Established Infestations: What To Do With Invasives
Yellow toadflax taking over climbing crag.
Yellow toadflax was taking over the author’s favorite climbing crag. What can a person do about invasive plants when they grow on public property?

You’ve played, you’ve cleaned, and you’ve gone. And still your favorite outdoor ecosystem has fallen prey to invasive species. Is the battle over, or are there more ways to do your part?

Once you know how to identify an invasive species, they tend to get under your skin and you notice them everywhere.

Much to my chagrin, I noticed that yellow toadflax was taking over my favorite climbing crag, which of course wasn’t on my property. Here are my takeaways for dealing with invasives that are outside your personal property and scope of control.

A Three-Step Defense Against Invasive Species

To start with, the best defense against invaders is to:

  1. Understand what the invasive species is — in this case, yellow toadflax
  2. Know how it reproduces
  3. Be vigilant 

Starting with step one above, I was well aware of yellow toadflax as an invasive species in my area.

As for step two, like many invasives, this plant’s method of reproduction makes it a challenge to manage: As many of you know, hand-pulling yellow toadflax is not a viable control solution — fragmenting the rhizomes (roots that connect shoots below ground) will only increase the propagation of the plant.

Noxious weeds are aggressive invaders and lack the insect herbivores and pathogens of their native ranges and once they are established, they are here to stay. Seed viability of noxious weeds can last for decades.  

How To Handle An Established Infestation On Public Property

When an infestation is on your own property, step three — being vigilant — is about setting an invasive species management goal and following through with your plan to achieve it. 

Things are different when an established infestation is beyond your personal property and scope of control: in this case, the best course of action is to report it to the local authority. If it is on Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, Town, or County property, call the local office and ask to speak to the contact for weed control or leave a message with the receptionist and allow them to pass along the information.

Close-up of a yellow toadflax plant in front of a rock face.
Report invasive species like this yellow toadflax with the EDDMapS app.

App for Reporting Invasive Species

Downloading EDDMapS to your phone is a great way to report invasive species in the field. EDDmaps is a tool designed for the early detection of invasive species and local managers can sign up for alerts when a new report is made in their area. The phone app is divided into western and eastern states and has complete lists of invasive species by state; it even has descriptions of the invasive species to help you correctly identify them!

Bring the Invasive Species Into the Spotlight

After mapping and reporting the infestation, the job isn’t over yet, though it may be out of your hands. That doesn’t mean you can’t help bring invasive species to the public eye. You can:

  • Suggest that local trailheads build PlayCleanGo bootbrush stations to help inform recreationists as well as halt the spread of weeds.
  • Take pictures of the site and write an article for the local newspaper.
  • Present at a Board of County Commissioner Meeting or other public input group.

Invasive species are not a particularly sexy conservation topic and do not get the publicity that oil spills, wildfires, or endangered species get — but they are just as important. Invasive species are reshaping our ecosystems and are one of the biggest threats to endangered species and increase the risk of wildfire. By helping bring invasive species into the spotlight, you can help not only save your favorite recreational areas, but someone else’s too.

Ethan Proud smiling in front of mountains wearing camouflage jacket and backwards baseball cap.

Written by Ethan Proud

Ethan is the Archuleta County Weed and Pest Supervisor in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. He is the Land Management Organizations representative on the PlayCleanGo National Advisory Council and serves on the Colorado Weed Managers Association’s education committee. He spends most of his free time outdoors, and finds it much more relaxing when he can enjoy the native ecosystems without seeing raging infestations of noxious weeds.

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