This hiking season, King County weed watcher volunteers searched a total of 119 miles of trail in the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and Alpine Lakes areas of King County, on the hunt for invasive plants. The volunteers’ contribution of 500 plus hours of service produced over 200 records of invasive plants on trails and natural areas that wouldn’t have been mapped without their work. And even better, these awesome volunteers pulled as many of those weeds as they could, resulting in weed control over 300 acres of trail that definitely wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
The King County Weed Watcher volunteers are part of a larger, regional partnership between Pacific Northwest Invasive Plant Council (PNW-IPC) and 30 public land managers and organizations in Washington and Oregon, including the King County Noxious Weed Control Program. PNW-IPC and its partners train citizen science volunteers to do early detection and rapid response (EDRR) for invasive plants on trails and backcountry areas in order to help public agencies protect forests and wilderness areas. The volunteers help out by finding infestations early so they can be stopped before they get out of hand. In 2016, PNW-IPC and partners held 10 free training classes in different areas of Washington and Oregon that were attended by over 300 people, many of whom signed on to volunteer.
In 2016, according to their Annual Report, PNW-IPC’s EDRR volunteers contributed 1,787 hours of service, hiking 642 miles in 26 counties in Washington and Oregon, documenting and eradicating populations of invasive plants from national forests, parks, state land and other natural areas.
One especially phenomenal EDRR volunteer in King County was Ann Stevens who contributed 18 survey reports on her own, covering 58 miles and documenting 142 new records of invasive plants. Ann was one of three 2016 recipients of PNW-IPC’s “Sarah Reichard Hike the Extra Mile Award”, honoring volunteers who contributed significant amounts of time and energy to searching for invasive plants.
The results of the volunteer’s work can be seen online at EDDMapS.org, a national Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System. When volunteers submit their surveys on the PNW-IPC project form on this website (found by clicking on the PNW-IPC logo on this page: https://www.eddmaps.org/west/report/), notification immediately goes to PNW-IPC and other verifiers. Once the report is verified using the submitted photo and other information, the data becomes available for anyone to view. PNW-IPC also sends an email directly to the appropriate land manager so they are made aware of the reported infestation as soon as possible.
To see the data online, go to https://www.eddmaps.org/tools/query/ and select the Project “PNW-IPC Survey” under Project Information at bottom of page. There is also an overview map included in the PNW-IPC 2016 Annual Report that can be downloaded from the PNW-IPC website.
Given the vast acreage of wilderness and public lands in our region, it is an immense challenge to detect invasive plants before they get too widespread to control. Programs such as this might be our only hope to protect our wilderness and recreation lands from the impacts of invasive plants. If you are interested in volunteering or learning more, contact PNW-IPC at firstname.lastname@example.org or, in King County, contact Sasha Shaw.