Tribune Content Agency
Several state agencies are asking hunters to take extra precautions to avoid spreading noxious weeds around the region as they travel to and from assorted hunting grounds.
In particular, the Washington Invasive Species Council, the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife sent out a joint press release reminding hunters that unkempt boots and equipment that are prone to carry noxious weed seeds could lead to the spread of destructive, non-native plants to new areas. The spread of those noxious weeds can result in damaged habitat and poor conditions for wildlife. As a precaution, officials are asking hunters to clean their boots and gear before leaving an area and to also report any noxious weeds they observe in order to help the state create an inventory of the problematic flora.
“It is everyone’s responsibility to help protect the backcountry and wildlife from the devastating impacts of invasive, noxious weeds,” said Alison Halpern, executive secretary for the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board, in a press release. “Brushing off your boots and gear takes just a few minutes but has such lasting effects by preventing further spread of invasive species.”
The press release noted that invasive plants and noxious weeds degrade the natural environment by outcompeting native plants that are critical to the diet of local fauna. In some cases, wildlife have documented moving to new locations after the proliferation of invasive plants. In order to avoid that outcome, officials are asking hunters to clean all mud, seeds and propagating plant parts from boots, vehicles and equipment before entering the backcountry, and then again before hitting the dusty trail home.
“The last thing you want is to introduce a problem plant to your own yard that you picked up while hunting,” said Justin Bush, executive coordinator for the Washington Invasive Species Council, in the release. “The importance of cleaning boots and equipment cannot be understated. As a personal example, a hunting companion introduced poison hemlock to his yard after a bird hunting trip we took in 2015. Luckily, a friend sent me a photo and request to identify the plant before his mother picked the flower for a dinner table bouquet. Gone differently, someone could have been poisoned.”
Officials suggest using a boot brush, cleaning equipment and hosing off vehicle tires in order to thwart the spread of noxious weed seeds.
“Prevent the introduction and spread of noxious weeds. It’s far less expensive than trying to remove species once they arrive,” added Bush in the release. “If you value the experience of hunting, quality habitat and abundant wildlife then take a few minutes to preserve it.”
Additional information, including an identification chart, is available online at www.nwcb.wa.gov. Reports of invasive weed infestations can also be made online at http://www.invasivespecies.wa.gov/report.shtml or by sending a detailed email to invasivespeciesrco.wa.gov.