Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When it comes to protecting valuable habitat, Benjamin Franklin’s words take on a whole new meaning. The Washington Invasive Species Council has received funding to help protect shrub-steppe habitat from noxious weed spread and development. With support from the United States Forest Service, the council is giving away fifty PlayCleanGo® Boot Brush Stations with custom signage (pictured below from the vendor’s website) to install in areas around Washington’s shrub-steppe.
A boot brush is a stiff-bristled brush that is fixed in place. This preventative tool allows people to rub the bottom of their boots across the bristles, dislodging any mud, debris, and seeds. Boot brushes can prevent seeds from being introduced into the sensitive shrub-steppe habitat, thus saving significant money down the road. These brushes have been recommended as decontamination tools in publications such as Management Strategies for Invasive Plants in Pacific Northwest Prairies, Savannas, and Oak Woodlands. The efficacy of boot brushes at removing seeds from boots has been studied, and the summary is available on the North American Invasive Species Management Association’s website.
This project was inspired by a similar and successful project in the Columbia River Gorge! In 2011, the Columbia Gorge Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) received funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to survey for weeds on state and federal lands as well as install twenty-five boot brushes at key trailheads in the Columbia River Gorge. After they were designed and built, the boot brushes and related signage were installed by various state, federal, and local organizations. Outreach events also took place to educate the public on the importance of the newly established preventative tool. The success of this effort far exceeded the original twenty-five boot brushes funded through this grant, with organizations taking the initiative to install additional boot brushes as shown in this map on the Columbia Gorge CWMA website. There are now thirty-seven boot brushes installed at trailheads throughout the Gorge, protecting vulnerable habitat from noxious weeds. Additionally, national forests, such as Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Willamette National Forest have since installed signage and boot brushes at recreational areas within their jurisdiction.
The Invasive Species Council of Idaho posted about PlayCleanGo® boot brush stations recently installed on Idaho National Forest Lands. Check out the inspiring post. The Idaho council notes that the “meadows and hillsides along this trail remain free of noxious weed infestations, allowing for native wildflowers to flourish.” Moral of the story? Boot brushes work!
Even on the east coast, land managers are recognizing the value of boot brushes! A recent article highlights a project in New York where a local non-profit, Ausable River Association, built and installed four boot brushes stations with signage at popular trailheads near the Adirondacks. The article mentions that “boot brush stations are popping up across the region as local groups realize the positive impact and significance of this type of trailhead intervention.” The Washington Invasive Species Council aims to add to this effort and showcase Washington’s dedication to preventing the spread and establishment of noxious weeds in the shrub-steppe.
This project will run through January 2026. During the first full year (2024), council staff and an interagency advisory committee will be selecting fifty sites for boot brush installation after widely distributing an interest form. The first twenty-five receiving organizations will then work with council staff to customize the boot brush signage and place the order. By the end of 2024, we hope to have the first twenty-five boot brushes in the ground. The second group of twenty-five receiving organizations will receive their custom signage and boot brush station during 2025. Council staff will conduct field visits and talk with boot brush users to generate feedback and inform next steps.
Check back often for updates as the project progresses!