard

Name: Amy Girard
Job Title: Mosquito Program Coordinator

Where were you born and raised and what brought you to Teton County?

I was born in Bad Axe, Michigan and moved out west in 2005. While studying the effects of sagebrush treatments on small mammal communities in lovely Randolph, Utah I met my husband to be. We decided to ride his dirt bike up to Jackson one weekend to check out the mythical Tetons for the day. Once we saw the mountains, we knew it was a place we needed to spend more time. We have left a few times since then for jobs and grad school, but we have always been drawn back to this special place.

What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?

I love to camp (when else can I eat smores?), pick up rocks, fish, play board games, and spend time outdoors with my friends and family. I am an avid reader of science fiction and fantasy as well as a lover of open-world RPGs.

If you could rid Teton County of one invasive weed or pest, which would it be and why?

I would rid Teton County of Canada Thistle. I hate how prevalent it is, especially in some backcountry areas of the county. It’s a bit depressing to be miles away from a trailhead and walk into a nasty patch of scratchy thistle. The extensiveness of this species makes it incredibly hard to contain and treat, not to mention how uncomforatable it is to hike through.

What motivates you to work hard and why?

I am a strong believer in the philosophy of “work hard play hard”. I like increasing the focus and efficiency of my projects and making improvements to better serve the District’s needs. However, I also believe in taking the time to find balance and pursue passions and hobbies outside of the wordplace (aka eat more smores.)

Meet our Team: Meta Dittmer

Name: Meta Dittmer
Job Title: Communication and Education Program Coordinator

Where were you born/raised and what brought you to Teton County?

Born and raised in Berkeley, CA.
Worked as a Park Ranger in Yellowstone National Park for 3 seasons and fell in love with western WY.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job or a favorite project you’ve been a part of and why?

There are many rewarding parts of my job, but one of my favorites has been partnering with teachers at Munger Mountain Elementary School to provide science programs in Spanish and English in their dual immersion classes. I have studied science and foreign languages throughout my life. Now I get to teach kids the science behind what we do at TCWP and do it in Spanish! It has been my favorite part of this
job.

If you could rid Teton County of one invasive weed or pest, which would it be and why?

The pest I fear the most is not yet in Wyoming – Zebra and Quagga mussels. My husband is from Michigan and he describes how the lakes he grew up swimming in have changed since mussels were introduced. Wyoming is one of the few states that does not yet have these invaders and most recreators take our pristine waters for granted.

If you could influence every adult in Teton County to practice “Play Clean GO” which habit would you most advocate for and why?

I would influence every adult in Teton County to practice PCG while recreating around water, especially when they are visiting other areas on vacations. They need to drain, clean, and dry their boats and gear so they do not spread AIS into pristine waters.

Who has been the most influential person in your life and what have they inspired you to do?

My father has been the most influential person in my life. He taught me to march to my own drummer and to prioritize the things that bring me happiness.

What motivates you to work hard and why?

I am motivated to work hard if I feel what I am doing is important in the ‘big picture’ or will make the world better somehow.

Meet our Team: Mikenna Smith

Name: Mikenna Smith
Job Title: Lab & Insect Program Coordinator / Entomologist

Where were you born/raised and what brought you to Teton County?

I grew up in Salt Lake City and did my undergraduate there. For grad school, I moved to Germany and thought about staying in Europe permanently, but a few months before graduation I knew I was missing the mountains and open space of the West too much.

I wanted to move back to the Western U.S. but somewhere I hadn’t lived before. I grew up coming to Jackson and rafting the Snake for family reunions. I remembered loving it so much that I decided to move here upon graduation. Living in Teton County has been full of adventure and community and I haven’t looked back since.

What has been the most rewarding part of your job or a favorite project you’ve been a part of and why?

Building the insectary in 2019 has by far been my favorite project so far. Many insectaries located at research facilities or universities are very high tech and can cost quite a bit of money. We wanted an insectary in order to maintain mosquito colonies year-round for research and education but didn’t have space or justification to build a truly state-of-the-art facility. With the help of some colleagues at other mosquito abatement districts I was able to affordably turn a closet of ours into an insectary with controlled temperature, humidity, and lighting that simulates a natural sunrise and sunset. It’s been a favorite project because it’s my baby. I had no idea if it was going to work or if any of the mosquitoes would even survive and reproduce. But through trial and error, I figured things out and I now maintain three mosquito colonies to date, one of which I colonized on my own, as well as two grasshopper colonies.

If you could rid Teton County of one invasive weed or pest, which would it be and why?

If I could rid Teton County of one invasive weed it would have to be Canada thistle because it is the most repulsive of the invaders in my book. The way Canada thistle can establish in an area as a monoculture makes it a nightmare to get through. This is especially true when these monocultures are in recreational areas. Even in double front Carhartt’s, those spines will find their way to your skin. I’ll take a mosquito bite over Canada thistle spines any day. I certainly have a significant bias against Canada thistle as last year I started releasing Canada thistle rust (Puccinia punctiformis), a host-specific biological control agent. I had to get up and personal with some very dense thickets in order to spread the agent as well as to collect data. If the inoculations are successful, I’d say getting all those pokes are definitely worth it.

What is your favorite thing to do in your free time?

My favorite thing to do in my free time is to recreate with my family and friends. After having lived in a big city before moving here, I always appreciate every chance I get to enjoy the natural spaces and recreational opportunities we have available to us in Teton County. I particularly love to ski, backpack in the mountains, play rugby, and be on the river.

If you could influence every adult in Teton County to practice “Play Clean GO”, which habit would you most advocate for and why?

I would most advocate for cleaning your gear when leaving an area and even double-checking that everything is clean before entering a new area. On so many occasions I’ve been recreating in the backcountry, in areas that should be pristine, only to find a trail of musk thistle along the footpath or an infestation of Canada thistle that is blocking stream access. These areas are difficult to access, and a spray crew is likely never going to get to them. If all the adults in Teton County were practicing good gear cleaning habits, we would all be much less likely to become vectors of invasive species into the
backcountry.

Meet our Team: Erika Edmiston

Name: Erika Edmiston
Job Title: District Supervisor

Where were you born/raised and what brought you to Teton County?

I was born and raised in Sheridan, Wyoming. I grew up fishing, hunting, camping, backpacking, water skiing and enjoying all of the outdoor activities available to us. I came to Teton County to work as a seasonal crew member for Teton County Weed and Pest while still in college.  It was the best job I had ever had. I loved working outside every day and feeling like I was making a positive difference. That first summer’s experience is what lured me back. Twenty years later, I’m still here, raising a family with the love of my life and still enjoying everything the outdoors has to offer.

What has been the most unexpected/difficult part of your job and why?

Personnel management is by far the most difficult thing and was never something I expected would be in my wheelhouse. However, when I became supervisor that became a very large part of the job. 

The good news is that overwhelmingly, I’ve gotten to work with some really talented, passionate people, who love what they do, and those positive experiences eclipse the small handful of difficult ones. 

What has been the most rewarding part of your job or a favorite project you’ve been a part of and why? 

Working with some fabulous, smart, kind and talented people has been by far the most rewarding part of the job, but a close second is knowing that we are making a difference.

Our team is protecting Teton County from invasive species and preserving it for future generations and knowing that we have the ability to leave it better than we found it, is an incredible feeling. 

If you could rid Teton County of one invasive weed or pest, which would it be and why?

Oxeye daisy. I love daisies and that’s why I dislike this one so much.  It masquerades as your normal every day “daisy” but it has wreaked havoc on our wildlife habitat, open spaces, livestock pastures, and hay fields. It’s gained that foothold because it is so aggressive, but also because it’s so beautiful. It has been intentionally and unintentionally planted and spread, but we are working hard to reach out and work with landowners to recognize it for what it is! 

If you could influence every adult in Teton County to practice “PlayCleanGo”, which habit would you most advocate for and why?

Keeping your gear & equipment clean.  It makes the most sense. Not only because it helps reduce the spread of invasives species, but because it will help maintain your gear so it lasts longer. Win-Win!

What is your favorite thing to do in your free time? 

Spending time with my family, traveling, running and being outdoors.

Reflecting on 2019

It’s been a great year at Teton County Weed and Pest District.  We reflect on 2019 with great pride as we strive to meet our goals and serve the public.  We are very excited to share the progress on our new insectary, K-12 classroom programs, landowner programs and much more! Check out the links below for all that we have accomplished and please let us know how we are doing. 

You can reach us via our Facebook page or by emailing office@tcweed.org

Happy Holidays to you and yours and here’s to a wonderful, productive and exciting 2020.

Cheatgrass – Help is on the Way!

Following up on a successful treatment of cheatgrass via helicopter in 2017, Teton County Weed and Pest (TCWP) is planning for another, larger scale treatment during the summer of 2020.  

Cheatgrass, which is an invasive winter annual grass has rapidly spread across the west infesting sage-steppe type habitat.  This grass germinates earlier in the season than native perennials, which allows it to get a head start utilizing resources needed by other species.  Cheatgrass invades the bare ground “interspace” in the native system and soon out competes other desirable species, forming a dense mat of litter that is extremely flammable late in the summer.  Fires that raged on local buttes last summer in cheatgrass infested areas have ratcheted up the urgency to quickly tame the cheatgrass expansion in Teton County.

The 2017 pilot project treated around 125 acres on mostly state land on East Gros Ventre Butte, funded by the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resources Trust.  The project’s goal was to see how efficient and effective treatment of cheatgrass via helicopter could be on Teton County’s steep southern facing slopes. This project had a research aspect as well.  While most of the hillside was treated using the most common product, Plateau (Imazapic), three plots were set aside to treat with a newer pre-emergent focused chemistry called Esplanade (Indaziflam).  Now, two years after treatment the plots have been analyzed to see which product is performing the best. While both products are performing at an acceptable level, it is believed that with one more growing season, a clear favorite will emerge to be applied on future sites.

Mapping of potential cheatgrass project areas took place during the summer of 2019 in order gather information on the big picture of the Teton County cheatgrass infestation.  Not surprisingly, a lot of cheatgrass was mapped, totaling over 8,000 acres. As suspected, cheatgrass has continued to spread throughout the county on south/southwest facing slopes from the mouth of Hoback Canyon to the southern boundary of Grand Teton National Park.  The cost to treat this much area is more than one funding source can support, so Jackson Hole Weed Management Association members have embarked on a widespread search and application endeavor to leverage resources to address the funding shortfall. Via nearly a dozen sources, it is believed that the $750,000 project sticker price can be supported.  The treatment will most likely take place in mid to late August, after the grass has cured, and before fall germination. Stay tuned for details of this exciting project!  

Potential treatment sites below:


Education Program

By the close of 2019, the TCWP Education Program has completed development of the following 3 classroom education programs:

  • Flowers, Fruits, Seeds & Weeds (2nd grade)
  • Characteristics, Life Cycles, and Management of Insects (3rd grade)
  • Invasive Species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (5th grade)

During the 2019-2020 school year thus far, these programs have been delivered to 10 different classrooms, reaching 165 students, for 45 hours of instruction time. Total student hours thus far equal 742.5. I already have 6 classrooms on the schedule for the spring semester, so I expect the student hours may double by the end of the school year. 

For comparison purposes, during the 2018-2019 school year total student hours equaled 576. The year before that, student hours were 211.5. The education program is clearly growing.

As the education program grows, I have considered the feasibility of reaching all 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade classrooms in the District with these programs, as that would be the ideal. There are currently 47 classrooms at these grade levels. I have been able to schedule programs with 18 of these 47 classrooms to date.  

If my goal is to deliver these programs to all 2nd, 3rd, and 5th grade classrooms in the District, that would require 141 classroom visits ranging in length from 60 – 90 minutes each. Given that there are 180 days of student instruction in a typical school year, and assuming I can visit up to two classrooms per day, this goal is possible to achieve. However, working out a schedule that works for all teachers is the challenge. I am currently making efforts to reach out to as many teachers as possible to see how many classrooms I can realistically reach.

In the future, I would like to develop a program to teach Middle School students about Aquatic Invasive Species. I am also envisioning a high school program that involves long-term research on the effectiveness of different invasive plant management strategies.  

In addition to developing classroom programs, I continue delivering programs at annual educational events including the 4th Grade Wildlife Expo and the 7th grade Adopt A Trout field day.

Finally, In November of this year we provided a 7-hour workshop to 23 participants from 9 Wyoming counties and the WGF Dept, to train participants to offer the 5th grade education program we have developed in their respective Districts. I have since worked more closely with 2 of those 9 counties who are planning to implement programs as soon as this January. 

New Declared Species

Each year Teton County Weed and Pest District staff monitors for new species, potential threats, and sleeper species (non-native species that begin to show invasive properties) to determine if they are an active threat to the ecosystem in Teton County. This year TCWP drafted resolutions to add two species, bittersweet nightshade (Solanum dulcamara L.) and garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata), to the county declared species list. The additions of both species were approved by the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council in November and are awaiting final approval by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.

Bittersweet nightshade

Bittersweet nightshade is a perennial vine native to Eurasia and was introduced to North America as a medicinal plant. It spreads by both seeds and rhizomes. This species is also called climbing nightshade because of its vining growth habit that allows it to climb up other plants and structures forming dense stands and choking out light. The bright red berries are attractive but also poisonous creating a hazard for pets and children.

In Teton County, bittersweet nightshade can be found in riparian areas and disturbed sites. The highest densities of this species are in town in Jackson along alleyways, in empty lots, and along pathways. Treatment options include pulling young plants when the soil is moist in order to remove as much of the root as possible or chemically treating with glyphosate, 2,4-D or Opensight.

Garlic mustard

Garlic mustard is also a native of Eurasia and was introduced to North America as a medicinal and edible herb. This species is a biennial that produces an average of 600 seeds per plant and exudes allelopathic chemicals forming dense stands that choke out native species.

In Teton County, garlic mustard has been found in two different locations. Because of recent development, TCWP staff hypothesized that seeds were brought in on construction equipment or in fill dirt. Treatment options include hand pulling or chemically treating with Telar.

Landowners

Landowners and managers face a myriad of issues in invasive species management. Teton County Weed & Pest staff are working with these landowners and managers to assist with decision making and provide guidance for effective long-term management through the following programs:

Land Development Regulations

Preventing the introduction of invasive species can save landowner thousands of dollars and hours of time in management; disturbance, as occurs during construction and development, is the primary means of introducing new invasive species. Since 2017, all new development or additions that require a grading permit must have an invasive species management plan to prevent the introduction and spread of invasive species. As Teton County Planning Department settles into their new hires, TCWP continues to work to streamline the process for creating management plans for each application. By having a management plan in place before and throughout the construction process, landowners can reduce the long-term impact of invasive species on their property.

HOA Wide Management

Once invasive species are present in the landscape, they rapidly and aggressively spread without adhering to human designated boundaries. To help individuals and neighbors create a cohesive management strategy, TCWP is working with several Homeowners Associations (HOAs) to create HOA-wide management plans. HOA-wide management plans allow for comprehensive management of invasive species on a landscape scale. Management at this scale can help alleviate some of the financial burden. It can also assist both HOAs and part-time residents with maintaining properties that are not occupied year-round.  

Trout Friendly Lawns

TCWP has partnered with the Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition and is helping promote the Trout Friendly Lawns program. This program centers around appropriately utilizing pesticides, fertilizers, irrigation and landscaping materials to protect water quality. Landowners and managers can reduce their inputs by planting native species and buffer strips around water bodies, testing the soil before applying fertilizer, using slow-release fertilizers, using mechanical removal of weeds and invasive species when appropriate, and by spot treating with pesticides when needed. More information on the Trout Friendly Lawns program and the Jackson Hole Clean Water Coalition can be found here: https://jhcleanwater.org/initiatives/trout-friendly-lawns/

Early Detection Rapid Response – We are Winning!

The Teton County Weed and Pest District’s (TCWP) Early Detection Rapid Response (EDRR) program has been in place for nearly 20 years.  This program targets species that are rare in our county for treatment efforts and brings awareness to species that are not yet found here but have shown to be highly invasive in neighboring areas.  By identifying potential threats, TCWP can train staff on what to look for so that infestations are found early, when the probability or possibility of eradication is high.  

This season, TCWP staff was successful in locating the first garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) plants found in Teton County.  This species native to Europe was most likely brought to the United States for food or medicinal purposes and has fully colonized the eastern and midwestern US.  It is an early season biennial with coarsely toothed leaves and white flowers that spreads via seeds developed in the slender capsules that can measure up to 2.5 inches long.  This species has been approved to be added to the Teton County Declared Species List and will be treated with dedication next summer. 

The EDRR program focuses on priority one and two species which are listed here, as well as whitetop (Lepidium draba).  This year, our Seasonal EDRR Technician was tasked with checking 1813 known locations of which, 935 had no live plant present.  Each season the plant status is recorded and monitored to evaluate effectiveness of timing and treatment. If a location does not have live plants present for five years in a row, it is removed from the yearly list and will only be checked periodically (every 5 years) moving forward.  This season 193 such locations (20.6%) were removed from the yearly database. Of course, every year our dedicated staff helps locate new EDRR plants, which amounted to 127 points (17.1%) being added to the task list this year. In the end, an 8.9% net reduction in EDRR locations was accomplished in 2019.

One specific area has been targeted for EDRR work since the early 2000’s is the Snake River.  The Snake River Project has proven to be a great success over the years. This project, which targets EDRR species, saltcedar (tamarisk) and perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) in particular, is funded in part by Teton Conservation District and the Wyoming State and Private Forestry grants.  For this project, crews float the Snake River and walk the cobbled islands each summer in search of new infestations of species to be managed using the EDRR technique.  This effort has amounted to the detection of 107 saltcedar and 523 perennial pepperweed infestations thoughout the history of the project. Utilizing the Early Detection Rapid Response tactic, these populations have shrunk to 15 and 142 respective locations that continue to be monitored.  This reduction computes to an 85% success rate in eradicating saltcedar and a 73% success rate eliminating perennial pepperweed. This season, no new saltcedar and three new perennial pepperweed plants were discovered. Moving forward, TCWP is hopeful that Working Dogs for Conservation can be utilized to “sniff out” infestations that have not been detected by our staff, in order to ensure ALL populations are located.  

ArcCollector program for monitoring EDRR species

Without the Early Detection Rapid Response mindset, these high priority species might not get treated with such diligence every year.  Many are prolific seed producers and are extremely adaptable to different habitats. Left unchecked, these non-native species quickly crowd out our native species, reducing biodiversity, decreasing availability of resources for wildlife, increase fire and flooding frequency, and lead to severely altered ecosystems.   In an industry where success stories can be fleeting, the TCWP EDRR program proves that “an ounce of prevention” truly is “worth a pound of cure”.  

JHWMA 20 Years of Partnership

Where has time gone!  The Jackson Hole Weed Management Association (JHWMA) was formed in 1999 when partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding that allowed all to share resources to prevent and manage invasive species across Teton County. Still going strong as the group enters its 3rd decade, it continues cooperation on projects that focus on specific problems and not jurisdictional boundaries. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been leveraged in grant funds for projects focused on the health of our ecosystem and improving wildlife habitat. The Snake River, Gros Ventre River, Upper Gros Ventre watershed, Bridger-Teton Wilderness Areas, backcountry forest and park lands, and mule deer winter range are just some of the areas in which the group has coordinated.  Many thanks to our partners and here’s to another 20 great years! 

  • Bridger-Teton National Forest
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Caribou-Targhee National Forest
  • Fremont County Weed Department, Idaho
  • Friends of Pathways
  • Grand Teton National Park
  • Hanna Outfitting
  • Intermountain Aquatics
  • Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance
  • Jackson Hole Land Trust
  • Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation
  • Jackson/Teton County Parks & Recreation
  • National Elk Refuge
  • Natural Resource Conservation Service
  • Snake River Fund
  • Teton Conservation District
  • Teton County Weed and Pest District, Wyoming
  • Teton County Weed Department, Idaho
  • Wyoming Dept. of Transportation
  • Wyoming Game and Fish Commission

Gros Ventre River Spray Days

3 days, Dozens of People, Thousands of Acres Protected

Every July, the JHWMA hosts cooperative noxious weed spray days along the Gros Ventre River.  Volunteers come from as far away as Idaho Falls and Casper to team up. The group targets spotted knapweed, Dalmatian toadflax and perennial pepperweed on public lands along the river corridor.  The invasive weeds treated compete with native vegetation, adversely impacting wildlife habitat, and transforming ecosystem function.

The first indication of knapweed on the Gros Ventre River is briefly discussed in minutes from a Weed and Pest District Board meeting in 1974, though the exact location is not mentioned.  In 1999, JHWMA partners decided it was important to begin recording the presence of noxious weeds throughout Teton County. The Gros Ventre River from the Goosewing Ranch area to the confluence with the Snake River was surveyed as part of this effort. At that time, spotted knapweed was only located as far upstream as the Forest/Park boundary. No other infestations were identified upstream (east) of this location. This prompted the beginning of what is now known as the JHWMA’s Annual Gros Ventre River Spray Days project. 

In 2000, crews from Grand Teton National Park, the Bridger Teton National Forest, Teton County Weed and Pest, and the National Elk Refuge began targeting spotted knapweed along the river corridor in the hopes of reducing and containing the infestation and keeping the infestation from spreading further east into the Gros Ventre area and south onto the Elk Refuge.  Despite these efforts, in 2001 spotted knapweed was found between the Forest/Park boundary and Lower Slide Like on the Gros Ventre Road. Then in 2008, it was found in the campground at Lower Slide Lake. This indicates that in addition to traveling downstream, knapweed is also traveling up the road with humans (vehicles, horses, snowmobiles, UTV’s, etc). This movement highlights the importance of public awareness of how we can prevent the spread of invasive species to our favorite recreation areas by following PlayCleanGo (www.playcleango.org) principles.

Gros Ventre River Spray Days continues to be integral to the protection of wildlife habitat in Grand Teton National Park and the National Elk Refuge. Unfortunately, the spotted knapweed infestation is so extensive that it will never be eradicated. However, with careful planning and targeted treatments, JHWMA partners are containing and reducing the infestation. Annually, crews treat roughly 50-100 acres of invasive species in this 1,200+ acre project area, thanks to grant funding and dedicated funding from agencies. 

Agencies, organizations, and businesses that have assisted with the project over the years include but are not limited to: 

Fremont, Lincoln, Natrona, Park, and Teton County Weed and Pest Districts in Wyoming, Bonneville and Teton County Weed Districts in Idaho, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, Boreal Property Management, Jackson Hole Property Services, Intermountain Aquatics, the Bridger-Teton, Custer Galatian, and Shoshone National Forests, the National Elk Refuge, Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks as well as the National Park Service – Northern Rockies Exotic Plant Management Team.  The Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Department of State Lands, Jackson Hole Land Trust, Hanna Outfitting, Gros Ventre River Ranch, Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, Teton Conservation District and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 


2016 JHWMA Gros Ventre River Spray Days Team
Mosquito Abatement Program

TCWP’s mosquito abatement program encompasses Teton County in its entirety. Our field work starts in mid-April and ends in late August. While not as visible as the roadside weed control crews, the mosquito team members are equally busy, working in wetlands, ponds, and flooded fields.

TCWP’s mosquito program is four-part:

  • Sampling and Mapping: We field sample and map mosquito habitat for the presence of larvae. This information is entered into our GIS database and is used for future mosquito management decisions. 
  • Larvicide: Larvicides are environmentally safe products that kill mosquito larvae. These products have, as an active ingredient, bti, which is a naturally occurring soil bacteria. Bti is only toxic to mosquitos and is rendered inert by the sunlight and air in 48 hours. Larvicide applications typically commence when mosquito larvae are detected at sampling sites and continue until the larvae are eliminated. Historically, TCWPs’ trained crews have manually applied larvicides, but our new drone technology is showing promise as a replacement for this laborious task.  
  • Trapping and Adulticide: Specialized traps are used by TCWP staff to determine adult mosquito populations and specie composition. Samples of the captured adults are collected for analysis and testing for the presence of West Nile Virus. Adulticide (fogging) treatments are initiated when trap catch numbers reach pre-determined threshold levels.

Outreach: TCWP strives to increase public awareness of all our programs. Mosquito abatement outreach involves one-on-one property owner contacts and service call visits. We very much appreciate the on- going support and cooperation displayed by Teton County residents.

Seasonals and Weed Treatments

This year we were able to hire 17 seasonal employees. 9 of them were returning from previous years, and 8 were new hires. They all had a variety of different backgrounds and came from all across the country. With their help, hard work, and dedication to the job, we were able to have a very successful summer season. We were able to complete all of our project areas and contracts, and some areas we were able to get to more than once which should increase our level of control in those areas.

Overall, our crews were able to treat about 222 acres of invasive weeds throughout Teton County and the Snake River Canyon. Our 2 person crews working on Bridger Teton National Forest (BTNF) and National Elk Refuge (NER) lands were each able to treat around 20 acres. The BTNF team covered a large area from up North on Togwotee pass all the way down to the Sheep Gulch boat ramp. They mostly concentrated on trail heads, forest service roads, and boat ramps. The NER crew mostly focused on getting to known points of high priority species, as well as treating areas throughout the NER where there were infestations of other species such as musk and Canada thistle.

The rest of our crew spent a lot of time on state highway properties and rights of way (63 acres), on Grand Teton National Park rights of way (24 acres), county roads, levees, and parcels ( 35 acres), BLM lands (19 acres) Wyoming Game and Fish properties (12.5 acres) as well as the town of Jackson and parks and rec properties (13.5 acres). We also had one of our seasonals go around throughout the county to known points of our higher priority species and recording and treating what he was able to find there. Through his efforts, he was able to treat about 6.5 acres of those high priority species. 

We wouldn’t be able to get our work done without our seasonal crews. They spend a lot of time on the side of the road in the heat, climbing up and down steep hillsides in pursuit of invasive weeds. We rely on their hard work and appreciate every bit of it. 

The Lab Insectary

This year, our mosquito lab manager Mikenna Smith built a mosquito insectary as an extension of the lab. She toured the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District’s (SLCMAD) lab and their insectary to learn how to build one here at TCWP. Eggs of two insecticide-susceptible colonies were obtained from SLCMAD (Aedes sierrensis and Culex pipiens) and a third colony was established using a wild-caught species (Culiseta inornata). The Cs. inornata colony will be tested for insecticide-susceptibility in 2020. The reasons for building an insectary and maintaining mosquito colonies year-round are multi-faceted. By having an insectary and insecticide-susceptible colonies, the District is now able to perform all types of insecticide resistance testing. This includes calibration of insecticide mortality curves with susceptible strains and rearing of wild-caught samples in a controlled environment to perform the CDC bottle bioassay. Comparing mortality curves of local populations to insecticide-susceptible colonies allows TCWP to monitor local populations for resistance to insecticides. By rearing wild-caught samples up in the insectary, age & nutritional status can be controlled before the tests are performed.  Controlling for potential confounding factors helps provide quality data. Additionally, the mosquito colonies can be used for insecticide-resistance validation and adulticide efficacy testing in the field. Insecticide resistance monitoring and adulticide efficacy testing are encouraged by the CDC & AMCA to be performed at the District level. The National Association of County and City Health Officials has also stated that insecticide resistance monitoring is where the greatest gap in competency lies for mosquito abatement districts in the United States. TCWP is now able to meet all such expectations in our integrated mosquito management program (IMM).

The construction and maintenance of the insectary not only adds to the District’s IMM program by providing the ability to perform all resistance tests, but the colonies were also successfully used in the classroom education programs. Mikenna worked closely this year with our education coordinator Meta Dittmer to provide mosquito eggs for the third-grade life cycle science lessons. The students raised the mosquitoes from eggs to adults and journaled about the life cycle of their “mystery insect.” It was important for the lab to be able to provide eggs of local species in the education program over using non-native species. Overall, the construction of the insectary and provision of eggs for education was a great success and will continue to be a valuable resource for the District’s IMM program. 

Unmanned Aircraft Systems – Into the Unknown

In the spring of 2018, the Teton County Weed and Pest District jumped into the world of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (Drones) headfirst.  After years of research and discussions, the staff and board concluded that the technology and price point was finally at the desired levels to purchase a drone capable of spraying pesticides and begin to integrate it into treatment operations.  

The unit that was purchased is called the Agras MG1S and is manufactured by DJI.  The aircraft has eight propellers, a 2.6 gallon tank for liquids, four spray nozzles spraying up to 4.5 gallons per acre, obstacle avoidance radar, has a max speed of 33.5 miles per hour (treatment max speed of 15.6 mph), and is fully programable to treat areas autonomously.  Flight time on each battery is around 10-12 minutes, which nearly matches the time it takes to “spray out” the tank. This tool will allow two staff members to treat three to four acres per hour, without the backbreaking weight of a spray backpack.  

Staff managed to squeeze in enough time during the initial summer to get the proper certifications/licenses, and to learn the ins and outs of drone operations.  The first treatments took place during the fall of 2018, on flat cheatgrass plots to test the aircrafts ability to spray areas effectively, and the staff’s ability to plan treatment areas and execute the missions.  Building upon the success of the previous year, further tests were planned for the upcoming season. First, it was decided to utilize the aircraft to treat for mosquito larvae in flooded fields. These missions seemed easy enough, being flat and mostly uniform.  Upon a few trials, staff learned that the target treatment areas needed to be easily accessible by truck in order to limit drone travel time to and from the treatment block and the staging area must be dry and away from potential obstacles. With the successful treatment in these areas, sites that meet these requirements and frequently need larval treatment will be mapped ahead of time in order to maximize treatment time.  The next potential use for the aircraft that was considered were steep hillsides that which are infested with spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa) and cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum).  Following a few learning experiences, it was determined that by utilizing the “terrain follow” setting on the drone, treatment of patches of these species on steep hillsides could be accomplished.  While effectiveness of treatment in these areas will not be able to be evaluated until this spring, TCWP staff are optimistic that this tool can be used in these instances throughout the valley.  

While technology commonly presents challenges, TCWP staff are eagerly looking ahead to next year, where widespread drone operations will be planned for mosquito control and weed treatments where species densities are high, and/or terrain is steep and hard to treat on foot.

Welcome New Board Member – Lucas Turner

2019 brought a change to the Moran representation on our Board.  We welcomed Lucas Turner to the Board in January. Lucas brings a wide range of expertise, having grown up on and now working at the Triangle X Ranch. His experience on the Ranch brings the ideal mix of knowledge related to ranching, livestock, hay production, invasive species management, staff oversight and program management.  Welcome Lucas! 

Weed of the Month: Canada Thistle

Can YOU outsmart the smartest weed in the West?

Canada thistle may be the cleverest weed in the West

Canada Thistle, Cirsium arvense, may be the cleverest weed West of the Mississippi. It boasts a long list of weedy characteristics, including:

  • Perennial growth habit
  • Ability to reproduce from creeping rhizomes (underground stems that creep out laterally in all directions)
  • An abundance of wind-dispersed seeds that are also long-lived (up to 22 years!)
  • Spiny leaves that are avoided by wildlife and most livestock   
  • Tolerant of a wide range of soil conditions
  • And worst of all, roots that penetrate anywhere from 6 – 15 feet deep, sequestering nutrients that allow Canada Thistle to recover from any attempts to control it at the surface.

To outsmart a weed like this, one must get to know it intimately and discover and exploit its weakness.

So, let’s get to know Canada thistle!

This first thing to know is that it is NOT from Canada. This thistle is native to the Mediterranean regions of Europe and North Africa. It was accidentally introduced to Canada in a shipment of contaminated grain in the 1600s. It spread down the east coast of the US and was first discovered in the Rocky Mountain west in the 1800s. It is currently the most widespread of all thistle species. 

Canada thistle is native to the Mediterranean region, but is now widespread in North America

The next thing to know is that Canada thistle is not like any other thistle you have encountered. Unlike Musk, Bull, Scotch, and Plumeless thistles, which all emerge from a stout taproot as an individual plant, Canada thistle produces extensive patches with hundreds or thousands of tiny stems that are genetically identical and arise from a shared root system. Therefore, pulling one “plant” in a patch of Canada thistle is as effective as picking a single leaf from a tree hoping to kill the tree – NOT effective at all!

Canada thistle has a creeping perennial growth habit which means this entire patch is probably one genetic individual, much like a clone of Aspen trees

Canada thistle also differs from the other thistles in being dioecious. This means that each plant (or patch in this case) is either male or female and bears flowers that will produce either pollen or seeds. A Canada thistle patch that is female must be pollinated by a patch that is male in order to produce viable seed and having male and female plants separated in space may reduce the probability of viable seed production. However, when male and female plants do find each other, one flowering shoot can produce 1,000-1,500 seeds that can lay dormant in the soil for up to 22 years. So, it is still worthwhile to cut and bag any seed heads you encounter. 

Canada thistle seeds can lay dormant in the soil for up to 22 years awaiting the right conditions for germination

A large patch of Canada thistle is essentially one clonal plant, either male or female, and to kill it, one must kill ALL of it. The challenge is finding a way to kill the extensive underground root system that penetrates to a depth of up to 15 feet and extends to a breadth of at least that. The only way to succeed in eliminating Canada thistle is to injure and exhaust this root system, and do so repeatedly, treating for multiple seasons and multiple times within a season. 

To eliminate Canada thistle, you must be able to kill its extensive root system. This is a challenge.

If you want to outsmart this weed, follow these steps:

  • Spring treatment: All winter, Canada thistle lays dormant under the ground, subsisting on the nutrients stored in its roots and rhizomes. When the snow melts in spring, it will use that precious stored energy to push a flush of leaves out of the ground, which will start out as a patch of spiny rosettes.
A spring flush of Canada thistle rosettes

The rosettes will leaf out and grow taller and eventually produce buds and flowers for reproduction. Once the buds emerge, the energy stored in the root system is at a seasonal low. Now is the time to severely weaken the root system by abruptly removing all the surface vegetation, either by mowing it close to the ground or by applying an herbicide like Glyphosate, Speedzone, or Milestone to the leaves. This will force the thistle to further deplete its nutrient reserves in order to replace the vegetation it lost. 

The Spring treatment of Canada thistle should be applied at the bud stage of growth
  • Fall Treatment:   After the spring treatment, the weakened plant will take some time to recover. But recover, it will. In the late summer/early fall, in preparation for winter dormancy, it will muster the remaining energy reserves from its roots and push up another flush of leaves. The purpose of these leaves is to vigorously photosynthesize and transport all the sugars produced down into the root system so it can survive the winter and have energy for a flush of leaves in the spring. Now is the BEST time to treat with an herbicide because the chemical will inadvertently be transported down to the root system, along with the photosynthates. The herbicide recommended by TCWP for fall treatment in non-lawn areas is Milestone. If you are treating the thistle in a turf grass lawn you will need to use a lawn-approved herbicide like Speedzone, Tri-Mec, or Mecamine-D. You will want to treat before a killing frost, but after the first frost to have the best chance of getting the herbicide down to the evasive root system. 
    1. NOTE: If the plant was able to produce healthy regrowth soon after the spring treatment, plan to cut it back 3-5 weeks before applying the fall Milestone treatment. This will encourage active growth in the plant and produce clean new leaves that lack the waxy cuticle present on mature leaves, allowing the herbicide to penetrate the leaves and circulate throughout the plant more easily, increasing its effectiveness. Whenever using herbicide, refrain from cutting or mowing treated vegetation until after the herbicide has had a chance to work. This could be as long as 2-3 weeks.
  • Repeat: This procedure should be repeated for at least 3 years. 
  • Replant: Plant new vegetation to compete with the Canada thistle and any other weeds that may try to get established as soon as possible after herbicide treatments begin to take effect. Check the label of the herbicide you used to see how long you must wait before replanting an area that was treated. For Milestone it can be up to 18 months.

These four steps are the most effective means of eliminating Canada thistle from your property. This requires patience, vigilance and use of chemical herbicide.

If herbicide must be avoided, it may be possible to exhaust the root system of Canada thistle using a combination of mechanical methods such as mowing, digging, and grazing. However, this process will require A LOT of patience, diligence, and time. 

For more information on Canada thistle treatment see these links:

https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/nrcs142p2_018027.pdf

http://msuinvasiveplants.org/documents/mt_noxious_weeds/canada_thistle.pdf