Weeds in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem

  • July 15, 2019
  • Posted by Tori Clawson

We started our season in Gallatin Valley- an unusual start to the MCC lifestyle as we were living at home this week- a hitch from home. We spent the week working with the U.S. Forest Service spraying different weeds all around the Gallatin Valley. Our project partners were Max, Karen and Lucas. Max, a former MCC Crew Leader himself started with the Forest Service this past year. Karen on the other hand, is finishing up her career in exotic plant management with the summer of 2019 being her final season. Lucas is interning with the Forest Service through MCC. We sprayed many different places around Gallatin Canyon to get used to the weed’s lifestyle.

After our first hitch, we had an eight-day hitch in the Badlands. During this hitch we were paired up with the Badlands “dude” crew or the bro crew or as they call themselves the “Reptoids”. We drove nine hours to a KOA campground in the small town on Interior, South Dakota. This KOA was home to every mosquito that has ever existed, and they made sure we knew it.  For the next eight days, we woke up at four-thirty to immediately get eaten alive as we ate breakfast. Our ten-hour days consisted of going to our project partner’s office to do our warm-up and mental wellness checks. Next, we drove an hour to a bison corral to get our spraying packs. Once we got our packs, we geared up for the day with Tyvek suits, moon-boots, long sleeves, etc. After we suited up, we went to the weed site, mixed our chemical and sprayed. The Badlands crew had us broadcast spray, a different method then we had used in Gallatin Valley. Broadcast spraying means spraying the entire area surrounding the wee, to kill its root system, not just the plant itself- this method is very effective when spraying species that have rhizomes root systems, as were present in the Badlands.

So, there we were, in the middle of a massive field of sweet clover, completely covered from head to toe in PPE when it happens. The sneezing. We come to find out that some members of our large crews have allergies and have them bad.  It became evident that the universe was playing a game with us. Between the sweat and the allergies, the terrain was full of abandon Prairie Dog towns which gave the crew’s ankles a surprise every now and then. But however miserable the day was, the crew morale was through the roof with endless games of Contact, a spontaneous trip to Wall Drug, Steven’s dirty jokes, Frisbee games and late-night fires. After our eight days were up, we returned to Bozeman smelling like sweat, bug spray, and cigarette smoke. We were excited for our five day break.

Our third hitch of the month was back at Yellowstone National Park. We again worked with the Exotic Management Team- Brian, Pam and Hannah. They had two new seasonal workers this summer, Grace and Amanda. We camped at Mammoth Campground just as we did during our training hitch. On our first night, we were pleasantly surprised when multiple elk visited our campsite and thankfully, they came and went with no issues. The crew at Yellowstone are very cool and relaxed. We sprayed multiple different sites for Houndstongue, Knapweed, Toadflax etc. We saw bears, elk, snakes, eagles, mule deer, bison- if it lives in Yellowstone, we saw it.

Early in the trip the Yellowstone Exotic Plant Management team had a mandatory meeting, which meant the MCC crew got the afternoon off. We took advantage of our free afternoon by taking a mini trip to Old Faithful. After walking around and going to the gift shop we decided it was time to leave, however a bison herd decided it wasn’t. We sat parked on the way back to Mammoth Campground waiting for over fifty bison and their babies to let us pass. During this hitch we had the ice cream revelation! WRC 2 needs ice cream to have a good hitch. So we had ice cream from the Mammoth Cafe three separate days, as well as our project partner Hannah brought us ice cream on the last day.  On the last two days of our hitch, we scouted for weeds and used GIS to map them in the park- a different scene than WRC is used to. It felt good to be on the other side of weeds for once.

Overall, June was an interesting month for our crew, one full of laughs and herbicide. Can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store for us.


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