On The Lake: ‘It snowed! Let’s talk about herbicides’

By Shannon Williamson
Reader Columnist

Hooray, it’s snowing! But more importantly, your lake is getting bombed with herbicides all over the place. Do I have your attention now? Great!

Don’t get me wrong — all this snow is seriously magical. Especially the part where I wrote this last week while my kids were off from school. For two days. I was definitely not distracted at all. But I digress…

Shannon Williamson.

LPOW was founded in 2009 in response to an all-out offensive maneuver to “eradicate” invasive Eurasian watermilfoil by the state. We are no newcomer to this show. I put “eradicate” in quotes because “eradication” of invasive plants like Eurasian milfoil and flowering rush is pretty much impossible when they are constantly entering the lake from Montana via the Clark Fork River. I don’t even know why we use this word.

I think we can all agree that invasive weeds are not good for the overall health of our local waters, and we have a duty to manage them. In fact, noxious weed management is mandated by the state. Given that fact, what is happening around our watershed with respect to herbicide treatment of aquatic plants in general, regardless of whether they are native or not, is … how should I put this … BANANAS.

We’ve got in-water treatment with aggressive broad spectrum herbicides like Diquat, which is now the norm rather than the exception due to the emergence of new strains and increasing plant resistance.

We’ve got “bare-ground” treatment of acres and acres of exposed lake sediments during the draw down with chemicals that are not approved for in-water use due to a loop hole in pesticide labeling. The water always returns, so…

We have people taking matters into their own hands and throwing chemicals they bought off Amazon into the lake and river to kill what they perceive as a giant vegetative nuisance, regardless of its native or non-native status. If I had room to espouse the benefits of native aquatic vegetation, I would. You should google it.

Some of you may be totally fine with all the different kinds of chemicals going into our water, pretty much year-round. Some of you may be completely horrified. The question is what can we do about it.

One way is prevention. For example, if you own a boat and enjoy the lake and river in the summer, don’t drag weeds all over the place on your trailer and prop. This is how invasives spread, and a little due diligence goes a really long way.

Or, if you own waterfront property, try easing up on the fertilizer and consider planting a nice “vegetated buffer” along the water. Vegetated buffers are awesome filters AND they help keep the geese off your lawn. BONUS!

Prevention is just one tool in the tool box of integrated weed management, but it’s not the popular one. Neither are mechanical, cultural or biological means of weed management. Herbicides are popular because they are a quick fix, even if they don’t solve the problem in the long run.

It you’re concerned about the skyrocketing use of herbicides in our lake and river and want to learn more about how you can get involved, you know where to find me. If you don’t, you can google that too!

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