Weeds linger long after fire
Natural lands and wildlife continue to feel the heat from the Coal Seam fire that raged through Glenwood Springs three years ago.The fire brought destruction, devastation and an invasive species few think about – weeds.However, members from the U.S. Forest Service know the effects of fires like Coal Seam on weeds, and brought the Region Two Invasive Species Conference to Glenwood Springs this week to combat the pernicious plants and educate others on harnessing their growth. “Noxious weeds are considered by some of the top ecologists in the country as being the number one threat to our native ecosystems,” said White River National Forest range specialist Wayne Nelson.After the Coal Seam Fire, the weeds spread rapidly into South Canyon, threatening the natural habitats of wildlife and interrupting the ecological balance of the soil.The weeds root out the existing plants and shrubbery that wildlife feed on, Nelson said. The weeds have created a monoculture and have completely taken over surrounding native plants.”It really crowds them out,” Nelson said. “It’s a problem because they outcompete the native vegetation.”Nelson and about 40 other specialists from the Rocky Mountain Region came out to destroy the unbridled weeds in South Canyon and teach others from around the region safe methods for eradicating the weeds.Over three days, Nelson and the rest of the team practiced environmentally safe techniques for clearing the weeds. Spraying growth-regulating herbicides over the land, the crew focused primarily on stopping the weeds from spreading out of the canyon, according to Eric Lane, state weed coordinator for the Colorado Department of Agriculture.Drawing people from Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming, the conference made spreading the word on combating weeds after wildfires much easier.”It’s just great especially when you can get state, local, county and federal people to work together, because the fire and the weeds know no bounds,” said Kristi Ponozzo, public affairs specialist for White River National Forest.According to the U.S. Forest Service’s Web site, invasive weeds threaten more than just the land in Glenwood’s South Canyon, and are one of the four critical threats to the nation’s ecosystems. The White River National Forest alone supports more than 88,000 acres of noxious weeds.While many consider the damage from the Coal Seam Fire a singed memory, forestry experts like Nelson know the fire continues to loom over Glenwood. “We’ll be experiencing the effects long after the surfacing scars of the fire if something’s not done,” Nelson said.
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