NEAH BAY (Nov. 13, 2007) –The diversity of ecosystems found on Makah tribal lands isn’t immediately clear, but a rich complement of interconnected natural worlds exists here. The Pacific Ocean regularly intrudes on the Waatch River floodplain creating a rich biological soup that supports many unique life forms. Sand dunes shift and flow on the coast and old growth forests fill the skyline.
To protect these special ecosystems, the Makah Tribe is vigorously attacking invasive non-native weeds such as Scotch broom and tansy ragwort on the sand dunes and yellow flag Iris on the Waatch River floodplain. The Scotch broom can easily overwhelm the dunes, crowding out native plants. “Because it’s an open area, it’s easy for weeds to invade,” said Jon Gallie, wildlife biologist and weed control coordinator for the Makah Tribe.
Each of these ecological niches has a role in Makah tribal history and culture. The Waatch River floodplain, for example, contains Pacific silverweed, the roots of which are still eaten today. The roots are cooked to remove the bitter taste, leaving a parsnip-like flavor. “We prepared silverweed for the Makah Diabetes luncheon recently,” said Makah tribal member Maria Pascua, a language instructor for the Makah Cultural and Research Center.
There are many place names in the Makah language associated with these distinct ecosystems,” said Pascua. A place where near the mouth of the Sooes River is called buxUbUxS (boo-xoo-booxsh) which means “boiling up” and is commonly referred to as Bahobahosh Point. The Makah name for Hobuck Beach where many of the dunes are found is XUGUbaq, (xoo-oo-buhq) and means “always changing”.
The tribe’s weed management plan will be finished and reviewed by the tribe this fall as well as peer-reviewed by other agencies. “Monitoring will be a part of this plan as well as plans to prevent weed infestation in the first place,” said Gallie. Creating a native grasses and wildflower seed mix is one strategy to combat early weed infestations. Data from the Tribe’s elk and deer diet studies were also used to develop this mix. “We’re working with Rayonier Seed to develop this mix and hope to encourage timber companies to use it after logging to give competition to the weeds and benefit wildlife,” said Gallie.
The tribe continues its work to eliminate other invasive weeds such as knotweed in cooperation with Clallam County and other local landowners. Knotweed threatens streamside areas by replacing important native trees and plants that contribute to stream and fish health. General weed control measures such as spraying and pulling the various weeds will be continued. Information to help landowners battle the invaders will be distributed in handouts and available on the internet.
“We’ve had a lot of positive comments from the community about the difference they see in some of the more visible areas where the crews have been working,” said Gallie. “We have to be vigilant about keeping weeds out of these ecologically rich areas. It would be hard to re-establish the native plant communities once they were lost.”
For more information, contact: Jon Gallie, wildlife biologist, Makah Tribe, (360) 645-3069, Debbie Preston, coastal information officer, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, (360) 374-5501, email@example.com