Residents in Homer will soon be able to receive help combating invasive weeds. Homer Soil and Water Conservation District is collaborating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide technical assistance to Kenai Peninsula landowners to help protect native plants and animals.
Conservation district Natural Resource Specialist Matt Steffy said invasive weeds can disrupt the balance of native ecosystems, and they can threaten one of the most cherished recourses in Alaska: salmon habitat.
“The Anchor River unfortunately is a very infested and we're watching as the reed canary grass continues to grow out into the creek and claim that the salmon egg laying area, the growing area,” said Steffy. “So, there's less real estate for the salmon to grow. There is also a lot more complicated factors – it slows the water down and that increases the water temperature.”
Steffy says there was a similar program helping residents fight species infestations a few years ago, but the program was not able to use herbicide without completing an environmental assessment. Steffy completed that assessment and now has permission to use the pesticide.
“It needs to be one of the tools in the tool box if you’re going to be effective,” he said. “Because there are certain plants that you just dig and dig and poke at them, but you’re never to get rid of them unless you just go ahead and spray them.”
Steffy plans to be ready for residents by next spring. Private landowners, farmers and even municipalities will be able to access the program at no cost or may share some costs depending on the plant. Steffy wants the program to be the first stop for managing invasive plants on the peninsula and even eradicate some dangerous species. He hopes this program will be a model for other areas in Alaska.