The Curry Soil and Water Conservation District was awarded almost $103,000 in three grants, two from the new Oregon Weed Board, this week to fight noxious weeds, as part of the nonprofit’s Most Wanted in 2018 and Gorse Wars 2018 projects.

The two new grant sources alone garnered more than $68,600 to the Gold Beach-based group, which studies the health of waterways in Curry County and works on projects to protect the ecosystems within them.

Noxious weeds are increasingly becoming a big part of the challenge, scientists throughout the West say.

They are defined as plants brought into an area in which they have never been and take over the native population. They are different from non-native plants in that they have no natural predators and can displace native plants and take over entire ecosystems.

Gorse is the biggest problem on the coast in Southwest Oregon, although other areas suffer from invasions of Canada thistle, dalmatian toadflax and different species of knapweed among scores of others.

Many can be eradicated using insects, animals or through physical removal or herbicides, but often require repeat treatments. Some, such as Canada thistle, can regrow if as little of 1/16th of an inch of root is left behind when pulled from the ground, say weed specialists in Colorado where the weed is prolific.

Money

The state weed board awarded $1.84 million for 63 projects throughout the state this year. The money will augment that of the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Noxious Weed Control Program.

Here, the money will be used to tackle gorse, Japanese and Himalayan knotweed, Jubata grass — pampas grass — Cape ivy, Spanish heath and biddy-biddy, said Erin Minster with the Curry Watersheds nonprofit.

Other projects in the state will focus on early detection and rapid response to noxious weeds new to Oregon, cost-share projects for land managers, farmers and ranchers, and biological control as part of integrated weed management programs.

“Not one grantee is doing all the work themselves,” said Tristen Berg, the ODA’s noxious weed grant coordinator. “Many are in concert with federal, state and local partners like ODA, watershed councils and soil and water conservation districts. In many cases, they are working across county lines and pulling together with neighboring counties.”

The Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) provided the funding through lottery dollars.

“This last biennium, we made our case to the OWEB board and they allocated $500,000 for a two-year period that specifically targets county weed control programs,” said Tim Butler, manager of ODA’s Noxious Weed Control Program. “This is the first cycle of administering those funds.”

Forty-nine projects received a total of $1.4 million as part of the regular grant program; an additional 14 projects received $401,000 as part of the county weed grant program. Seventeen applicants requested more than $554,000 — more than what’s available, but useful for approaching legislators for more money in the future, Berg said.

Projects are restricted to those that restore, enhance or protect fish and wildlife habitat, watershed functions, native salmonid populations or water quality. They must also target state-listed noxious weeds. The two state agencies looked for applications involving on-the ground weed-control projects, but those that funded research, survey work, outreach or project design were accepted if that work was needed to complete the control portion of the project.

Noxious weeds have taken over hundreds of thousands of acres of land, much of it agricultural, in the West. When they do, they create a monoculture of their species and drive out insects and birds that rely on native plants, scientists have documented for decades.

In Montana, in 2003, more than half the agricultural land has been infested with noxious weeds.

The threat is no different here, the ODA said.

Reach Janes Stebbins at jstebbins@currypilot.com

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