Can I destroy invasive plants in a national forest?

westover(Portland OR)May 28, 2009

I just hiked up Dog Mountain in SW Washington to see the fields of native wildflowers at the top again, only this time I saw dandelions everywhere along the path. I felt the temptation to pull them, or at least cut the flower heads so they won't go to seed.

1. But am I allowed to do that in a National Forest?

2. If it's allowed, will it do any good, or is it hopeless anyway?

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Have you ever bothered to read any of the instructions for a National Forest?

You can take for food but you can not destroy something just because you think it does not belong. I don't know the vegetation on this particular mountain but there are several native plants that have flowers similar to dandelions. Sometimes the removal of plants or rocks cause additional unintended problems like erosion.

You can ask at that Forest Service District office to organize a plant-trash removal day. If you receive permission make certain it is in writting because the way personnel are being lost the person that gave permission may not be there tomorrow.

Sorry I feel strongly about or national wild lands and know too many people that are not aware of what they are doing and cause more problems.

    Bookmark   May 28, 2009 at 9:40PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

I agree you should check the regulations for the forest you are in. I doubt there is a clause that says 'you can not destroy something just because you think it does not belong,' but the regulations do say something. Perhaps there is a rule against removing native plants, or maybe it covers all vegetation. If it is native plants only, then go ahead and clip the dandelions if you want to, and if you are sure they are dandelions, not a similar-looking native plant.

I think dandelions are ubiquitous enough and their seeds are mobile enough that it really won't make any difference if you remove them or not. America is awash in dandelions, and their seeds are already flying above all of our national forests, so it would be tough to have mush impact of their spread. Also, in the places I have visited dandelions are not a problematic invasive species. They do grow occasionally in wild areas, but I haven't seen them invade to the point of damaging native plant populations. Of course it could be different where you are.

My opinion regarding people taking management of national forests into their own hands is that it is generally a good thing, as long as you make sure you have some idea what you are doing. There is a risk you'll do some damage, but there is also a good chance you will do a lot of good. Damage is done everyday by people who don't care about native plants or native habitats; how many examples of trail or road 'maintenance' that result in major disturbance to native ecosystems and allow invasive plants to spread can you find in the forest? Probably lots. If you can spend a little effort to try to stem the tide of invasive plants, then I think you should. The risk of a little damage is outweighed by the potential benefits. If I was going to spend time removing invasive plants, I'd focus on plants that tend to spread locally from the parent plant and tend to overwhelm native plant communities. Here in the east, a good example is Garlic Mustard. This plant spreads mainly by seeds falling a few feet from the parent plant. An invasion starts with one plant then expands. One way or another, a plant or two of Garlic Mustard gets started along a path or road in the forest. The first year there may be one plant. The next there may be 10, then 100, then 1000, and so forth. When I am in the woods in spring, I look for small patches of Garlic Mustard far removed from large invasions, and pick all of the flowering plants. This prevents the setting of seed for the next generation of Garlic Mustard. I have wiped out numerous patches in my local forest by hand picking all of the flowering plants for a couple of consecutive springs, and I am sure this has prevented much larger invasions. This I did on public land. I don't know whether it was legal or not, and I don't really care. I certainly wasn't legal for the atv , horse, or hiker who transported Garlic Mustard seed around the forest to do so, so why should I get worked up wondering whether it is, strictly speaking, legal for me to pick the resulting plants (I bet it is legal, just haven't researched it enough to be sure). In the end, picking a few non-native plants to make me feel like I am doing something is a small matter and the legality of it isn't worth worrying about, in my opinion. The amount of impact I have is comparable to removing a single tree, or driving a truck through the woods, both things that are done many times daily by the land management agency who owns the forest.

By the way, if it is legal to pick plants for food, you can pick dandelions and take them home. They are edible, and not too bad with a vinegary dressing to help reduce their bitterness.

    Bookmark   May 29, 2009 at 9:07AM
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I'd like to second Ladyslppr's post, emphasizing the importance of knowing what you're doing, being certain of your plant identification and understanding that plant's ecological impact in the system where you find it.

I doubt that dandelions are a significant ecological threat anywhere in the US. But a little rogue garlic mustard control can only be a good thing.

BTW, garlic mustard came to the US as a culinary herb, and you can find recipes here:


    Bookmark   May 31, 2009 at 12:45PM
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I just thought I'd add my experience with an ecological preserve here in Canada that I hike in 2 or 3 times a summer. One reason this land was chosen for a preserve is it's home to several rare plant species.

White and Yellow Clover grow abundantly where many of these rare plants are located. When I hike there in summer I spend an hour hand pulling clover. I pull it in summer, by that time the plants are so tall they can't be confused with the native legumes that grow there. It's rather hopeless on my part to control them with hand pulling, but I think it's better than nothing.

Although located near a small city, almost no one there knows the preserve exists, because there's no road access, you have to hike 1 km from the hwy to get there. Even the the local conservation officer was unaware of its existence when I spoke to him about it! I've been there 20 times, never seen anyone else on the preserve or on the adjacent pastures. The preserve is about 170 acres in size, I weed clover in about a 1 acre plot.

    Bookmark   June 1, 2009 at 7:52PM
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