Noxious weeds threaten ecosystem, economy
Tiny, white bunches of flowers span the test plot in St. Ignatius. To the untrained eye it looks like a field full of baby’s breath, but the land is full of whitetop, a weed plaguing Lake County and the entire state of Montana.
Summer is in full bloom, and so are weeds. They may look pretty, but what invasive weeds do to an ecosystem, and an economy, is downright ugly.
This is the first article in a two-part series on noxious weeds I wrote at the beginning of my tenure at the Leader. Invasive weed species, if not managed, could have irreparable effects on this agriculture-based economy.
FLATHEAD LAKE — They come in small numbers and slowly take over everything in their path. As they ruin the lives of natives, they leave the landscape changed for the worse. It’s not a rebel army or a plague of locusts; it’s noxious weeds.
And they are waging their own biological war.
According to the Montana Weed Control Association, Montana currently has 32 state-listed noxious weeds in every county of the state. Western Montana has a much larger problem given population densities where weeds are primarily spread through travel vectors.
In Lake County, residents see the brunt of the problem.
“We’re pretty inundated with noxious weeds,” Tom Benson, director of Lake County Weed Control, said.
Benson said no single entity has the budget to deal with noxious weeds and that education is a key component in preventing the spread of weeds. What needs to happen is a bridging of the gap between education and weed control, he said.
Aquatic invasive species have taken the forefront of the noxious weed discussion. While many residents of Lake County are aware of the eminent threat of zebra mussels, two lesser-known menaces are plaguing Flathead Lake.
Photos by Jessica Stugelmayer.
POLSON — Up, up and away went planes, volunteers and excited children Saturday at the Polson Airport.
The Polson chapter of the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) hosted their Young Eagles Fly-In as a chance for young locals to become involved with flying. Free of charge, the program takes children for a ride around Polson to view Kerr Dam and to get a bird’s eye view of the lake.
Rookie reporter Jessica Stugelmayer tames the rapids
Published in the Lake County Leader
Fresh out of college, and ready to conquer the journalism world, I immediately agreed when Leader editor Bryce Gray offered me the last seat in the boat. I wasn’t scared, mostly.
Hop aboard the “Fool Bus” with the Flathead Raft Co. and prepare for a wet and wild ride. The company has many adventure tours that include kayaking, river boarding and, of course, whitewater rafting.
Read all of Jessica's writing on Muck Rack