Thanks to seven volunteer weed warriors who battled weeds in Gopher Meadow last month, the weed population and potential for spread in the Turkey Springs area of the San Juan National Forest is greatly reduced.
The four-acre meadow had an unhealthy infestation of invasive musk and Canada thistles. Volunteers Al and Stephany Bouchier, Diane Gutman, Gary Hopkins, Mike and Nancy Ray and Ian Roth removed a huge seed source of the thistle, which will limit its spread in an area bisected by a popular bicycle trail.
The volunteers rode their bicycles to the project site and were met by Pagosa Ranger District representative Paul Blackman; recreation, trails and wilderness staff; and Ros Wu, wilderness program manager, who provided tools and trash bags.
Musk thistle lives two years and reproduces only by seed, producing up to 20,000 seeds per plant. Canada thistle spreads through its root system and with seeds. Volunteers minimized reproduction and spread by removing seed heads. To destroy seed viability, all seed heads were put in plastic bags with a bit of water, then bags were sealed and placed in the sun. This helps the seeds rot before they are disposed of in the trash.
The weed problem in Gopher Meadow has been strikingly reduced, but has not been eradicated and will require follow-up treatment. If you would like to help manage invasive weed infestations, learn to identify invasive thistles (not all thistles are invasive), carry a plastic bag with you when you hike or ride in the forest, pop off those seed heads and dispose of them properly.
For information about volunteering for similar projects, or to do surveys for invasive species adjacent to trails within Pagosa Ranger District, contact Ros Wu at 264-1529.