Sheriff of Weed Town

Hi, I’m Jen Nelson, Outreach Coordinator with the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District, and I have a confession to make:

I see weeds. Everywhere.

It makes me feel a little like that kid in the Sixth Sense. Lately, it's hard to get people to hike with me, what with my constant alerts about the presence of Garlic mustard or Yellow flag iris. This has been getting worse since my first Weed Watcher class with Mary Logalbo of West Multnomah SWCD, developing into an obsession/career. I’m wary of becoming one of those people who eats weeds.

And yet… I have to admit that I am kind of proud to be a budding Weed Watcher. There is some debate out there about whether we can or should turn the clock back on disturbance of certain ecosystems.

However, even if we would be fighting a losing battle against some species that have already established a toe-hold here, like Scotch broom or Himalayan blackberry, keeping new invaders out of our region will save natural areas, save money, and protect human health. Catching them early also means containing the threat and protecting beloved parks around the region.

You too can ruin an otherwise lovely drive to the coast -- ahem, become a valiant defender of our woods and waterways. [Besides, what else do you have to do during the nearly 80 miles from Portland to Cannon Beach?] Weed watcher trainings are hosted each spring across the northern Willamette Valley by your local SWCDs, sewerage authorities, and other partners. These hands-on workshops prepare you to become what invasive species expert Rob Emanuel of Clean Water Services has termed a "50-mile-an-hour botanist," able to identify huge stands of knotweed on an otherwise pleasant Sunday country drive.

Of course, it isn’t enough to torture (I mean, educate) your friends and family about their danger posed by their poor choice to plant invasives like Italian lords and ladies rather than lovely natives. You will want to learn all about the newest potential threats so that you can keep your eyes peeled this spring and maybe be the first to spot a new invasion.

Yes, you too* can become the Sheriff of Weed Town, particularly in spring -- an excellent time to appreciate the lovely blossoms of such invaders as purple loosestrife and spurge laurel. You might even stop and take a great photo of the infestation, grab a GPS coordinate, and make a report to the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline.

Can’t wait for spring? The upcoming Rural Living Field Day on Sep 28 will cover all of your burning weed questions for now, but you must register in advance online or by emailing me at

While your hiking companions might moan and groan, Oregon will definitely thank you for being on the watch!

*Join TSWCD's newsletter through the link on our website to be among the first to know the spring 2014 class dates, or Like us on Facebook for frequent updates.

Jennifer Nelson, JD MS, is the Outreach Coordinator for the Tualatin Soil and Water Conservation District, where she oversees and implements the District’s direct outreach campaign through website and social media management, events, and landowner engagement. She moved to Oregon after completing her graduate thesis on water quality management in the Tualatin Basin and now torments her friends by identifying invasive species while hiking.

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