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[Moderator's note:  Michael Potts has been active on the Caspar Community Board since its inception.  He has initiated a "gorse mapping" project within Caspar (not including the Jughandles State Reserve.  His responses to Caroline are interspersed in her original e-mail.

Date: Mon, 15 Nov 1999 18:07:12 -0800
To: Caroline Schooley <>,
From: Michael Potts <>
Subject: Re: Gorse, of course

Caroline, thank you for weighing in so strongly on this issue, and thank
you for your solid experience. I was realizing yesterday that you have been
battling gorse for 25 years! It would be a shame to let your efforts come
to naught.

Vince, I'm copying you with this, because I've given it a LOT of thought
and spent hours researching it -- more, I'm quite sure, than anyone except
maybe State Parks personnel.
And I suggest you name us the Gorse Brigade. I have already been called
a Gorse Warrior by the Santa Rosa PD, and although I generally hate use
militaristic jargon, gorse justifies it.

At 10:51 AM 15-11-1999 -0800, you wrote:
>Someone (Picard?) said
>at the Parks meeting that there was a special gorse mower up at Bandon and
>that it might be possible to borrow it.

It was Helene. She invited the guy that owns it to come show his wares.
The machine is rentable. $20,000 for an initial run, might be able to do 10
acres in that time. Additional acreage at about $10k per day. The machine
is too heavy to run on pavement, so it requires a special flatbed to move,
adding to the price (maybe $5,000 to get it here, $500 for every move
across pavement.) It's so heavy that it compacts the soil BIGTIME so using
it on Jughandle is out of the question.
That's about when I decided to forget the Bandon machine.

>If those methods include herbicide spraying, it's essential that
>plant death be followed by cutting and removal to eliminate the fire

I'm with Patty on this one. Spraying -- unless it's hand spot spraying
by qualified and well-trained personnel -- is out of the question anywhere
within five miles to my northwest. Many of us in downtown Caspar are not in
immanent danger from gorse, and aren't prepared to sacrifice our lungs.

The best of my research indicates that the following protocol WILL work in
Caspar, but it can't possibly be done by volunteers. And to think that
afflicted property owners will get this for free is supremely silly. Maybe
a subsidy from the County, but I frankly can't imagine why -- again, as an
unafflicted property owner, I wouldn't be eager to see sparse county funds
spent this way. Very few property owners with gorse problems have held
their land long enough that the problem couldn't have been anticipated
before they bought their land, since it's been with us since 1878.
The guy from Bodega that Parks invited up had a system that I think
will solve the biggest parts of the problem: a two man crew, one with a
chain saw -- he used a chainsaw on a pole to get at the real nasty plants,
but I've tackled the biggest and I know that an axe and a chain saw can cut
the biggest plants we have. Within minutes -- like 5 minutes -- of cutting
the main stem at ground level, the root is painted CAREFULLY with undiluted
glyphosate -- I refuse to use the Most Reviled Corporation on the Planet's
tradename for the chemical -- with special attention to the cambium. Two
guys can do an acre a day of BIG gorse. Followup ground assays showed that
nearly undetectable levels of glyphosate remained a year after.
I agree with you, Caroline: the gorse needs to be burned right then and
there, or at the very latest left to dry and then burned well before the
next fire season. When I saw the fresh gorse growing out of an old pile, my
heart sank. Imagine tackling a mess like THAT!
Burning accelerates the germination of the gorse seed. So burn it where
this might help exhaust the seed bank, and make this a 10 year project
instead of a 35 year one.
Special treatment areas like the bluff-face and stream banks will need
to be done by hand no matter how big the plants.
Followup is CRUCIAL, and there are several levels. On marginal land,
where new gorse plants are just getting established, hand pulling is the
only way to go; everything else disturbs the ground too much. A crew of six
people can cover an acre an hour; we did it last February. On fairly
heavily infested land, weed wrenches and pullers work great; a crew of six
can do an acre in three hours. The key to the followup is that it needs to
be done annually, or better yet SEMI-ANNUALLY everywhere the gorse is being
treated. The good news is that after the first push, it's not as hard year
after year.

Everything I've seen leads me to conclude reluctantly that there are no
magic bullets -- no suitable big machines or safe broadcast chemicals. We
have a major community problem here, and we need to work together. To
control gorse takes lots of hard physical labor -- much more than Caspar
can marshal. We need help.
Gene Parsons and Steve Heckeroth envision a "Gorse Getter" -- a big
rubber tired buggy with an electric chain saw and a grappling arm, that
could be purpose built to work the gorse, and that's about as close to a
magic bullet as we're going to get, I think. They guessed $25,000 for the
machine, which seems a lot to me.
It's important to get as much as possible of the gorse handled before
next April or May, when the seeds start spraying ... or we lose another year.

> But doing the first stage mechanically, on an emergency basis,
>will get the crisis control done before we get into the long discussion
>that's bound to precede herbicide use.
>Caroline Schooley

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