Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) Missoula County will partner with the Lolo National Forest to map and assess local gravel pits for invasive plant species and ensure they operate free of weeds.

Commissioners this week approved the partnership, which will provide roughly $14,000 to the Missoula County Department of Ecology and Extension to conduct the monitoring program.

“It makes sure the material the Forest Service is putting out on projects across the forest and Missoula County are weed free, so they won't be moving weed seeds around,” said Bryce Christiaens, the county's weed district manager.

An environmental impact statement approved by the Lolo National Forest in 2007 expanded efforts to control invasive and noxious weeds.

The partnership includes Montana FWP and Missoula County and looks to eradicate small infestations, prevent noxious weeds from establishing, and allows a quicker response when new infestations are discovered.

“It models protocols that have already been set by the North American Invasive Species Management Association and the U.S. Department of Agriculture,” Christiaens said.