Extension weed expert wins California honor

Donaldson and Weed Coordinating Group win Golden Wrench for work in Tahoe Basin

10/7/2011 - By: Robert Mills
Sue Donaldson Cooperative Extension Water Quality Expert Sue Donaldson explains how to collect insects for use in controlling weeds in the Tahoe Basin.

Sue Donaldson will have to make room for another award on the shelf. The Cooperative Extension Western Area Water Quality Education Specialist is the recipient of the California Invasive Plant Council's 2011 Golden Weed Wrench Award for Land Manager of the Year.

Donaldson is being honored for her work around the Lake Tahoe Basin, where she and workers she has trained completed two basin-wide inventories and treatment cycles for invasive weeds. Through her work, 10 of 37 historically infested weed sites on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe are now weed-free, and she has introduced a biocontrol program to battle spotted knapweed infestations. Donaldson has often collaborated with Cal-IPC at the bi-state Tahoe Basin.

Her Tahoe Basin Weed Coordinating Group also was recently spotlighted, earning the 2011 Organization of the Year Award from Cal-IPC.

"This award goes out each year to someone in land management who has done exceptional work in organizing land managers to be effective," said Doug Johnson, executive director of Cal-IPC. "Sue's Lake Tahoe Basin Weed Coordinating Group has done exemplary work over the years."

Weeds threaten the natural beauty and the environmental quality of the Tahoe Basin. Weed infestations can crowd out native plants that are critical to wildlife habitat and erosion control. Unfiltered runoff from basin land is threatening the legendary clarity of the high-altitude lake, and weeds play a role in accelerating that runoff.

Cooperative Extension Dean and Director Karen Hinton said Donaldson's work in the Tahoe Basin is typical of the type of the projects she undertakes.

"Sue is amazingly effective and hard-working," Hinton said. "She identifies problems that no one else is working on and tackles those problems quickly and efficiently."

Donaldson will receive an actual golden weed wrench - a gilded version of a tool used by weed managers to pull woody, invasive plants from the ground.

Donaldson said a lot of credit for weed eradication at the lake goes to University of California Cooperative Extension's Wendy West, who is co-coordinator of the Tahoe Basin Weed Coordinating Group. She also credited other members of the coordinating group.

"This group has made a strong commitment to fighting weeds in the basin and their hard work has paid off," Donaldson said. "This has been a successful collaboration."

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension is the outreach college that extends knowledge from the University of Nevada - and other land-grant universities - to local communities to address critical needs. UNCE is a federal-state-county partnership with 19 statewide offices. Its more than 200 personnel - with the help of volunteers - conduct programs in agriculture; children, youth and families; community development; health and nutrition; horticulture; and natural resources.

The California Invasive Plant Council was formed in 1992 to address invasive plant species, considered one of California's top environmental threats. The Council works closely with agencies, industry, and other nonprofit organizations.

"Managing invasive plants is one of the top stewardship needs for our wild lands," Johnson said. "With climate change, it'll be even more important to protect native lands from invasive species. The Tahoe Basin holds unique natural heritage that must be preserved."


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