Livestock owners and others must use weed-free feed within all Pacific Northwest federally designated wilderness areas and trailheads leading into wilderness areas.

Weed-free feed is defined as hay or crop products that have been certified according to standards used by the North American Weed Management Association and member states. Crop products include hay, hay cubes, straw, grain and mulch products. Only feed that is commercially processed feed or crop products certified to be free of weed seeds will be allowed.

The U.S. Forest Service began the requirement in January as part of a larger effort to reduce invasive species on national forest lands. Forest Service officials will concentrate on education and compliance this year, until signage and outreach efforts are fully implemented with stricter enforcement to follow.

The requirement will be expanded in 2009 to require weed-free feed on all national forest lands. For now, the requirement applies to those wildernesses in the Pacific Northwest that don't already require weed-free feed, including the Wenaha-Tucannon, North Fork John Day and North Fork Umatilla Wilderness areas on the Umatilla National Forest.

The use of weed-free feed has been required in the Eagle Cap Wilderness for many years and encouraged in the Hells Canyon Wilderness. The new requirement includes the HCW, the North Fork John Day and Monument Rock Wilderness areas on the west side of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.

Crop products often contain seeds of non-native weeds that germinate on public lands. Non-native weeds, such as leafy spurge, spotted knapweed, purple loosestrife and others are alien to the United States and have no natural enemies to check their spread. The new requirement is specific to wilderness because these areas often are free of invasive plants and introduction can be checked through efforts such as weed-free feed.

Departments of Agriculture in Oregon, Idaho and Nevada have developed certification processes for crop products. Hay fields are inspected to ensure listed noxious weed seeds are absent. Once a field passes this inspection, hay and other crop products from the field are labeled as "certified weed-free." Washington state lacks a comparable program.

Wallowa County has had a certified hay program since 2001 and has been the model for others across the state.

The order doesn't affect commercially processed feed (pellets and steamed, rolled grains). Those should be used in the affected national forest lands if certified hay products are not available.

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