Sundance Times - Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

By Andrew Litzel
Crook County Weed and Pest District Supervisor 

Crook County Weed and Pest – 2018 Report


January 17, 2019

Courtesy photo

LeRoy Curren (Left) and Frank Hawken (Right) are presented their awards and gifts of thanks for their outstanding service to the District.

The past year at the Crook County Weed and Pest was productive and eventful. We had many obstacles and new challenges to overcome, but overall a very successful year of weed and pest control.

Prairie Dogs: A very snowy winter season from January to March made prairie dog control challenging for local landowners. We had plenty of snow and cold weather late into spring, keeping the prairie dogs down in their holes. This made poisoning during the labeled season (October 1 to March 15) difficult.

However, we still had increases in landowners attempting to control prairie dogs. Due to this, the board decided to increase the cost-share for prairie dog poison from 50 percent to 60 percent, enabling landowners to control dogs more cost-effectively.

Whitetop: Crook County saw increases in infested acres of whitetop in many areas on all county boundaries, posing a major threat for further invasion to central parts of the county.

Whitetop is one of the first emerging weeds in the spring and completes its life cycle in a very short amount of time, making treatments difficult. Due to the short treatment window and other factors, we fear further invasion in coming years. This upcoming spring will give us many answers regarding the scope of invasion.

Special Management Program (SMP) Leafy Spurge:

• District Treatments: Leafy spurge was also affected by the weather. Spurge populations emerged later than usual and then grew very fast. However, due to the abnormal amount of summer moisture, it kept the spurge more viable to effective treatment throughout the spray season.

We hired one summer seasonal employee, Forrest Cross, to help treat spurge for private landowners in addition to our usual ATV spraying. He used a backpack to treat the harder to reach areas and areas that ATVs cannot get to.

This year, we treated close to 500 acres of leafy spurge on both Wyoming State Land, and 20 different private landowners, increasing from 11 landowners in the prior year. Since 2016, the district has treated just over 1650 acres of leafy spurge on the ground.

• Reimbursement Program: The district also continued our reimbursement program for landowners who hire commercial applicators to treat leafy spurge. After they pay the applicators, the bill is submitted to the Board and then are reimbursed 80 percent of the cost of treatment. We had six landowners submit bills for spurge control this year; representing several thousand treated acres of leafy spurge. We hope to see more landowners utilizing this program in the future.

• Program Re-Establishment: Due to changes in the state's rules and regulations regarding special management programs, the Weed and Pest is in the process of re-establishing our program. Letters were sent to all previous participants, and a large amount were returned and completed.

There was little to no change in operation due to this, but it did accomplish many beneficial things. It requires landowners to map their leafy spurge populations and provide treatment plans to the district. This puts more accountability on landowners receiving the increased cost-share, and gives the district a better idea of where leafy spurge is being treated by landowners.

As a rough guess there are close to one million infested acres of leafy spurge in Crook County, proving the program is essential to the landowners of the county.

• Biological Control:

- Insects: Besides herbicide treatments, we also had success in our biological control of leafy spurge. The weed and pest conducted releases of insect bio-agents; flea beetles and hawk-moths. These insects can manage populations of spurge in areas where herbicides are not warranted or possible. This year, the Board decided to provide these insects to landowners at no cost.

There were several areas throughout the entire county where hawk-moths were seen established on spurge populations. What is promising about these agents is that they were found in areas where there haven't been releases for several years, along with areas that had been treated with herbicides. This shows both agent self-distribution and some compatibility and integration of two management practices. The weed and pest will continue to release bio-agents ourselves, as well as provide them to landowners at no cost.

- Animals: The district has also been establishing what is turning out to be a very successful selective grazing program on leafy spurge. Sheep and goats are able to process leafy spurge in their digestive systems, contrary to cattle, which makes them a viable agent to selectively graze leafy spurge.

The district treats this program much like commercial spraying; reimbursing landowners 80 percent of herding expenses from hiring contract herders. The board has ultimate discretion on what is reimbursed on the bill. We had four landowners utilizing this program this year, up from three in the prior year. We hope this program continues to expand in years to come.

Special Management Program: Spotted Knapweed: Spotted knapweed is the second species on our SMP, which gives the same 80 percent cost share on herbicide and treatments for this species. Spotted knapweed has been a problem mainly along the I-90 corridor as well as a few scattered areas in USFS areas.

Our treatments on the highway rights-of-way have done an excellent job in reducing the infestations of spotted knapweed along I-90, which in turn should reduce spread onto adjacent private land. This year we had just three landowners take advantage of the district to treat their knapweed, totaling less than 20 acres. Due to the small number of landowners treating spotted knapweed, the board is considering changing to another weed or pest as the second SMP species.

We welcome any comments, questions, or concerns regarding our programs. The district is "for the people" of this county, and want to know what our residents see as major problems throughout the county. Please don't hesitate to stop in the office or call us at any time.

County Roads: This year, the board decided to bid out and hire commercial applicators to treat weeds along county road rights-of-way; this was the first year doing such.

Back Country Spraying, a commercial spraying company from Buffalo, WY, was awarded the bid this year with a very reasonable price. Overall, they did a satisfactory job, missing only a few weeds here and there. They finished all of the roads in just nine total days, working very long hours and efficiently as possible.

Highways: Our highway rights-of-way spraying was in its last year under our current contract with Steve Geis Spraying. All the highways have majorly improved since contracting Steve. We are very thankful for the work that he has accomplished on the highways.

Steve treated 377 acres this year, down from 441 last year, and 861 his first year; representing an actual improvement of 57 percent. However, much of the acres treated were mostly scattered plants compared to thick patches in the prior years, so sight-wise there is much more of an improvement than the numbers suggest; my rough estimate is over an 85 percent total reduction in overall weed density. As a result of fewer weeds, Steve was also able to finish it much faster than in the past; 247 hours compared to 360 the first year.

The contract will be re-bid this year. The weeds have vastly reduced, and we hope to maintain/improve this level of control.

Other News:

• Hay Certifications: With the increase in summer moisture, many producers saw increased hay yields and healthier crops. As a result, the district had an increase in weed-free hay certifications compared to prior years. We certified close to 1,000 acres of weed-free forage and mulch.

• Herbicide Plots: This fall, Corteva Ag Sciences, a division of DowDupont, conducted two test plots using new/upcoming herbicide formulas for use on leafy spurge as well as yellow toadflax. Although the results are very preliminary, they look extremely promising.

Spring 2019 will provide much more conclusive evidence on how well these new products actually work and we are anxious to see the results. Both of these species represent a major local concern, and any new products to help aid control will be extremely beneficial.

• Forest Service Weeds: The District had a contract to treat weeds along roads and campgrounds in the Moskee and Bearlodge Forest Service areas in Crook County.

Roads and campgrounds are a major form of distribution and spread of weeds on and off of Forest Service lands, making it imperative to control weeds along these corridors.

Weed infestations are beginning to move onto private landowners adjacent to USFS. This poses a major threat to healthy rangelands as well as agriculture fields. We hope to stay on top of all of the weeds coming from the forest to prevent further spread onto privately owned lands.

• Cooperator of the Year: The District is pleased to announce our 2018 "Cooperator of the Year Award" to the Whalen Family. This award is given to landowner's who work tirelessly to control noxious weeds and pests on their land and are stewards of rangeland management on their properties. The Whalen's are a perfect example of a family who represents just that.

Since before my time as supervisor, weed control has been at the forefront of their operations. Kolby Wickwire, a board member who neighbors them said, "They are blue (blue dye is mixed in the tank with herbicides to mark spray patterns) at least three months a year, and they even make sure I treat the weeds on my side of the fence too so the weeds don't come onto their property."

Clearly, the Whalen's are adamant in their weed management practices, and it has not gone unnoticed. They will be awarded an electric backpack sprayer to help further aid in their fight against invasive species.

This is the 5th year that the District has done this award, and we hope to continue giving it out to encourage all landowners to give their best effort in controlling weeds. Previous winners are: (2014) Allie Spangler, (2015) Jack Sty, (2016) Dave Schelldorf, and (2017) Charles Pearson.

• Service Award: At the 2018 Wyoming Weed and Pest Council Fall Conference, Crook County's own LeRoy Curren was awarded a sapphire pin signifying ten years of service. This service award is for both Crook County as well as the state Weed and Pest Council.

LeRoy has served as Chairman of the Board for the past two years, and has done an outstanding job. LeRoy has rarely missed board meetings over his entire ten years, and on top of that, he has attended several meetings and workshops outside of the county as well. We would like to thank LeRoy for all these years of his time and effort and hope he stays with us for years to come.

• Retiring Board Member: Lastly, the district has to say "thank you, and goodbye" to another faithful board member, Frank Hawken. Frank has decided that retirement was too tempting at this point and felt that traveling in his camper and spending time with his grandkids would make him the happiest in years to come (we can't blame him).

Frank served on our District Board for two terms totaling eight years, and he was an outstanding board member throughout all of those years. Frank served as the board treasurer for many of his years, bringing a plethora of financial knowledge to the table, and he did an outstanding job.

On top of that, he brought countless ideas and thoughtful insight to every meeting. Frank will be dearly missed on our board. We all wish Frank the best in his future endeavors and travels.


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