Controlling Invasive Species in Beluga, Alaska

orange-hawkweedThe auburn-colored flowers with the long, slender stem may look innocent enough, but orange hawkweed are an invasive (not native to Alaska), quick-spreading plant that can threaten animal and marine life by altering their habitats.

In support of locally-led conservation efforts in the Tyonek, Alaska, area, CIRI has partnered with the Tyonek Tribal Conservation District (TTCD), a nonprofit whose mission is to conserve, enhance and encourage the wise use of natural resources. The goal is to tackle important conservation issues on CIRI-owned lands in and around Tyonek. In the past, those efforts have centered on the removal of northern pike from local watersheds. Now, they have shifted to a small handful of high-priority species infestations – including orange hawkweed – in the community of Beluga, an area 50 miles west of Anchorage accessible only by boat or plane.

Of particular concern are invasive plants found on the CIRI-owned Beluga airstrip, which connects to a nearly weed-free 134-mile road system that winds through pristine wildlife habitat and crosses 13 anadromous waterways (fresh waters that connect to the ocean and that fish use for spawning).

In early 2016, TTCD reached out to CIRI to help develop an eradication plan for orange hawkweed, oxeye daisy and white sweet clover on CIRI-owned land in Beluga. CIRI worked with TTCD, Chugach Electric and other local landowners to contract services for targeted spot herbicide application. A survival rate of less than 10 percent is predicted for invasive plants in control areas. TTCD will follow up next year to treat any surviving invasive plants.

“The work TTCD is doing to address invasive species is incredibly important, and CIRI is proud to support these efforts,” said Jason Brune, senior director, Land and Resources. “By stopping the spread of non-native species such as northern pike and orange hawkweed, we are ultimately helping indigenous species to thrive, including the salmon on which so many of us depend.”