ENTERPRISE — Wallowa Resources is spearheading an effort to retain funding for noxious weed programs in Wallowa County, despite funds being diverted elsewhere because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are in the process of seeking partner support for a letter stressing the importance of Oregon Department of Agriculture noxious weed program staff and the Oregon State Weed Board grant program to our region of the state with the goal of encouraging funding of these programs that have been impacted by the economic situation stemming from the pandemic,” said Kris Crowley, Wallowa Canyonlands Partnership manager for Wallowa Resources in an email Dec. 30.
After a deadline of Wednesday, Jan. 6, to collect the signatures passed, Krowley said Thursday he had collected at least 44 signatures from Eastern Oregon residents, landowners and other partners with Wallowa Canyonlands. The goal is to present the letter to lawmakers in time for the coming legislative session that’s scheduled to begin Tuesday, Jan. 19.
A copy of the letter can be found at https://www.change.org/OregonNoxiousWeeds.
“For the most part, we’ve got good local support,” Krowley said, adding that the WCP regularly works with 30-60 landowners each year to stem the spread of noxious weeds.
Crowley said that although the deadline has passed to sign on to support the letter, concerned residents are welcome to contact their legislators and express their support.
He said that in the past, Wallowa Resources has received two grants of $75,000-100,000 each from the Oregon State Weed Board to help keep noxious weeds in check in the county.
“Almost all (of the grant money) stays in Northeast Oregon for contracting with landowners to stop noxious weeds, salaries, etc.,” he said.
The letter, in part, says:
“In the past five years, the WCP has received a total of $486,715 in OSWB funding for high-priority noxious weeds such as rush skeletonweed, yellow starthistle, common bugloss and meadow hawkweed. This funding has been matched by over $650,000 from private landowners and federal funds and over 2,000 hours of in-kind labor from private landowners. Over 90% of this funding stayed in Northeast Oregon through wages, supply purchases and contracting with local small businesses.
“Results of this important investment include thousands of acres of noxious weed treatments, an improved rural economy, prevention of new invaders, strong partnerships to manage weeds, increased quality and quantity of forage for livestock and habitat for native species. Our success in controlling noxious weeds is just one of many examples throughout the state where the OSWB and ODA noxious weed program staff have been vital to mobilizing resources for on the ground work.”
It also acknowledges that weed control isn’t the only demand on state funding.
“While we understand that the COVID-19 pandemic will force difficult decisions for many of the valuable programs funded by the state of Oregon, we urge you to prioritize the continued allocation of funds to the OSWB grant program through the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board as well as to the ODA noxious weed program that helps steward projects. These programs have immense value to Wallowa County and all of Oregon,” the letter states.
Still, Crowley said, the demands on state funding by the pandemic are felt even by weed control funding.
“It’s been taken away or been substantially reduced since the onset of COVID,” he said.