|Oregon is under siege. The invaders have names such as diffuse
knapweed, yellow starthistle, leafy spurge, and purple loosestrife.
They are noxious weeds, exotic species that don’t belong here.
Numerous agencies and programs have been enlisted to fight the
battle. Without those efforts, the invaders will win, crowd out native
plant species, and overrun the landscape. Most everyone agrees,
protection of Oregon’s natural resources is worth fighting for.
Noxious weeds are becoming a topic of interest for many varied
groups throughout the state. Those interested in preserving wetlands,
rangeland, cropland, wildlife, recreational areas and even urban
livability have a stake in weed control. Increased media attention on
various noxious weeds this past year reflects the concern of
This document provides a framework and overall strategy for
cooperators in noxious weed management. It assesses the magnitude
of the problem, highlights the importance of current weed control
activities, and offers recommendations. Implementation of this
strategic plan will build and expand strong coordinated programs for
the future to protect Oregon’s agricultural economy and natural
The spread of noxious weeds has been described as a “biological
emergency,” a “biological wildfire raging out of control,” or “an
explosion in slow motion.” In any terms, noxious weeds pose a
serious economic and environmental threat. Oregon loses more than
$83 million annually to just 21 of the 99 state-listed noxious weeds.
These invasive, non-native plants choke out crops, destroy range and
pasture lands, clog waterways, affect human and animal health, and
threaten native plant communities.
Weed control in Oregon has experienced a decade of declining
funding and reduced control efforts. State General Funds for noxious
weed control have declined by more then 30 percent. County
programs have declined by 70 percent overall, and only 15 of
Oregon’s 36 counties have active programs. Neither prevention of
new weed introductions nor control of established weed problems is
being adequately implemented. Despite the current level of effort,
new weeds continue to be introduced to the state and many
established populations continue to expand.
During the last 10 years, the number of state-listed noxious weeds in
Oregon has increased by 40 percent. The recent detection of two
aggressive invasive weeds, kudzu and smooth cordgrass, has sounded
a serious alarm about new invasions. Also alarming is the spread of
established weeds. During the past 12 years, infestations of spotted
knapweed and yellow starthistle have expanded 42 and 11 fold,
respectively. Without immediate action, these trends will continue.
The 1999 Legislative Assembly started a reverse in these trends with
the reinvestment of $1.5 million in lottery funds and by passing
House Bill 2118. This bill instructed the Oregon Department of
Agriculture (ODA) to assess the impacts of noxious weeds on the
state, review control programs, and provide recommendations for
implementation of effective noxious weed management. Working
with a broad-based group of stakeholders, ODA has developed this
strategic plan in response to HB 2118.
To effectively manage noxious weeds, Oregon needs effective
leadership and organization from a statewide and local perspective.
Cooperation from the major land managers (state, federal, county, and
private) is essential because weeds do not respect ownership
boundaries. ODA best provides statewide leadership. County
programs best provide local organization and direction.
Priority activities recommended by this plan are the following:
• Establishing strong statewide, county, and local weed control
• Providing leadership, developing cooperation and partnerships
• Providing education and increasing awareness to public and private
• Providing assistance to public and private land managers
• Identifying new invaders and potential threats to the state
• Implementing early detection and eradication programs
• Implementing effective containment projects
• Providing and implementing biological control
• Providing quality inventory and mapping information
• Prioritizing and implementing effective projects
• Providing sufficient level of funding for noxious weed control
The priorities outlined by this plan and an investment into noxious
weed control programs is a prudent course of action given the
conservative estimate of $83 million in annual negative impacts from
noxious weeds. Control efforts have proven successful in the past. For
example, the biological control of tansy ragwort has an estimated $5
million per year benefit to Oregonians. This project alone provides an
83 percent annual return on investment. The control of six weeds
having limited distribution in the state has a benefit to cost ratio of 33
to one. For every dollar spent on effective control, there is $33 of
benefit gained. If left unchecked, the potential impact from these six
weeds is estimated at $54 million annually.
The strategy outlined in this plan can be visualized as a chain. At one
end are strong county weed control programs. In the middle are state
and federal agencies, organizations, and private individuals. At the
other end is the ODA’s program concentrating on coordination, early
detection, prevention, and biological control. Incentive programs,
education, cooperative agreements, and partnerships forge the entire
chain into a strong and formidable system.
Using the same analogy, the current chain is not securely linked. At
the ends, only a third of Oregon counties have active weed programs;
and the state spends less then one cent per acre annually to support
ODA’s essential coordination, early detection, prevention, and
biological control efforts. In the middle, some incentives and
partnerships are active, but many opportunities are missed. Not only
are the current links to loosely connected, but also the entire chain,
from end to end, is too weak to address the full weight of the problem.
By implementing the recommendations of this plan, the links that
form a strong unbreakable chain are forged to provide effective
noxious weed management.
Noxious weeds have invaded many parts of Oregon, but large tracts
remain healthy and free of invasive weeds. Our challenge is to focus
efforts to protect Oregon from new invasions, and to lessen the impact
of weeds already established. This strategic plan outlines priorities for
a strong and cohesive approach to control noxious weeds in Oregon.
Controlling a “biological wildfire” is not an easy task, but it can and
must be done in order to protect Oregon’s economic and
Control of noxious weeds is an issue that makes for some interesting
alliances. Ranchers and farmers have spoken clearly about the threat
weeds pose. So have conservation groups. Control efforts are no
longer confined to a handful of agencies and programs. It now is the
business of all Oregonians.