Pest and Weed Control

Pesticides are sometimes used during attempts to ensure the health of forestland. Policy in the United States requires the use of safe pesticides and encourages the development of an integrated pest management (IPM) plan. Any decision to use a particular pesticide must be based on an analysis of its effectiveness, specificity, environmental impact, economic efficiency, and effects on humans. The application and use of pesticides must be coordinated with federal and state fish and wildlife management agencies. Pesticides can be applied only to areas that are designated as wilderness when their use is necessary to protect or restore resources in the area. Other methods of controlling disease include removing diseased trees and vegetation from the forest, cutting infected areas from plants and removing the debris, treating trees with antibiotics, and developing disease-resistant plant varieties.

Forest Service policy on integrated pest management was revised in 1995 to emphasize the importance of integrating noxious weed management into the forest plan for ecosystem analysis and assessment. Noxious weed management must be coordinated in cooperation with state and local government agencies as well as private landowners. Noxious weeds include invasive, aggressive, or harmful nonindigenous or exotic plant species. They are generally opportunistic, poisonous, toxic, parasitic, or carriers of insects or disease. The Forest Service is responsible for the prevention, control, and eradication of noxious weeds in national forests and grasslands.

In North Dakota, one strategy for promoting weed-free forests uses goats to help control leafy spurge. The goats graze on designated spurge patches during the day and return to portable corrals during the night. A five-year study found that the goats effectively reduced stem densities of spurge patches to the extent that native livestock forage plants were able to reestablish themselves.

A strategy that has been implemented in Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, Utah, and Montana requires pack animals on national forest land to eat state-certified weed-free forage. Another strategy involves the use of certified weed-free straw and gravel in construction and rehabilitation efforts within national forests. Biocontrols, herbicides, and controlled burning are also commonly used during IPM operations in forests.

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