Southwest Conservation Corps and Mountain Studies Institute have partnered on a project to help landowners mitigate weed growth that came as a result of the 416 Fire.
A work crew from Southwest Conservation Corps sprayed herbicide Monday on invasive plants that sprouted in full force after last year’s 416 Fire burned 54,000 acres north of Durango. More than 100 private lots were sprayed with herbicide, including homes by Trimble Hot Springs and the Falls Creek subdivision.
SCC and MSI hope to control the spread of invasive plants that took root as a result of last summer’s fire, and SCC hopes to position itself as a local resource to help with future initiatives of this kind.
Another goal of the project is to control weeds early before they become more widespread, which is important to protect the biodiversity of the Animas River watershed and its pollinators, said Amanda Kuenzi, community science director for MSI.
Weeds tend to sprout in areas where major land disturbances, such as fire, have wiped out healthy plant species. With the 416 Fire and the floods that followed, the area provided a breeding ground for weeds.
The groups are working with private property owners in the Hermosa area where weeds are taking root.
The weed mitigation is part of a two-fold project – the first portion includes weed mitigation through the spraying of herbicide and the second part, which is scheduled to happen this fall, seeks to plant seeds for new growth.
Kuenzi said that by planting native seeds, MSI and SCC hope to prevent future weed growth with grasses and beneficial species to hold the ground in place to stop erosion.
Not all weeds were on the list to be targeted. Kuenzi and Ben Bain, weed control coordinator for La Plata County, took time before the crew started to explain different types of weeds.
“We’re surgeons, we’re not butchers,” Kuenzi said in her remarks to the SCC crew working on the project. She told the group to use the herbicide in a specific and localized way so as not to affect any plants that should remain.
The funding for the projects came from two different sources, including the Community Emergency Relief Fund and a grant from the Colorado Youth Corps Association totaling about $26,000. The two grants were able to cover the costs of both projects, including purchasing seed and herbicide along with labor costs for SCC and MSI.
The project is part of a larger effort by the Animas River Community Forum. The purpose of ARCF is to promote communication and foster public confidence, according to its website. Weed mitigation is one project, but ARCF has different projects planned, including monitoring of natural resources and outreach programs to help landowners.
For more information, visit www.animasrivercommunity.org.