Sue Donaldson will have to make room for another award on the shelf. The Cooperative Extension Western Area Water Quality Education Specialist is the recipient of the California Invasive Plant Council's 2011 Golden Weed Wrench Award for Land Manager of the Year.
Donaldson is being honored for her work around the Lake Tahoe Basin, where she and workers she has trained completed two basin-wide inventories and treatment cycles for invasive weeds. Through her work, 10 of 37 historically infested weed sites on the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe are now weed-free, and she has introduced a biocontrol program to battle spotted knapweed infestations. Donaldson has often collaborated with Cal-IPC at the bistate Tahoe Basin.
Her Tahoe Basin Weed Coordinating Group also was recently spotlighted, earning the 2011 Organization of the Year Award from Cal-IPC.
Weeds threaten the natural beauty and the environmental quality of the Tahoe Basin. Weed infestations can crowd out native plants that are critical to wildlife habitat and erosion control. Unfiltered runoff from basin land is threatening the legendary clarity of the high-altitude lake, and weeds play a role in accelerating that runoff.
Cooperative Extension Dean and Director Karen Hinton said Donaldson's work in the Tahoe Basin is typical of the type of the projects she undertakes.
"Sue is amazingly effective and hard-working," Hinton said. "She identifies problems that no one else is working on and tackles those problems quickly and efficiently."
Donaldson will receive an actual golden weed wrench - a gilded version of a tool used by weed managers to pull woody, invasive plants from the ground.
Donaldson said a lot of credit for weed eradication at the lake goes to University of California Cooperative Extension's Wendy West, who is co-coordinator of the Tahoe Basin Weed Coordinating Group. She also credited other members of the coordinating group.
"This group has made a strong commitment to fighting weeds in the basin and their hard work has paid off," Donaldson said. "This has been a successful collaboration."