Winds in the Wilderness

char1Why is “Weed Warriors” an appropriate term for our dedicated volunteers?  Many reasons come to mind, not the least of which is the recent 3 week ambush on wilderness trails in some of the hottest, driest weather we’ve seen in awhile!  Even as barbaric temperatures ensued, the warriors plodded on unwaveringly.

4 weeks ago, Fred Gaudet began the mission surveying the East Fork Creek trail.  Next Phil Deegens and Dave Pietz kept the ball rolling on a survey of Morris Creek.  Over the last few weeks the surveys exploded into Thunder Creek, East Fork Creek, Gem Lake, Porcupine Lake, Char Creek, Regal Creek, and Scotchman Peak.  Good work, everybody!

Gail Bolin and Molly O’Reilly prepared for the looming heat, getting an early start out on the East Fork Creek Trail.  The East Fork Creek trail is a recently decommissioned road, and with the additional exposure caused by its proximity to the creek opening and the erosion from the flood events, East Fork Creek held prime substrate for exotic invasion.  Gail and Molly were ready.  It was intensive recording the efc1 variable weed patches; several species were identified as intermittently clumped throughout long stretches of infestation.  But Molly and Gail kept a sharp eye out and for positive reinforcement, their pet dogs accompanied them and enjoyed their outing on the trail immensely!  When you’re a dog, refreshment is just a jump in the creek away.  They also had an uplifting end to the day of surveying with a quick assessment of the much more sparsely invaded Thunder Creek.  Thanks Molly and Gail!

Marjorie and Jim Clements left bright and early for their survey attempt on Gem Lake trail.  A beautiful destination point, their day could hardly have gone bad!  Luckily, no invasives were identified.  Other feedback for their findings was limited.  It is important especially in these regionally-rare ecosytems to check for invasive plant encroachment, so that even as these treasures become better appreciated and visited by the public, they reamin safe and retain their integrity to harbor some of north idaho’s most intriguing rare plants. Thanks Marjorie and Jim!

efc4At Porcupine Lake trail, surveyors Jim Dubisson and Molly O’Reilly noted that the weeds told the story of the area’s recent usage.  They observed trails of weeds in road tracks along this converted ATV trail, again making suspect the partnership between ATV’s impacts and invasive species appearance.  Even though finding weeds is a frustrating endeavor by nature, these two dedicated volunteers enjoyed the task, knowing their efforts will end up supporting management of this area to dissuade the spread of weeds.char2  Thanks Jim and Molly!

Char Creek trail, an intermittent trail connecting East Fork Creek trail and Lightening Peak trail, has the similar story of being a converted road.  It also encompassed an additional pattern we identify in weed distribution, a change in the composition and density of weed patches with increasing altitude.  The weeds were thick at the bottom but the weed patches gradually faded away in intensity and frequency as Derek Antonelli and I hiked from 3100ft to 4800ft in the winding, six mile stretch of old road bed leading to the trail to the summit.  Thanks Derek!

Kenneth Thacker, the Weed Whacker, and crew mate Jeff Kuhns, ended the assault on invasives this weekend with surveys on Regal Creek Mine trail and Scotchman’s Peak trail.  Regal Creek trail has the distinction of the old-road-bed status, and carries with it the expected battalion of exotic, weedy plants.  The crew enjoyed the survey on this trail which was a new hike for each of them, and note that a picturesque and historically intriguing end is present on this trail.  Weeds are present at Scotchman Peak trail as well, although its invasion is limited with the help of a narrow trail corridor and a very abrupt climb in elevation.  Thanks Ken and Jeff!


These weed surveys have been performed by a very skilled pool of concerned, local volunteers.  Their activities are to be commended.  Outstanding work, everyone!!  Now that we have a better idea of what weeds are where, the data will be passed along to the Forest Service Botanist at the Sandpoint Ranger District, who will be soliciting help in assigning specific weed control methods to the individual trails.  With a little luck, these efforts will culminate in the prevention of these weeds from spreading farther into the wilderness regions of the Idaho Panhandle National Forests.

Look for Winds in the Wilderness again next week as word about the alpine botanical survey events breezes in!


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