While it is best to prevent invasive species from ever entering an area, early detection of new species is imperative for minimizing impacts on the ecosystem, reducing costs of management, and eradication of the species. In invasive species management, this is known as Early Detection and Rapid Response, or EDRR.
Of the 66 species considered invasive in Teton County, only a handful are treated as EDRR species. Because these species are rare in Teton County, difficult to manage, and pose a significant threat to our ecosystem, TCWP conducts treatment and monitoring of these species free of charge, including on private property. TCWP prioritizes our designated and declared lists of invasive plants based on several criteria:
- Population of a species present in Teton County
- Invasiveness, or how rapidly the species spreads
- Difficulty of management, including both identification and treatment
EDRR relies on monitoring of susceptible areas, accurate and timely reporting of new infestations, and rapid management response to eradicate the species before it becomes established. Monitoring has historically required “boots on the ground” to locate plants, but this can be difficult with our terrain and the challenges of locating individual plants in natural areas. We are always looking for new tools to add to our monitoring toolbelt whether it’s satellite imagery or comes on four furry legs.
Treatment and Monitoring Methods
TCWP staff follow reporting in neighboring states and counties to identify new species that could be introduced into Teton County. This list shifts frequently with reporting and verification in the region.
TCWP seasonal employees have the opportunity to earn a bonus at the end of each field season for identifying and geolocating new infestations of rare species.
Each year, TCWP hires one to two technicians who spend their entire summer treating and monitoring known locations of high priority species. These technicians also monitor for new and spreading locations of these species.
Snake River Project
In 2001, the first saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) was located on the Snake River. Saltcedar alters water cycling in river systems and has been devastating along the already drought-stricken Colorado River. This find led the Jackson Hole Weed Management Association to the creation of the Snake River Project to protect the Snake River from the establishment of this and other invasive riparian species. Each year TCWP and the JHWMA Partners float the Snake River stopping on islands and gravel bars to search for invasive plants. Targeted herbicide treatments and manual removal are conducted and have successfully eradicated saltcedar in over 100 locations and perennial pepperweed (Lepidium latifolium) in over 230 locations along the river.
Working Dogs for Conservation
With the repeated efforts and success of the Snake River Project, finding new locations of invasive plants along the Snake River reached a plateau. It was apparent that infestations were present, but finding the seed sources became increasingly more difficult as human efforts were successful in open areas and for large plants. In 2019, TCWP partnered with Working Dogs for Conservation (WD4C) on a pilot project to determine if their organization could help locate additional plant locations. WD4C has a long track record of successfully training dogs to locate invasive plants and invertebrates, endangered animals, poachers, and others for conservation projects around the world. WD4C was able to scent train multiple dogs to locate saltcedar and perennial pepperweed. After a successful field trial in 2020, TCWP and WD4C have worked together each year to search for these species along the Snake River. On average, canine and handler teams have found ~30% more locations of invasive plants than TCWP staff and seasonal employees.
Through the EDRR program, TCWP has eradicated high priority invasive plants in XXX locations throughout Teton County.
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