By Alan Sorensen
ROCKY BOY Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation established its own weed district in 1997, perhaps the first reservation in the United States to do so.
The Chippewa Cree Tribe began applying the weed spray itself in 1996 for Hill County Weed District. The next year it had designated the Rocky Boy Weed District.
Jay Myers heads up the program for the Tribe with the aid of federal, state and tribal money.
"The (Tribal Business Committee) has cooperated with this program," Robert "Sonny" Belcourt, director of the Tribe's Natural Resources Department, said. "We have two vehicles and with grant dollars were managed to build storage for our vehicles and chemicals."
Some of the construction work on the storage facility was handled by the weed crews.
"Hill County was doing it and they were just doing the roadsides," Belcourt said. "We got $100,000 from the Tribe to control and eradicate some of the noxious weeds here on the reservation."
Now weed eradicators often walk into fields with heavy canisters on their backs and swinging nozzles toward growths of leafy spurge, spotted knapweed, Russian knapweed, hounds tongue and oxeye daisy.
Myers' crews have covered about 1,087 acres, but not entirely with herbicides. Myers also relies on bio control, or insects, in sensitive areas.
"Jay has been working with some of the elders with the medicinal herbs," Belcourt said. "Where (the herbs) are in proximity and in riparian areas, we use the insects."
The insects, unlike the herbicides, attack the target plants and leave the approved plants alone. Using the insects in riparian areas also protects the reservation's surface waters.
Myers takes the idea of protecting riparian areas a step further. Where the state allows weed control within 75 feet of the protected water areas, the Tribe has designated 150-foot protected areas.