Community Partners Aid in Battle Against Scotch Broom






By Nanette Kelley

McK Land Trust


This month, a pivotal battle against Scotch broom was won at the McKinleyville Land Trust Dow’s Prairie Educational Wetland, but sadly, the local non-profit is still fighting the war.

According to the Humboldt Weed Management Area’s Invasive Weeds of Humboldt County guide, Scotch broom is an invasive non-native evergreen shrub that can reach up to 10 feet high, and not only compete with native plants for light and water, but add nitrogen to the soil that can be detrimental to native plants. Scotch broom is known to take over recently logged and cleared areas dramatically increasing the risk of wildfires.

With help from a Schoolyard Habitat Program grant from the US Fish & Wildlife Service, the war on Scotch broom or Cytisus scoparius began in fall 2010. The McKinleyville Land Trust was able to hire an invasive species combat crew, and by force of an excavator and other heavy equipment, removed all of the mature Scotch broom and other non-natives. Then, the land trust reintroduced many of the original native plant species. Unfortunately, clearing close to half of the 2.5 acre wetland created an ideal environment in which Scotch broom thrives, and after two years it came back with a vengeance, overshadowing (literally) and endangering the new plantings.

So, on Jan. 12, the land trust hosted a work day and MLT board members and their families were able to weed wrench and secure about a 30x30 feet area. This made a good dent in the Scotch broom problem, but forced the land trust to reconsider their terrestrial attack plan.

That attack had to come soon as now is when the soils are damp, the perfect time for Scotch broom removal; now, when Scotch broom can be easily removed with a weed wrench; now before these invaders bloom spreading yet more seeds making restoration a nightmare for years to come. The attack needed to be now, and it was decided the procurement of invasive plant eradicator mercenaries was the best solution.

Last week the reinforcement troops arrived, and in two days a crew of ten volunteers from the Humboldt County Sherriff’s Cal Trans inmate work crew stormed the field and was able to weed wrench out and conquer close to an acre of the invading Scotch broom!

All crews were fueled in part by snacks provided by Ramone’s Bakery, but primarily by the ultimate goal of this project to continue to provide an outdoor classroom and specialist guest lecturers in ecology, history, cultural studies, art and more for Dow’s Prairie School students.

As one work crew volunteer exclaimed, “This is great, an outdoor classroom for kids, good for them! I wish I would have had an outdoor classroom!”

SWAP Cal Trans Supervisor Sargent Mitch Gratz said, “Sheriff Downey makes the community programs happen, it’s nice to focus on the positive things you can do for the community.”

He explained the people under the direction of the sheriff’s department on the SWAP and Cal Trans work crews may have the option to lessen their sentences by volunteering for a variety of community service such as the senior wood program, working at the FFA pig farm, and at ball parks.

Now the trail area has been cleared from invasive plants, the land trust can finish the trail and staging area for the Dow’s Prairie students with gravel provided by a grant from the McKinleyville Area Fund. However, this saga is far from over.

The McKinleyville Land Trust’s war on Scotch broom was sponsored by federal, state, county, town, business and non-profit support. In case any of you may be wondering, not what your community can do for you, but “What can I do for my community?”

Any community member or organization who would like to control Scotch broom or other invasive plants on their own property, helping to stop the spread to wild and public access areas can check out weed wrenches for free. The Humboldt County Weed Management Area has a FREE “Lend-a-wrench program” through the Bureau of Land Management, Arcata Field Office, call 825-2300 for more information.

The McKinleyville Land Trust is a non-profit, consisting entirely of volunteers, dedicated to the conservation of our local open spaces for their ecological, historical, agricultural, educational, recreational and scenic value. For information call (707) 839-LAND or visit


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