County welcomes new weed and pest chief

Feb 24, 2014 By Eric Blom, Staff Writer

Aaron Foster has roots in agriculture stretching from his childhood on a small farm and ranch outside Wheatland. Now he is taking over as the supervisor of Fremont County's Weed and Pest Control District.

Foster's first day on the job was Jan. 29. Weed and Pest's long-time supervisor Lars Baker retired in December.

Foster comes most recently from Teton County, where he served as an assistant supervisor for 10 years.

He was in charge of biological control programs, geographic information systems and mapping, and the weed-free forage program.

Foster said he is looking forward to working with local agricultural producers.

"They can just call my number directly, or they can call the Lander Weed and Pest office, and I'd be happy to visit with them and see if we can come up with a weed management plan for them," Foster, 33, said in an interview.

The district also offers cost-sharing programs for control chemicals and mapping services, Foster said.

He expects filling Baker's shoes to be difficult, but he plans to start by getting to know the staff and key people in Weed and Pest programs.

A combination of factors drew him to the local position.

"Fremont County has one of the best (weed and pest) programs in the state," he said. "That's a pretty good place to go work for. That was a real drive."

Outdoor recreation also was a plus in Foster's decision.

"I love the Wind Rivers, I spent a lot of time backpacking in the Wind Rivers, and this is a great location for that," he said.

Mountain biking is another hobby he plans to continue in Fremont County, he said.

Before working at Teton County, he was the integrated pest management coordinator for a nursery in Portland, Ore. He monitored the plants for diseases, insects and other pests and developed plans, such as spraying pesticides or controlling moisture, to control the problem.

He has a bachelor's of science degree in rangeland ecology and watershed management from the University of Wyoming and a master's of science in rangeland ecosystem science from Colorado State University.

While at UW, Foster got a start in weed and pest management working at the Platte County and Laramie County Weed and Pest Control districts. He got his start in agriculture, though, on the family farm.

"My parents grew corn, alfalfa beans, occasionally barley," Foster said. "We also raised up to 150 head of cattle."

Foster keeps in touch with new developments in weed and pest control through two organizations.

He is the chairman of the Wyoming Biological Control Committee. The group gathers funds from weed and pest districts in the state to coordinate research on potential biological control agents.

A biological control agent is an insect or other animal that feeds predominantly on an invasive species. Ideally, the animal eats the weed and leave native plants alone, controlling the problem species.

Researchers in the countries where the invasive species come from look for insects native to their area that eat the plants causing problems in Wyoming, such as Russian knapweed.

Foster also sits on the board of the North American Invasive Species Management Association. The group puts on a yearly conference for weed and pest managers to network and exchange information, and the association started U.S. weed-free forage certification program.

Foster said he has high goals for Fremont County's Weed and Pest district under his leadership.

"I want to be the best weed and pest in the state," Foster said.

"I'm leaving a good program, but we're going to be the best in Fremont County anyway."

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