"Working to maintain the productivity, biodiversity, and beauty of Park County."
WHAT IS A CWMA?
A Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) is a partnership of federal, state, and local government agencies, tribes, individuals, and various interested groups that manage noxious weeds and invasive plants in a defined area.
To coordinate invasive weed management efforts, with special emphasis on noxious weeds; between private, government, and community service groups within Park County. These efforts include: providing herbicide cost-share projects, forming weed treatment alliances, obtaining and distribution of biological control agents, and providing integrated weed education.
WHO WE ARE
We formed the Park County Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) group in 2008 as a volunteer grassroots-driven organization working to foster collaboration and cooperation among individuals, private groups, and public entities for one sole purpose: to fight invasive weeds in Park County. Our success has been due to many factors, especially bringing together and building strong partnerships among a wide range of people and organizations, plus developing effective educational programs and outreach to the public. And to support our work, we have developed flexible channels of funding through a variety of agencies, helping us to accomplish more with limited resources.
Bringing together and partnering with people and organizations from many backgrounds with a variety of expertise has been crucial to our work. Over the years, we have had realtors, bankers, ranchers, commercial applicators, and folks who just have a strong interest in fighting weeds on our dedicated, 14-member volunteer board. Representatives from homeowner associations, nonprofits, watersheds, Park County Weed District, MSU-Park County Extension Office, City of Livingston, Park County Conservation District, Fish Wildlife and Parks, Yellowstone National Park, and the U.S. Forest Service have also had a seat at our table and have been important partners in efforts ranging from cost-share herbicide projects to neighbor-to-neighbor weed education.
When the CWMA started, the focus was on “traditional” weed control, that is, helping ranchers obtain grants to spray weeds. However, as we listened to the ranchers, it became clear that we needed to also connect with small tract and out-of-state land owners, with not only weed control, but education about the weeds themselves. In fact, education has now become our biggest challenge. How to you reach folks from all over the world who come here to live and do not have a clue about weeds and their effect on the productivity, biodiversity, and beauty of Park County? Our educational work has grown to include this website and “alliance” meetings among land owners large and small in neighbors’ homes to just talk about weeds over coffee and rolls. We have partnered with groups such as MSU Extension, the Forest Service, and Park County Weed District to offer half-day weed education seminars featuring guest speakers and BBQ meals. We also hold town hall meetings in project areas to introduce and explain weed projects before the areas receive weed control grants.
Another fast-growing part of our work is supplying biocontrol to manage leafy spurge, knapweed, toadflax, and St. Johnswort. In response to increasing demand, over the past several years CWMA volunteers have helped to gather and distribute hundreds of boxes of these beneficial insects throughout the county with the partnership of the Montana Biocontrol Project, as well as provide information to the public through pamphlets and meetings.
To make our CWMA more productive, our funds are run through several different fiscal agents, including Park County, the US Forest Service, Park County Conservation District, MSU Extension Service, and 501(c)3 organizations depending upon the nature of the grant, or project and the requirements of the funding source. By partnering with these different agents, our CWMA has the flexibility of doing more projects with a broader variety of funding sources. Over nine years, we have secured and managed 50/50 cost-share as well as other projects and restoration efforts totaling approximately $700,000, plus an additional several thousand dollars’ worth of biocontrol insects distributed countywide.
From traditional cost-share herbicide efforts to Russian Olive eradication, river floats to map weeds (especially tamarisk), weed education, securing biocontrol, and just helping neighbors come together to enact weed projects, we take pride in working with people and groups from across Park County. We have found that it’s imperative to work with, not to make or do for, the folks who we are trying to help: if the participants do not have skin in the game, then the game is going to be short and probably in the end unsuccessful. That said, we also know that we need to be open to the suggestions, wants, needs, and concerns from the participants of a project area. Continually evaluating, reviewing, and prioritizing the how, what, why, when, and where of these projects is key to our success.
Don’t be mistaken, there have been challenges, BUT with broad representation on our board and the partnerships we have formed, the CWMA has been able to adapt to and overcome whatever problems have come our way. From day one our mission has been to help neighbors work with neighbors to make Park County a beautiful place to live. What we really do is help other folks make their jobs easier, better, cheaper and maybe even have a little more fun in doing it.