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President Trump rattles the Middle East, saying the U.S. will recognize Israel’s authority over the Golan Heights. Also on our Friday rundown: A judge blocks laws limiting the power of the new Wisconsin governor. Plus, momentum builds across party lines to abolish the death penalty.

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Expensive Pests: Noxious Weeds Cost MT $57 Million

July 8, 2010

CHOTEAU, Mont. - $57 million has been taken out of Montana's economy, and the thieves are noxious weeds, according to a new report that looks at the cost of the problem statewide, as well as a growing infestation of weeds along the Rocky Mountain Front.

Report author and economist Joe Kerkvliet, with The Wilderness Society, measured the direct and indirect economic impacts of weeds such as leafy spurge and spotted knapweed.

"Public and private entities spend money on combating weeds, and weed infestations reduce the profitability of Montana farms and ranches; they degrade water quality."

He adds that the weeds also damage wildlife habitat. Just over $1 million in public and private money was spent in the weed battle on the Rocky Mountain Front last year. A "weed whacker rodeo" this weekend in Sun Canyon will educate the public about the types of noxious weeds while sending teams out to pull them up.

Teton County Weed District coordinator Paul Wick calls the weeds a "persistent enemy" that is slowly choking out small-town economies, and which can only be stopped with better investment in weed weapons. Those include spraying, pulling plants out by hand, and releasing beneficial insects, he says.

"These weed infestations don't go anywhere but get bigger and cost more money without resources to go after them."

The report, The Economics of the War on Weeds on Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, includes a survey of land managers about what they need to fight weeds, and almost every one of them said "more funding." Money to battle weeds currently comes from local and state budgets, with some federal funding. The proposed Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act could help pave the way for more federal resources for the weed battle along the Front.

The report was commissioned by The Wilderness Society on behalf of the Coalition to Protect the Rocky Mountain Front and conducted by Oregon State University.

Deb Courson, Public News Service - MT