Cooperative Weed Management Areas

A cooperative weed management area (CWMA) is a geographic area that focuses on collaborative management of invasive weed species across landowner, whether private or public, boundaries. The increase in teamwork across landownership allows the area to prioritize prevention and other proactive and management approaches to weed treatments. Within Beaverhead County, there are seven established CWMAs, all of which have active participation from private landowners, local, state, and federal agencies, nonprofits/community groups, and the Beaverhead County Weed District.

Argenta

Argenta is a small community approximetly 10 miles southwest of Dillon, with historical and active mining activities. Noxious weed management has become a priority of this community and is an issue that has brought the landowners together. Mining activity and high recreational use has provided an opportunity for noxious weeds to be introduced and spread quickly in the area. Landowners initiated a conversation with Beaverhead County Weed District several years ago about assistance to get the noxious weed issue under control in their community. Other partners include the BLM and Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest- Dillon Ranger District.

Due to the long history, and continued mining activities the area provides a prime habitat for noxious weed invasion. High recreational use also adds to the spread of these species to non-mined areas. Spotted knapweed and houndstongue are the most prevalent noxious weed species found in the project area. County listed noxious weeds such as black henbane, musk thistle, and common mullein are also common. Other species in the CWMA area that are of high priority include: whitetop, hoary alyssum, and Canada thistle.

Beaverhead River

The Beaverhead River is an approximately 69-mile-long tributary of the Jefferson River in Beaverhead and Madison Counties. The Beaverhead River is formed by the confluence of the Red Rock River and Horse Prairie Creek, and then flows through a broad valley northward to join the Big Hole River and form the Jefferson River. Private landowners are the local partners that live and work in the landscape daily. Other management partners include the: Beaverhead County Weed District, Madison County Weed District, BLM-Dillon Field Office, Montana DNRC, Beaverhead Watershed Committee/Beaverhead Conservation District, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, & Parks.

The Beaverhead River is a blue-ribbon trout stream and provides not only a significant resource for recreational opportunities, but is also a source of economic revenue for Beaverhead and Madison Counties. People from around the world come to the Beaverhead River to recreate. Several factors contribute to noxious weed problems along the Beaverhead River. For much of the length, the Beaverhead River is paralleled by Interstate 15, secondary highways, county roads, and the Union Pacific Railroad. These traffic corridors, especially with the amount of recreational use along the river, provide a prime opportunity for noxious weed spread and introduction. There are a few hot spot areas with general weed species and species of greatest concern:

  • Spotted knapweed, houndstongue, whitetop, and Canada thistle infestations found along the Beaverhead River and travel corridors including I-15 and Union Pacific right-of-way paralleling the river. These species are found in higher concentrations along the Beaverhead River than in other parts of Beaverhead County and surrounding uplands.
  • Houndstongue and Canada thistle infestations at Poindexter Slough.
  • Unestablished new invaders including salt cedar. A single salt cedar plant found at Clark Canyon Dam in 2008.

Big Hole

View from the Upper Big Hole landscape while treating an infestation of thistle.

The Big Hole River is a free-flowing headwater tributary of the Upper Missouri River, approximately 156 miles in length flowing from Skinner Meadows, southwest of Jackson, MT, to the confluence with the Beaverhead River near Twin Bridges, MT. The Big Hole Watershed is about two million acres and home to fewer than 2,000 residents. This area is a stronghold of traditional cattle ranching, rural communities, and expansive public lands. In general, the valley bottom remains privately-owned while highlands are publicly owned by state and federal agencies, the majority of which is the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest. Private landowners are the local partners that live and work in the landscape daily. Other management partners include the: Beaverhead County Weed District, Madison County Weed District, Anaconda-Deerlodge County Weed District, Butte-Silver Bow Weed District, BLM-Dillon Field Office, BLM-Butte Field Office, Montana DNRC, and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest- Dillon, Wise River, and Wisdom Ranger Districts.

The Big Hole River is a blue-ribbon trout stream and provides a tremendous resource to tourist and recreational activities in Southwest Montana. These activities are an economical base for several small communities and the City of Dillon. Managing noxious weeds is a crucial component to maintaining important wildlife habitat, protect diversified, healthy ecosystems, and maintain the quality of recreation opportunities in the Big Hole.

As a landscape, the Big Hole watershed is relatively weed-free outside of main travel routes, due to the ongoing efforts from private landowners and partners alike. There are a few hot spot areas with general weed species and species of greatest concern:

  • Spotted knapweed concentrations on private and public lands in Quartz Hill and Triangle Gulch.
  • Houndstongue and Yellow Toadflax concentrations in Quartz Hill/Triangle Gulch.
  • Leafy spurge in isolated locations along the upper reaches of the Big Hole River as well as large infestations in the lower reaches towards Twin Bridges.
  • Concentrations of Oxeye Daisy in the Wise River area and along the Pioneer Scenic Byway.
  • Newly identified Ventenata along the Pioneer Scenic Byway.
  • Isolated locations of Rush Skeletonweed found in 3 separate locations: Mystic Lake Trailhead, Miner Lake Road, and Hwy 278.

Two volunteers using GPS to mark weed species in the Upper Blacktail.

Blacktail/Sweetwater

The Blacktail/Sweetwater is located south and east of Dillon, and leads to the Centennial Valley. Much of the Blacktail/Sweetwater is owned or leased by a handful of ranches. Private landowners are the local partners that live and work in the landscape daily. Other management partners include the: Beaverhead County Weed District, Madison County Weed District, BLM-Dillon Field Office, Montana DNRC, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest-Madison Ranger District, Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks, Centennial Valley Association, and The Nature Conservancy.

Throughout the seasons, the Blacktail/Sweetwater area draws various recreationists. During spring and summer months, the Blackail Creek is heavily fished, especially in the upper reaches. Campers are also drawn to the areas. In the fall, the narrow roads become superhighways as hunters from across the state flock for popular hunting locations and opportunities. In the winter months, the West Fork of the Blacktail is a popular destination for snowmobilers. Due to the heavy use from ranchers, recreators, and wildlife, the Blacktail/Sweetwater is an area with significant noxious weed infestations in comparison to surrounding landscapes. Ranchers, landowners, and land managers have identified this valley as an area that needs assistance and intensified efforts. Within the Blacktail/Sweetwater, there are a few hot spots with general weed species and species of greatest concern:

  • Spotted knapweed concentrations on public and private lands in Cottonwood Creek within the Blacktail.
  • Houndstongue concentrations in the Upper Blacktail found on public and private lands.
  • Dalmatian Toadflax found on private lands in the Sweetwater area.
  • Leafy spurge found in isolated locations along the Blacktail Road and around Cottonwood Creek.
  • Hoary alyssum infestations currently found on private lands but moving further up the Blacktail.

Grasshopper

Crew member managing spotted knapweed in the Grasshopper Valley.

The Grasshopper is located roughly 15-20 miles west of Dillon, in the heart of the Pioneer Mountains. The Grasshopper Valley is not only agriculturally based, but also provides recreational activities to the surrounding area. Within the boundaries of the CWMA is the small community of Polaris, as well as, Maverick Mountain Ski Area, Elkhorn Hot Spring, the Pioneer Scenic Byway, and Crystal Park. The Grasshopper is minutes from blue ribbon trout streams, hundreds of snowmobile and cross-country ski trails, and trail heads to mountain lakes. Private landowners are the local partners that live and work in the landscape daily. Other management partners include the: Beaverhead County Weed District, BLM-Dillon Field Office, Montana DNRC, and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest- Dillon, Wise River, and Wisdom Ranger Districts.

Hay, horse, and cattle production are among the major industries in the Grasshopper, along with a rise in tourism and recreation. The area has a history of mining activities. Polaris was a mining town with a general store, post office, and saloon. Hundreds of miners lived north of Polaris and worked the Elkhorn Mine and Coolidge Mine, among other smaller mines. As a landscape, the Grasshopper watershed is relatively weed-free outside of main travel routes, due to the ongoing efforts from private landowners and partners alike. There are a few hot spot areas with general weed species and species of greatest concern:

  • Spotted knapweed concentrations on private and public lands along the Pioneer Scenic Byway, adjacent to Hwy 278 and in the Dyce Creek drainage.
  • Houndstongue concentrations found in the Dyce Creek drainage and in riparian areas.
  • Concentrations of oxeye daisy along the Pioneer Scenic Byway, specifically around the Grasshopper Inn/Polaris/Elkhorn areas.

View from Bannock Pass, looking into Idaho.

Horse Prairie/Medicine Lodge

The Medicine Lodge and Horse Prairie landscape is 282,770 acres of private, BLM, and State lands beginning on the western portion of Clark Canyon Dam and following Montana Highway 324 to Bannock and Lemhi Passes. The CWMA also deviates from MT Hwy 324 along Medicine Lodge Road, ending where Medicine Lodge Creek begins, just west of Sourdough Peak. The landscape borders Idaho, making it the most susceptible invaders coming in from out-of-state. Lemhi and Bannock Passes are two different Idaho entry points into this landscape. The Weed District relies on the landowners in the area to be and extra eye and line of defense for new invaders or new infestations popping up. Other management partners include the: Beaverhead County Weed District, BLM-Dillon Field Office, Montana DNRC, and the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest- Dillon Ranger District.

As a landscape, the Medicine Lodge and Horse Prairie watershed is relatively weed-free outside of main travel routes, due to the on-going efforts from private landowners and partners alike. There are a few hot spot areas with general weed species and species of greatest concern:

  • Spotted knapweed concentrations on private lands that are at higher elevation foothills climbing towards the highest of elevations, and in the Upper Horse Prairie right-of-way, along Hwy 324, about three miles from the Idaho/Montana border.
  • Houndstongue concentrations in Medicine Lodge.
  • Leafy spurge in Medicine Lodge’s riparian, pasture, and foothill landscapes.

Upper Red Rock

View of the Lima Peaks within the Little Sheep sub-watershed.

The Upper Red Rock landscape is 700,000+ acres of public (69%) and private (31%) lands that include the Big Sheep, Centennial Valley, Little Sheep, Red Rock River Corridor, Sage Creek, and Snowline sub-watersheds. Interstate-15 and the Union Pacific Railroad travels through the heart of the Upper Red Rock, with Red Rock Pass and Bannack Passes serving as alternative entry points from Idaho. Because the landscape borders Idaho, it makes it more susceptible invaders coming in from out-of-state. The Weed District relies on partners in the area to be and extra eye and line of defense for new invaders or new infestations popping up. Partners include: private landowners, Town of Lima, Lima School, Beaverhead County Weed District, BLM-Dillon Field Office, Montana DNRC, Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest- Dillon and Madison Ranger Districts, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Centennial Valley Association, The Nature Conservancy, and the University of Utah’s Taft-Nicholson Center.

Throughout the seasons, the Upper Red Rock draws various recreationists. During spring and summer months, Red Rock Creek, Red Rock River, and Big Sheep Creek are heavily fished. Campers are also drawn to the areas within each sub-watershed. In the fall, hunters from across the state and country flock for popular hunting locations and opportunities, especially in Big Sheep, Little Sheep, Sage Creek and the Centennial Valley. In the winter months, the Centennial Valley is a popular destination for snowmobilers. Despite the heavy use from ranchers, recreators, and wildlife, the Upper Red Rock is relatively unaffected by noxious weed species, containing a few “hot-spot” areas:

  • Dyer’s woad, along the Union Pacific Railroad, Montana Department of Transportation’s right-of-way, and on some private lands, from Monida to Lima.
  • Spotted knapweed concentrations at Snowline, Monida Hill, Lima Dam, Town of Lima, Antelope Flats, near Hidden Pasture at Big Sheep, and the Grow Property at Little Sheep.
  • Houndstongue concentrations in Big Sheep, Little Sheep, Wolverine Creek, Lima Dam, and Hell Roaring Creek Trailhead.
  • Common tansy on the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, specifically along Odell Creek.
  • Leafy spurge in Sage Creek and Monida Hill, South Valley Road, and Long Creek within the Centennial Valley.