Invasive plant species threaten ecosystems across the US and, if left uncontrolled, can quickly degrade wildlife habitat. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has adopted various strategies for better addressing this threat and recently held several weed prioritization workshops across the Mid-Columbia River and Central Washington National Wildlife Refuge Complexes. Local, county and state experts were brought together to assess the current state of invasive plants, including which species were already present and those that were known to occur in the surrounding area. This knowledge, combined with an existing database that contained information on the various weed species, including how much of a risk each poses, was used to develop improved “watch lists” which can help guide weed surveys.
At Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge, this effort has already paid off as refuge manager Trevor Sheffels recently found and removed four occurrences of one of the new watchlist species, common tansy (Jacobaea vulgaris) growing in open meadow areas used by nesting greater sandhill cranes. Early detection and rapid response have been shown to be the most effective way of addressing newly invading weeds and helps conserve valuable wildlife habitat. This is a great example of how better information can lead to better on-the-ground management.