LLELA's Herbicide Philosophy


(by Restoration Manager Richard Freiheit)

Johnsongrass is an aggressive prairie invader which is controlled at LLELA through herbicide applications

The topic of herbicide use brings up a variety of opinions ranging from strongly opposed to highly in favor of their use. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and I’m sure that many on both sides of the argument are well founded. This is the LLELA restoration staff's opinion regarding herbicide use.

The use of herbicides (as well as pesticides) has a long history in our country. Much of this history is sad to sometimes horrific. Rachel Carson wrote about this in her 1962 book Silent Spring. This book changed the attitudes of many about how our actions affect the environment, of which we are a part. Having said that, humanity has affected the environment and unless we are willing to wait generations for it to fix itself we must now do what we can to undo the damage that has been done.

This is now no small task. From exotic plants and animals to illegal dumping, we collectively have a big mess to clean up. Our restoration efforts here at LLELA aim to do that. One of the tools that we have available is, yes… herbicide. One of the biggest factors in making the choice to use herbicide here is scope, both in area being restored as well as the size of the problem at hand. 

LLELA’s 2,000 acres have been heavily impacted by human use and neglect. Many of the original native plants have been grazed out. In their absence, invasive exotic plants have taken their place. Where invasive exotics dominate the landscape, ecological function is lost and diversity decreases. The invasion of ecosystems by exotic plants isn’t just a local phenomenon, it is happening worldwide. Johnsongrass is considered by many to be the worst weed in the world, having invaded areas on every continent except Antarctica. King Ranch bluestem is another problem grass, so much so that some areas in the Hill Country have given up trying to control it. So, we are not looking at a small simple problem.

The tenacity of these invaders must be matched with an equal amount of firepower. In order to ever achieve a modicum of success, herbicide use is a must. We don’t go around willy-nilly spraying chemicals everywhere. And with few exceptions, we don’t flat out kill everything and start over. With a variety of application methods as well as some selective herbicide choices, we are able to heavily impact the problem plants without too much harm to the desirable plants. Of course the application of herbicide is only one possible step in the restoration of the ecosystems here at LLELA. Check the rest of our web site to learn more. Learn more about exotic plants in Texas at the Texas Invasive Species Database.

To find out how you can help in the restoration efforts at LLELA contact Richard Freiheit at freiheit@unt.edu.