Invasive Management On The Great Plains

  • November 01, 2017
  • Posted by Josh Kraft

Knife River, North Dakota was a place I never imagined I’d enjoy prior to my time in MCC, but spending a week there changed that for me. I’d been drawn to the Montana Conservation Corp because I wanted to be immersed in mountains, the majesty of peaks and saddles before azure skies. I thought I’d had enough flat land and agrarian vistas accumulated from growing up in the Midwest. I was wrong. Driving through the winding, gently rolling hills and plateaus, I felt like an explorer of old, navigating a sea of gold and green.  Camping on the shores of Lake Sakakawea in the state park of the same moniker was beautiful. The campground was situated on a peninsula jutting into the lake. I had never before seen the sun rise and set over the same body of water and the effect was breathtaking.
We were one of the few crews tasked with treating invasive plants for the duration of the season, and by this point, we were well acquainted with our old foes, Canadian thistle, leafy spurge and houndstongue. This hitch we were working with some of our old comrades in arms, the Exotic Plant Management team based in Nevada, near the Knife River Indian Villages National Park. We worked alongside the confluence of the Missouri and Knife rivers, often neck deep in thickets of thistle, trying our best to avoiding their needling grasp. The weather is always of concern for an invasives crew, too hot and many herbicides lose their efficacy, too wet, the plants won’t absorb them. We had a taste of both this time around. For several days it was atrociously hot and humid in the thick brush next to the river, especially compared to the wondrous aridity of Montana. We’d take our gloves off during breaks and pour out obscene amounts of sweat.
There were times that the heat and close proximity was frustrating, and nearly all of our crew was feeling burnt out at some point. Yet our project partners furnished us with ice water and otter pops, and the trying circumstances made them the sweetest otter pops I have ever known. We continued our crew streak of receiving free food on every hitch. Our project partners had a barbeque for us and showed us their favorite spot to hang out along the river. As an added bonus they brought their dogs, which we loved and tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to convince them that we needed a crew dog, their dog.  As we left, stomachs filled, we watched a massive thunderstorm roll across the plains. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen and gave me new appreciation for the Midwest in general.


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