According to the National Forest Service thousands of acres of public lands nationwide are being lost each day to invasive non-native weeds. Although California does not have a severe weed problem in its National Forests as compared to the Rocky Mountains or Pacific Northwest Region, the steady march and invasion of Yellow Starthistle is a good example of why a weed free program is being undertaken in California. By establishing a weed free program plus other recommendations and required policy for all public land users -- not just horsemen but hikers, bikers, off-road-vehicles, backpackers and more -- what's happened in other states and already on some California public lands can be avoided and eliminated.
What began as part of the Sierra Nevada Framework for Conservation & Collaboration for only Sierra Nevada and Modoc Plateau forests has taken on its own life and is now a stand alone program pertaining to ALL California National Forests. Weed free is an Executive Order that applies to all federal lands -- nationwide. And beginning April 2004, all National Forest Service (NFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and National Park Service (NPS) lands in California will require the use of certified Weed Free Feed (Forage) when horsecamping, packing or staying on federal lands for periods of time.
Weed free feed (or forage as agencies refer to it) is baled hays, grasses, alfalfa or any baled combination plus straw and mulch. Cubes are not considered weed free unless they are processed from fields which have been certified as weed free. In other words, baled feed and cubes used not just in National Forest Wilderness Areas but on ALL National Forest, BLM and Park Service lands has to be certified weed free by a California County Agricultural Commissioner. When trail riding on NFS, BLM or NPS lands for any length of time -- half an hour, two hours or all day -- these three agencies are suggesting that horses be "purged for 12 hours by the feeding of California certified weed free feed". Exempt from the Certification requirements are sacked pellets (which are felt to be weed free because of the heat process they go through) and grains (although there is still concern about weed contents on some sack labels).