South Phillips County in Montana, an area about the size of Rhode Island, was declared the first Weed Prevention Area (WPA) in America.  WPA is a designation aimed at keeping rangelands that currently have few or no weeds from being infested. These local level prevention systems direct proactive approaches to weeds, which are more successful than common reactive approaches that focus on land already dominated by weeds.  In a WPA, stakeholders collectively implement site-specific strategies to protect weed-free landscapes from invasion over time, and design local education campaigns to influence public opinion and policy for long-term support and investments in prevention.

Photo © Janet Veseth

Photo © Janet Veseth

The Nature Conservancy’s Matador Ranch Grassbank and local participating ranchers developed and signed a binding contract.  This contract requires participants to control invasive weed species.  The producers participated in training where they learned to reduce weed seed transfer.

As part of the WPA education campaign, signage is on county roads reminding people to use weed free hay.  An information kiosk was built at Highway 191 and the junction of Dry Fork Road to educate the traveling public about invasive weeds and weed prevention.

Weed prevention is an important part of the WPA implementation process.  Prevention reduces the cost of fighting these noxious weeds because it is less expensive to prevent invasive weed infestations than to eradicate them.  The local weed control district along with many government agency personnel, local landowners, and local ranchers increased scouting efforts to identify noxious weeds before an infestation occurs.  The Ranchers Stewardship Alliance was instrumental in organizing the annual Zortman Weed Pull.  Zortman is a small community bordering the WPA and unfortunately is infested with a number of noxious weeds.  Zortman also hosts a number of hunters in the fall of the year.

Noxious weeds that may be found in this area include Houndstongue, Leafy Spurge, Canada Thistle, Russian and spotted Knapweed, Dalmation Toadflax, Whitetop and Saltcedar.  For assistance in identifying these plants click on this link http://mtweed.org/weeds/

For more information about Weed Prevention areas click on this link http://www.weedcenter.org/wpa/index.html