By MITCH LIES
SALEM -- Gov. John Kitzhaber has declared May 19-25 Invasive Weed Awareness Week, and, according to the Oregon Department of Agriculture, the state needs to be diligent in its war against weeds.
But you wouldn't know it by the department's proposed 2013-15 budget.
Under a directive to cut $1.2 million in lottery funding, the department has proposed cutting $518,896 from its weed program, or about 25 percent of its state funding.
If sustained, the cut will cost the department three of its 11-member staff, including two field staff and a grant coordinator, ODA Director Katy Coba said.
Andy Hulting, extension weed specialist at Oregon State University, characterized the loss as "pretty devastating."
"It means fewer people on the ground looking for these invasive plants, which will probably mean more invasions," Hulting said.
The department also proposed cutting its threatened and endangered plant program and its insect pest protection and management program to meet the directive.
It left in place lottery funds for its agricultural water quality program, which has been a focal program for the department in recent months.
Hulting said the department has done a good job of controlling invasive weeds in the past, but he wonders whether it can sustain its record in the face of the budget cuts.
"Some of these programs will suffer if they sustain this budget cut," he said.
Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Pendleton, who served on the State Weed Board in the 1980s, agreed that the state has done well at controlling noxious weeds. He cited the state's work in eradicating kudzu from Oregon as an example.
"There have been several success stories," he said.
Kudzu, an extremely invasive weed that has overrun in several states, was eradicated after it showed up in two sites in Oregon, Hansell said.
Invasive weeds pose several concerns, Hansell said, including concerns for production agriculture, recreation, wildlife, native habitat and even human health.
"Invasives also can take away range land and grazing land," he said.
One weed alone, Scotch broom, causes $47 million in losses annually, according to ODA.
One key method for controlling invasives involves educating the public, Hansell said. An informed public can help spot invasives before the weeds get a foothold in an area, and can help avoid the unwitting spread of invasives.
To that end, the theme for Oregon Invasive Weed Awareness Week is HELP, an acronym for habitat, environment and land protection.
"The week and the governor's proclamation are good ways to get information in front of the public so that everyone understands they have a vested interest in protecting our natural resources," said Tim Butler, manager of the Oregon Department of Agriculture's Noxious Weed Control Program, in a press release.
The proclamation also might help Hansell in his efforts to try and restore the $518,896 in lottery funding that the department offered up.
Hansell said that to date his effort seems to be going well.
"I am cautiously optimistic we'll be able to fund (the department's weed program) at the current level," he said.