What Do We Want for Blaine County?
Nothing but knapweed (above left)? Or fields of jewel-like native plants and pollinators (above right and right)?
Seventh Generation Institute is betting that Blaine County will go for the natives - the healthy and diverse plant and pollinator ecosystems that support other wild species, local food production, as well as those other "natives" (all of us humans) through a great lifestyle and a healthy economy. You can help support natives through our newest program, Nurture the Natives.
This program is in development and testing. This means that we are using adaptive and strategic management for this program and determining the financial viability of the program.
Nurture the Natives
The dazzling native plants and pollinators of Blaine County are slowly, slowly vanishing under an tsunami of non-native weeds. Make no mistake, it is a slo-mo tsunami.
Spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe or Centaurea maculosa) is a particularly pressing problem. Recent coverage in the Idaho Mountain Express described how the knapweed infestation surged in 2017. But similar articles on knapweed go back to at least 2002.
Efforts to control knapweed in Blaine County over the last 15 years have been good and have involved many partners. But these weeds are formidable and have continued to spread and spread. And unfortunately efforts to remove knapweed often made little progress, as natives did not return after removal of the weeds, but rather, more knapweed sprouted, or other undesirable weeds.
Have we reached the tipping point where the weeds win and the natives lose? No. A resounding no.
But the larger the knapweed infestations, the closer to that tipping point we get and the more expensive it is to reverse course and restore health. So to reverse this wholesale replacement of natives by thug-ish weeds, the Institute's Nurture the Natives is a start-to-finish integrated package of three strategies.
What are these three strategies? In a nutshell:
Reduce the knapweed population using a swat team-like combination of the most effective tools available.
Promptly restore natives in areas of knapweed removal with plants selected for three characteristics: 1) resistance to re-invasion by knapweed; 2) support for native pollinators, and 3) the ability to persist in the area as climate change marches forward.
Bring sufficient resources - a short-term tsunami of funds and people if you will - to the project to scale up strategies 1 and 2 so that knapweed infestations are significantly reduced and native are significantly increased.
Strategy number 3 is the key...
...and this is where YOU come in.
If past efforts to control knapweed were insufficient, it wasn't due to lack of interest or motivation. It was due to a lack of resources to fight knapweed with our own tsunami.
So priority one is to bring additional resources to significantly scale up anti-knapweed efforts.
That means funds from people who care about Blaine County. You.
If local projects are the ones that matter to you, please consider supporting this program and click the button below. Your support will be the fuel that scales up this project now and gets the job done.
If you are thinking more regionally or globally, check out the Institute's other programs.
This is an opportunity - it makes a lot more sense to protect a species before the population declines enough to warrant endangered status.
The Western Bumble Bee was proposed for endangered species status in 2015. As of 2016 the US Fish and Wildlife Service found sufficient evidence to conduct a more in-depth review.
The IUCN Redlist rates the bee as “vulnerable.”
The Xerces Society notes that “Since 1998, [the western bumble bee] has declined most dramatically from western and central California, western Oregon, western Washington, and British Columbia. Although absent from much of its former range, B. occidentalis is still found in isolated areas, primarily in the Rocky Mountains.*”
All of these studies note multiple and overlapping stresses. The effects of climate change are similar to and compound those that occur when knapweed replaces multiple flowering species.
Recent research (Ogilvie and others 2017**) indicates that climate change is hastening the loss of flower species that provide food resources to bumble bees. The bees simply don't have enough food. Many other pollinators are experiencing similar effects.
Some pollinators will use knapweed; others will not. The combined effects of climate change, invasive weeds, and other stresses have caused severe declines in all kinds of pollinators, from bees to hummingbirds to bats.
Native pollinators and native plants are often tightly entwined. When one declines, the other declines. In extreme cases, a plant may be pollinated by only one pollinator species. If either goes extinct, the other will necessarily follow.
Reduce knapweed infestations by at least 80%.
Increase the abundance of native plants that a) resist knapweed, b) support abundant pollinators and c) can adapt to anticipated local climate change.
Provide opportunities to local residents to learn about, participate in, and contribute to successful outcomes.
Monitor the effects of our interventions and communicate new insights with a variety of stakeholders.
Summary of Impact to Date
Since this program is still in the development and testing phase, no impacts are available - yet!
Full eradication of knapweed is not practical at this time. Apologies to dentists, but think of weeds like tooth decay – always around and needing constant vigilance. Either floss and brush - or expect cavities. If we can ramp up the effort against weeds for a few years (fill that cavity), the infestations will recede and we can go to maintenance mode (flossing and brushing).
The Institute will be working on this project with some important partners - Blaine County, and the Sawtooth National Forest and the BLM - each of which manage large land areas in Blaine County. They are very excited about having additional help with knapweed and we are very excited about working with them - they bring a wealth of knowledge and commitment to build the tsunami of natives.
We anticipate partnering with additional organizations and private landowners in the future, pending discussions.
*Evans, Elaine & Robbin Thorp (U.C. Davis, Dr & Jepsen, Sarina & Hoffman Black, Scott. (2008). Status Review of Three Formerly Common Species of Bumble Bee in the Subgenus Bombus.
**Jane E. Ogilvie, Sean R. Griffin, Zachariah J. Gezon, Brian D. Inouye, Nora Underwood, David W. Inouye and Rebecca E. Irwin. Interannual bumble bee abundance is driven by indirect climate effects on floral resource phenology., 28 SEP 2017 DOI: 10.1111/ele.12854