Youths go after noxious weeds

Written by Adam Spencer, The Triplicate April 17, 2014 02:03 pm

The crew from Northwest Youth Corps poses next to an impressive haul of Scotch broom pulled near the Madrona river access.
 Teens help with annual attack on Scotch broom, English ivy in Smith River NRA 

Every April, yellow Scotch broom flowers bloom like flags, calling some rural property owners and public land managers to action before the noxious weeds go to seed.

A teenage group from Northwest Youth Corps removed truckloads of Scotch broom and English ivy from the Smith River National Recreation Area last week, helping curb the spread of invasive plants.

What best describes the experience of working on the crew?

“The inability to accept mediocrity — no broom left unpulled!” said crew member Maria Ferlitsch, reflecting the jovial attitude the weed-pullers employ despite the tough work.

After taking out 1,800 adult plants and 8,000 seedlings of Scotch broom, plus 400 runners of English ivy, the group of 10 teenagers and two supervisors planned to have a day off, meaning setting up camp, sharpening tools, doing chores, and other activities that seem too strenuous for a day off.

But supervisor Zach Cook said he planned to take the group to enjoy Redwood Parks while in the area.

Most of the Corps members are from Oregon, but one young man hails from Asheville, N.C., and Del Norters have worked on Northwest Youth Corps crews in the past.

The group was created to offer teenagers an education-based work experience modeled after the Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s, and it now serves more than a 1,000 kids each year across a five-state region.

“They worked pretty diligently. They have a great work ethic,” said Lisa Hoover, forest botanist for Six Rivers National Forest. Hoover said that programs for the removal of invasive plants in the Smith River NRA have been some of the most continuous and successful across Six Rivers.

With seeds that can survive for decades, Scotch broom can spread like wildfire, crowding out native plants and ruining fields used for grazing animals since the weed is slightly toxic. Scotch broom is too thick for almost all wildlife as well — even quail and other ground birds that thrive in brush.

When Scotch broom takes over an area, it can also create a high fire hazard.

Land managers, like Six Rivers National Forest, prefer to get the weed pulling done before seeds start spreading. The focus along Patrick Creek Road has been to remove plants that germinate from the seed bank of previous plants before they become reproductive.

Invasive plant removal on the Smith River NRA has been going on for at least 10 years, but in the past four years the Forest Service has focused on targeting geographically isolated areas where there is a higher chance of completely containing or eradicating the invasives.

Funding for the various phases of work that Northwest Youth Corps has done on the Smith River NRA comes from the Del Norte Resource Advisory Committee (RAC) and Caltrans in partnership with Six Rivers National Forest.

With funding from the RAC, the Del Norte Resources Conservation District will use a local crew to remove Scotch broom from an 8-mile section of South Fork Road. The Del Norte Agricultural Office staff has plans to treat invasive plant sites on the Middle Fork Smith River this season with funding from Caltrans.

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