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Friends of Jughandle
December 3, 1999
Rusty Areias - Director
We are writing to alert you to a very serious threat to Jughandle State Reserve, located in Caspar on the Mendocino Coast, and to ask that effective action be taken to counter this threat.
Large sections of Jughandle headlands are in danger of being lost to gorse, an invasive, fast-growing, prickly plant that now infests a substantial proportion of the headlands. The headlands of Jughandle extend several miles along the coast west of Highway 1 and are the most-visited part of the Reserve.
Attached is a map showing infested areas and several photos of the gorse situation. For more information and photos, please visit the gorse section ofwww.dharmacloud.com. I am sure you will agree that the problem is extremely serious.
When fully established, gorse plants are over eight feet tall, form an impenetrable thicket, and kill all native species underneath. When uncontrolled and conditions are favorable, as in Jughandle State Reserve, gorse grows exponentially -- at least doubling in size and area each season.
Gorse has been a long-term resident of Jughandle, but control efforts have kept it within limited bounds up until now. However, no effective treatment of gorse has been done since 1994. As a result solid stands of gorse are well established in all sections of the headlands, and clusters of gorse, not yet solid, infest much larger areas. Jughandle is verging on becoming a major ecological disaster.
Gorse grows, flowers, and spreads seeds (thousands of seeds per plant!) during the winter months. If another growing season passes without vigorous control efforts, the task of regaining control over gorse will be much, much more difficult and expensive. Stands that can now be cut with light equipment will require heavy equipment that tears up the land. Isolated gorse clusters will become solid, killing all native plants in these areas.
The 1999 Parks Department budget, signed by the governor in June, included $140,000 for gorse control in Jughandle. To date, these allocated funds remain unspent, while the damages and costs of control of the gorse problem increase by the week. This inaction is not due to a lack of concern by the Mendocino District Superintendent, Greg Picard, and the staff Ecologist, Renee Pasquinelli. As you are well aware, demands on local staff far exceed their capacity to fulfill them. Based on their current understanding of priorities, the staff has not devoted the time necessary to organize and initiate a gorse control program.
We believe that gorse control deserves a high priority. Although other tasks facing Parks may promise more public benefit, this benefit will still be realized if some delay occurs. But, any further delay in initiating gorse control will dearly cost taxpayers, park users, and native plants.
We respectfully request that your office support the Mendocino District in giving gorse the priority required to develop and initiate a control program on an urgent basis. We also urge you approve an increase in the ecologist positions for the Mendocino District. Unless this is done, other important conservation programs will suffer from the necessary priority given to gorse control.
Beyond this short-term crisis, Parks needs to make a long-term commitment to gorse control. Gorse is a persistent species that has never been eradicated in spite of repeated efforts. A continuing program of control, without lapses, will prove to be the cheapest and most effective means of minimizing the destructive effects of gorse in Jughandle State Reserve.
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