…. Exotic Plant Species In Yellowstone


nps-time-traveler.JPGThe irrational contention that any part of any bit of real estate can be “preserved” as “pristine” denies the very large and significant natural processes of Time, Climate Change, Precession, and many very small changes such as pedogenesis. It ignores the scientific record of the past in favor of a “postcard mentality” that refuses to understand such natural processes as fire, flood, volcanism, and other earth altering mechanisms.

The managers of Yellowstone National Park have a wonderful laboratory that could be used to study environmental change over time. They instead, choose to deny that time exists in their attempt to preserve what never was.

I want to be present on the day that Old Faithful fails to erupt. I want to protect the dead geyser cone from the park managers who, undoubtedly will arrive with a team of NPS plumbers hoping to “restore” the geyser. Such is the stupid waste of time and money that is going on now in Yellowstone.

boulder-befornaftr.JPGMoney and time is spent in efforts for: “Protecting Yellowstone from the increasing threat of exotic plant invasions.” My gawd! what did the place look like before the lodgepole pines “invaded”??? There were only rocks under the glaciers – should I let them spend my tax money in trying to replace the glaciers??? Just what are NPS officials doing to stop the melting of the glaciers at Glacier National Park???

The irony of the tiny minds at the NPS is that they allow supposed “good” things to happen and try to prevent “bad” things. On the one hand, the receeding glaciers of Glacier National Park is viewed as an opportunity to “understand” change. On the other hand a war is being fought against change in Yellowstone National Park. Have these people no appreciation that not only do we have climate change – we have biotic change. Is that so hard to understand?


Today the popular analysis of plants that are busy colonizing new territory is couched in economic, cultural, and aesthetic terms. The scientific analysis is ignored. Change is viewed as a cultural and ecnomic negative because the cultures and economics refuse to change.

In Yellowstone there was a time before any plants existed. There will be a time when no plants exist again. There was a North America before there was a Yellowstone. There will be a North America when there is no Yellowstone.

Yellowstone is a cultural concept. The biogeographic real estate is a dynamic and changing part of the ecosystem. If the cultural concept of Yellowstone is not dynamic and changing. The real estate will make sure that, in time, it doesn’t exist.


There is a giant, and growing industry based on trying to control “Invasive Species” & “Weeds.” If you are young and want a guarenteed job this is the field to go into. The industry has defined a problem that has no solution. Guarenteed job security. A similar situation obtains in the National Park System.

The current BUZZ about global warming should bring this into focus. As the planet warms many things will change. Weather patterns, rainfall distribution, sea level, plant and animal distributions. With these changes will come pressure to adapt to new surroundings. The plants and animals that do survive will be the ones that have successfully “invaded” new territories.

In a very short time the biogeography of the planet will be vastly different. If the human species survives it will have “invaded” new areas and developed new technologies to cope with the changes. If humans deny other species the opportunity to thrive by eliminating their attempts to adapt; then humans will have fewer resources to exploit and will have a harder time surviving.

The decisions being made by those “managers,” who – today – are waging war on plants, are decisions based on present economic and cultural values with no thought for the future.



Exotic Vegetation Management in Yellowstone National Park

Protecting Yellowstone from the increasing threat of exotic plant invasions has become a major challenge for park management. During the last 20 years, the number of non-native plants documented in Yellowstone has increased from 85 to 201 species.

Although not all of these exotic plants endanger the park’s native species, many are highly invasive and can alter native plant communities and the wildlife that depends on them. Many exotic species, such as timothy and downy brome, have become so widespread that current funding levels do not permit park staff to even attempt to control them.

The full extent of exotic plants in Yellowstone’s 2.2 million acres has not been determined, but the areas most vulnerable to invasion are those most frequently used by its 3 million annual visitors—along the park’s 467 miles of paved roads, 900 miles of backcountry trails, 2,650 miles of rivers, 12 frontcountry developed areas, and 302 backcountry campsites. The park also has 291 miles of backcountry boundary shared with other public and private entities that pose a special management concern, recognizing that non-native plants easily move across jurisdictional boundaries. While the long-term impacts of these invasive plants remain to be seen, changes have already occurred in the Yellowstone landscape as populations expand and new species arrive.

In 2005, more than 70 park staff and 100 volunteers worked in a coordinated effort to manage this threat. The park has adopted an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach with regard to exotic vegetation, emphasizing prevention, education, early detection, eradication, control, and monitoring. While 60% of the park’s efforts have gone towards halting the spread of 20 highly invasive species, 40% of the efforts have gone into prevention, education, and early detection surveys. These efforts are funded with $100,000 of park funds diverted from other program areas and $150,000 of project-related monies, most of which is associated with Federal Highways construction projects. Although this represents a significant effort and amount of money, under current funding, and levels of effort we will not be successful in eradicating several of the high priority species and will continue to fall behind as new species are discovered and as species escape containment,threatening the park’s backcountry.


204 acres of spotted knapweed (Centaurea maculosa)
70 acres of yellow hawkweed (Hieracium pratense)
55 acres of ox-eye daisy (Chrysanthemum leucanthemum)
43 acres of St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum)
29 acres of wooly mullein (Verbascum thapsus)*
21 acres of dalmation toadfl ax (Linaria dalmatica)*
20 acres of orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum)
12 acres of musk thistle (Carduus nutans)
2 acres of hoary cress (Cardaria draba)
<1 acres of Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens)
<1 acre of leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula)
<1 acre of sulphur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta)
<1 acre of plumeless thistle (Carduus acanthiodes)
<1 acre of common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare)
<1 acre of tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
*Species only treated where initial invasion is occurring, while other areas of the park with large established populations are not being treated.

In 2005, staff surveyed 3,000 acres for 47 high-priority species and treated 41 species on 899 acres. Most of these populations were located along roads and in developed areas. Even with dedicated, continuous annual pressure, highly invasive species on 632 acres continue to survive in low-density populations. These populations annually disperse seeds that remain viable in the soil for 10 to 50 years. Some targeted species continue to move into the backcountry, where survey, control, and containment costs increase dramatically.

Early detection surveys and eradication efforts focus on new invaders, which have included dyers woad (Isatis tinctoria), plumeless thistle (Carduus acanthiodes), diffuse knapweed (Centaurea diffusa), Russian knapweed (Centaurea repens), sulfur cinquefoil (Potentilla recta), scotch thistle (Onopordum ananthium), leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula), tall buttercup (Ranunculus acris), and common tansy (Tanacetum vulgare).

It is estimated that the park needs to monitor an additional 7,000 acres of high-risk areas, for a total of 10,000 acres surveyed annually. To support this increased level of effort and effectively manage high priority invasive plants, the park needs an annual program operating budget of about $450,000. This funding would cover the necessary equipment, supplies, and staff—7 seasonal and 3.55 permanent FTEs. It would enable us to expand current IPM efforts to include annual early detection surveys in areas not currently being routinely monitored, such as backcountry trails, campsites, boundaries, and utility corridors; high-risk stream corridors; fishing trails; high-risk game trails and wildlife use areas.

In addition, one-time funding is needed for capital improvements and initial research totaling $500,000. This would pay for needed vehicles, radios, computer and GPS equipment, safety equipment, heated equipment/ chemical storage and herbicide mixing buildings, water quality monitoring, ecological risk assessment, environmental assessment, restoration/revegetation efforts, and development of a long-term monitoring program.


.. more to come ..

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