2020 Annual Report

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A Message from Our Chairs

The Columbia Gorge Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) pushed forward in 2020, adapting its services to remain strong and relevant in light of COVID-19 restrictions. Typically, the CWMA functions with a heavy reliance on in-person interactions with and amongst our partners through workshops, meetings, and field tours. COVID-19 undoubtedly changed how we operated this year, but the CWMA continued to provide strong support to our partners.

Partnerships are the heart of collaborative groups such as the CWMA. In 2020, we updated our Memorandum of Understanding and our membership has grown. We now have 23 partner groups as signatories of the CWMA, more than ever before. One important function of the CWMA is to offer support to these partners as they work on collective projects. As many of our in-person events were canceled, we wanted to focus this year’s annual report on the exceptional work of our members by highlighting their projects.

Another way the CWMA provides support is through fostering connections between partners. When attending a CWMA meeting you may hear someone mention crucial information about a project or region that can strengthen your own work. You can then follow up with them after the meeting. A meeting of the CWMA can also provide the opportunity to connect with that partner you have been trying to reach for months in order to move your project forward. These relationships are what the CWMA strives to create and promote. And we aim to continue to assist you in making these connections even as more of our work gets pushed further into the virtual realm.

Thanks for helping the CWMA have another great year! The accomplishments reflected in this annual report highlight the great work of our committees, a synopsis of our well attended annual conference, a financial update, and some amazing projects that highlight the collaboration between our great members. Please join us in 2021 to help us strengthen our efforts as we continue to adapt to the changing times. The CWMA is still here for you.

Sincerely,

Lucas Nipp

Senior Rural Conservationist

East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District

Columbia Gorge CWMA Co-Chair

Emily Stevenson

Program Coordinator

Skamania County Noxious Weed Control Program

Columbia Gorge CWMA Co-Chair


Who Are We

The Columbia Gorge Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) exists to foster and support collaborative weed management among public land managers and private landowners. Because weeds travel over the landscape and extend across multiple ownerships, collaboration and partnerships are essential for effective weed management.  In addition, partnerships increase capacity, professional expertise, efficiency, and access to new and diverse funding sources. The intention of the CWMA is to provide a forum for information sharing and guidance to local government and land managers on methods for utilizing available resources to control invasive weed problems regardless of political boundaries. The Columbia Gorge CWMA provides support and services to assist partners in carrying out weed education and outreach, weed inventory and prevention, and weed control activities.

Our Signatories

  • Bureau of Land Management—Northwest Oregon District and Prineville District
  • Cascade Pacific Resource Conservation & Development
  • Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Clark County Public Works
  • City of Portland—Portland Water Bureau
  • Columbia Land Trust
  • East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge
  • Hood River Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Klickitat County Noxious Weed Control Board
  • Oregon Department of Agriculture—Noxious Weed Control Program
  • Oregon State Parks—Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
  • Sandy River Watershed Council
  • Skamania County Noxious Weed Control Program
  • The Nature Conservancy
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • US Forest Service—Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • US Forest Service—Mt. Hood National Forest
  • US Forest Service—Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service—Multnomah County and Clackamas County
  • Wasco County Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Washington State Department of Natural Resources
  • Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

Featured Partner Projects

Our work would not be possible without our incredible partners!

Which is why we want to highlight the great, collaborative work our partner organizations have accomplished this year.

Klickitat and Skamania Counties’ Partnership Holds the Line Against Invasive Weeds

By: Cyndi Soliz and Emily Stevenson (Skamania County Noxious Weed Program)

Skamania and Klickitat County Weed Boards established a partnership in 2009 in the form of the Klickitat/Skamania County Knotweed Project. Marty Hudson gathered waivers for Klickitat customers and assisted Skamania County crews who administered and conducted the project. The collaboration continued in 2009 with both county crews working together to improve sensitive meadow habitat in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest for the Washington State and federally endangered Mardon Skipper as well as the endemic Sisyrinchium sarmentosum (Pale blue-eyed grass) which is a Washington State threatened species and a federal species of concern. As a result, these meadows once heavily infested with Canada thistle, houndstongue and tansy ragwort have improved significantly and support healthy populations of both sensitive species. In addition to habitat improvement for the skipper and iris, funding from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation has supported the work done in the early years and allowed for continued maintenance to the meadows to promote crucial winter and summer range for elk and deer. This cooperative work continues today.

When Pacificorp breached the Condit Dam on the White Salmon River in 2011, Klickitat and Skamania counties joined forces once again to ensure invasive species were kept at bay after the decommissioning created over 50 acres of newly disturbed ground. Klickitat County took the lead and Skamania joined in to cover the ground annually since 2012. Skamania and Klickitat counties continue to collaborate along their respective borders and inland to maintain buffers for weeds like houndstongue, tansy ragwort, and rush skeletonweed. Continued, routine communication about types and locations of specific threats and early detection rapid response help these two programs effectively manage a target that knows no boundaries. The partnership has increased the capacity of both programs and contributes to successful invasive species management on the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge.

COVID-19 vs. The Weeds

By: Mika Barrett (Friends of the Columbia Gorge)

Volunteer Stewardship is an environmental conservation program led by Friends of the Columbia Gorge Land Trust (Friends). Organized by Friends’ staff and powered by hundreds of volunteers, this program aims to improve biodiversity in the Gorge while fostering community collaboration. Volunteers get their hands dirty and dig-in with invasive plant removal through manual techniques. The program works beyond boundaries, ranging from Friends land trust preserves to public lands. Public land managers and CWMA partners include U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD), and Washington State Parks (WASP).

Since the Eagle Creek fire in 2017, Friends and public land partners have collaborated on over 100 work parties and engaged more than 1,000 volunteers. Major projects sites include: Collins Slide, WA (USFS), Balfour-Klickitat Loop trail, WA (USFS), John B. Yeon & Upper McCord Creek Falls, OR (OPRD), Angel’s Rest trail, OR (OPRD), and Beacon Rock State Park, WA (WASP).

The stewardship program was heading into the 2020 season when the pandemic halted operations. Volunteer events were cancelled for three months, and hundreds of volunteer hours were lost. In March and April, stewardship volunteers had been scheduled to remove infestations of scotch broom with the U.S. Forest Service to improve the endangered western pond turtle habitat. Numerous volunteer work parties that were organized to protect endemic wildflowers at John B. Yeon State Park were postponed.

While the invasive plants continued to bloom and stewardship volunteers waited on standby, Friends land trust developed new volunteer protocols and a safety manual to quickly resume work amidst the pandemic. Events are cut back from groups of 15-20 people to 5 participants. and volunteers now maintain 6 feet of physical distance from one another while working. If CWMA partners are interested in gaining more information around planning, logistics, and protocols for volunteer activities please contact Mika Barrett at Mika@Gorgefriends.org.

Both land managers and volunteers celebrated getting back to fighting the weeds in July. From July through October, Friends’ volunteer stewards pulled, plucked, and chopped down weeds with the U.S. Forest Service and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The pandemic may have slowed progress down, but Volunteer Stewardship won’t let the weeds win!

Collaboration has Lolo Pass Hawkweed on the Run

By: Courtney Gattuso (Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District)

In 1998, the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) discovered a small population of meadow hawkweed (Hieracium caespitosum) within a powerline corridor adjacent to Lolo Pass Road nested in the Mt. Hood National Forest. Due to the lack of environmental assessments covering the region at the time, treatment options were limited, and the hawkweed populations grew rapidly in just 5 years. As these management practices were developed, coordination efforts from regional partners grew and collaboration was strengthened to help tackle the hawkweed infestation.

Alongside ODA, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Clackamas Soil and Water Conservation District (CSWCD), and the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) formed the Mt. Hood Weed Partners group to address the growing hawkweed populations. The group utilizes various resources to assist in their collaborative efforts, including retained receipts funds, intergovernmental agreements, annual meetings, and an email list for open communication. By sharing roles and responsibilities, the group can maximize their capacity and implement work beyond their normal jurisdictional boundaries.

In June 2020, the largest and most comprehensive cooperative effort to date on the Lolo Pass hawkweed infestation took place. The project area encompasses about 5,000 acres of land (over 500 acres of core areas) and spans over both Clackamas County and Hood River County. The stars aligned, and the project area was treated in entirety with partner staff members and local restoration contractors, J. Franco Reforestation, Inc. Due to successful treatments and lower population densities, the group had extra capacity to expand into new territories and gain better insight of the population’s full extent.

During the peak week of treatments there were 20+ people working in the corridor to suppress and prevent these aggressive invaders from infesting vulnerable wilderness meadows. Given the size of the project area and density of the populations, spot treatment applications of a selective herbicide are necessary to control hawkweeds most effectively. This helps to reduce the potential for off-target damage while using the lowest rate of herbicide to avoid any unnecessary soil contamination. All staff and contractors involved in this project are trained and licensed pesticide applicators with excellent plant identification skills.

We are very grateful for the support, coordination, and hard work from our amazing partners and contractors. This collaborative effort would not be possible without them and we look forward to seeing this project continue to evolve over time.

Landscape scale invasive species control preserving native habitats & EDRR

By: Chris Aldassy – Featuring Jon Wagner and Lucas Nipp (East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District)

Our work has continued, as have our partnerships, essential to the success of our working projects. The trust built over many years with our critical partners at the United States Forest Service (USFS), Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (ORPD), Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), Metro, Multnomah County Roads, and hundreds of private landowners has enabled us to continue to access the western gorge to protect native vegetation across the landscape despite working in the age of the COVID-19 pandemic.  We didn’t lose a ton of ground on species that we work on despite not operating at the level we have become used to.

Early in the pandemic we prioritized project sites and made some hard choices about what work to continue and what sites had to be scaled back. Despite the local public closures of USFS and OPRD land, we were able to work with partners to access these sites and our garlic mustard containment project and EDRR work was completed with very few sites not getting the usual level of control.

We successfully controlled garlic mustard on all roadside vectors, including the Historic Columbia River Highway and treatments on all of our highest priority sites at least twice except for one site inundated by high Columbia River levels for most of the spring. An unfortunate aspect of garlic mustard control for us is that we found a location that is nearing impossible to access.  Plants raining seeds down from a cliff face outside the containment zone near the town of Latourell. We currently don’t have a plan for addressing this but have never given ground on our containment line for many years. Stay tuned, maybe we’ll try for a drone or a long rappel in 2021.

We were able to administer just one round of control at the highest priority false brome sites.  However, during that control work we swept along all known vectors. The regrowth from the fire is getting thick and is making it difficult for off trail bushwhacking making it even more difficult than the usual control work on steep slopes with loose rocks.  I think we did a good overall job but as with garlic mustard, we found a single false brome growing up on a different cliff where access is brutal.     We were also not able to access some of the lower priority slopes due to the limitations of staff availability from both Jon and I becoming professional caregivers to our kids.

Our knotweed control was scaled back to primarily riparian sites this year, and we found two new first year patches on the mainstem Sandy River, but otherwise knotweed control was business as usual with sites getting smaller and smaller.

Before the pandemic hit our region, in January, February, and March we controlled ground ivy from areas near the Angels Rest Trailhead and Wahclella Falls Trailhead.  In February, we planted 12,000 trees and shrubs on a project site near the mouth of McCord Creek that I highlighted at the 2019 Columbia Gorge CWMA Field Day. This site is doing great and is on course for little to no maintenance in 1-2 years!

We have also continued our post fire weed control work in burned and disturbed habitats.  In the burn area we are using our resources to prevent a stranglehold from some woody species such as Scotch broom or blackberry, and some groundcovers such as shiny geranium, and even herb Robert in remote locations.

We’re hoping 2021 isn’t a repeat of 2020…for so many reasons.


9th Annual Invasive Species and Exotic Pest Workshop

In partnership with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Washington Invasive Species Council, Washington State University Extension, and Skamania County, the Columbia Gorge CWMA co-hosted the ninth annual Columbia Gorge Invasive Species and Exotic Pest Workshop on February 27th, 2020. This yearly event is designed to provide information on invasive species management to land managers, landowners, and the interested public. It was held at the Skamania County Hegewald Center, located in Stevenson, Washington, and brought in over 120 attendees, ranging from various professional backgrounds, including local, state, and federal governments; universities; urban and rural land managers; non-profit organizations; and private landowners.

The morning of the event was crisp and clear as attendees chatted over impressive outreach displays in the lobby of the event center. Our diverse group of speakers dove into a variety of topics including a collaborative hawkweed project on Mt. Hood, exotic pests of Oregon’s forests, invasive bullfrog removal, and more. After lunch, the group participated in the crowd-pleasing, interactive invasive species quiz through Kahoot!, hosted by Marty Hudson, Coordinator of Klickitat County’s Weed Control Board. The afternoon session included topics on restoration and volunteerism in the Columbia Gorge, an urban forest pest readiness playbook, and a community engagement weed pull in Bend, OR. Our keynote speaker, Jimmy Hallyburton (founder of the Boise Bicycle Project), traveled all the way from Idaho to share the success of the Boise Goathead Festival, a large-scale bicycle event dedicated to removing tire-popping puncturevine plants. Attendees obtained a variety of recertification credits from Washington State Department of Agriculture, Oregon Department of Agriculture, and International Society of Arboriculture for partaking in the event.

Currently, the CWMA is working with its partner agencies and organizations in preparation for the tenth annual Invasive Species and Exotic Pest Workshop. The upcoming event is scheduled for February 25th, 2021 and will be held as a webinar-style conference to maintain social distancing and safety among our partners due to COVID-19. Our Education & Outreach Committee is working hard on a great lineup of speakers and registration for the event will be open soon. The 2021 Invasive Species & Exotic Pest Workshop will look a little different then what we are used to, but we will strive to keep it as engaging as possible for our future attendees.

Steering Committee

Our Steering Committee consists of devoted members from our partner organizations, who help direct and assist the activities of the CWMA.  Tasks aided by our Steering Committee include directing financial and grant opportunities, facilitating meetings, updating official documents, writing letters of support for our partner organizations, and providing guidance to our CWMA Coordinator.

This year, the Steering Committee continued to reach out to new and existing partners to become supporting partner organizations of the CWMA by signing our updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU, which is renewed every five years, is the agreement between the CWMA and its members to collaborate on invasive plant management and control within the Columbia Gorge. This year’s effort yielded 23 signatories to the CWMA, more than ever before. Once COVID-19 circulated, the Steering Committee had to switch gears and form safety protocols for our group to keep our members and partners healthy. The Steering Committee continues to brainstorm ways the CWMA can better serve its dedicated partner organizations during these remote times.

Education and Outreach Committee

The Education and Outreach Committee exists to coordinate outreach opportunities and educational events for our CWMA members, partners, and interested public residents. The committee is responsible for planning events, hosting public committee meetings, updating and creating educational materials, and brainstorming new ways to engage communities in our collaborative weed management efforts.

This year, the committee helped co-host the 9th annual Invasive Species and Exotic Pest Workshop, a day-long symposium in Stevenson, Washington, where experts presented on the latest research and findings in invasive species management. Shortly after the event, the current COVID-19 pandemic started to spread throughout the region, and the committee had to reevaluate its approach to hosting in-person meetings and events. To protect the safety of our partners, the committee decided to cancel the annual Field Day and Boot Brush Kick-Off events due to the unprecedented effects of COVID-19. The committee has continued to brainstorm ways to keep content engaging and informative for our group during these socially distant times. The committee continues to make updates to the CWMA website and will look for opportunities to make it more useful and accessible to weed practitioners as well as the public.

General Meetings

Our General Meetings allow our partners to connect with one another to discuss the latest news in weed management and share updates on their respective programs to keep our partners engaged in regional weed control efforts. Our quarterly meetings are typically hosted in Hood River, but our group had to adapt to the new COVID-19 lifestyle and utilize the CWMA’s teleconference platform, GoToMeeting, for all our meetings. Despite the social distancing protocols, we saw consistent attendance during our General Meetings, including new attendees that were able to join from outside of our CWMA boundaries.

To keep content engaging during our remote meetings, we have invited speakers to share information on some relevant invasive species management topics. Dr. Michael Skinner (founder of Skinner Laboratory at Washington State University) gave our group a fascinating presentation on his research of how environmental toxicants can promote disease in future generations. During our fall meeting, biological control entomologist, Joel Price (Oregon Department of Agriculture) shared current information on the recent knotweed biocontrol release in Oregon. Although these times are strange for us all, we are grateful for the ability to continue collaboration with our partners through remote meetings.

Financial Update

The Columbia Gorge CWMA functions through the generous support of its sponsors. Sponsoring organizations provide both financial and volunteer contributions to support the goals and mission of the CWMA.

Over the last few years, the Columbia Gorge CWMA has actively been seeking additional funding from our CWMA partners to increase our CWMA Coordinator from a quarter-time to half-time position. This effort has led to a notable increase in sponsor funding in the last two years.  Unfortunately, it has not been enough to push us over the required threshold. As a result, the Columbia Gorge CWMA is exploring options to outsource some activities to increase the services that the CWMA provides its partners. The hope is that this approach will allow us to increase capacity as we continue toward securing sufficient funding to increase our CWMA coordinator time.

The monetary resources to fund our coordinator position and other CWMA-led activities are currently provided by the following sponsors:

  • Bureau of Land Management—Northwest Oregon District
  • Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District
  • East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District
  • Friends of the Columbia Gorge
  • Oregon Parks and Recreation Department
  • Skamania County Noxious Weed Control Program
  • US Forest Service—Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area
  • US Forest Service—Gifford Pinchot National Forest
  • US Forest Service—Mt. Hood National Forest

The volunteer participation by CWMA partners is also significant and diverse.  Despite the many changes affecting our partner organizations due to the novel coronavirus, and the cancelation of field day and other in-person events, the Columbia Gorge CWMA partner organizations have been able to continue supporting each other through our ongoing collaborative efforts.

In the past year, the Columbia Gorge CWMA documented 317 hours of volunteer staff time from a multitude of partner organizations. Many more undocumented volunteer hours were spent in correspondence, administration, event planning, and project implementation on behalf of the CWMA. This support by our partners is significant!  Many thanks to all of our participants!

Overall, the Columbia Gorge CWMA has a robust and diverse funding base. We are fortunate to have such broad regional support for this organization. Thank you to all of our contributing organizations and partners…

We simply couldn’t do it without you!


2020 Steering Committee Members

Steering Committee Co-Chairs

  • Emily Stevenson (Skamania County Noxious Weed Control Program)
  • Lucas Nipp (East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District)

Fiscal Administrator

  • Sam Leininger (Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District)

Oregon Representatives

  • Lucas Nipp (East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District)
  • Christina Mead (U.S. Forest ServiceMt. Hood National Forest)

Washington Representatives

  • Emily Stevenson (Skamania County Noxious Weed Control Program)
  • Marty Hudson (Klickitat County Noxious Weed Control Board)

Education & Outreach Committee Chair

  • Mika Barrett (Friends of the Columbia Gorge)

Western Invasives Network Coordinator

  • Troy Abercrombie (Western Invasives Network)

Columbia Gorge CWMA Coordinator

  • Courtney Gattuso (Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District)
    • 503-998-3458
    • columbiagorgecwma@gmail.com
    • PO Box 830, Beavercreek, OR 97004

 

This report was collaboratively curated by our Coordinator, Steering Committee, and partners.