Community Agriculture Alliance: Noxious weed management
Colorado law, landowner responsibility and good stewardship
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As citizens of Colorado we have a responsibility to manage noxious weeds as designated under the 2003 Colorado Noxious Weed Act, Title 35, Article 5.5. The law states that it is the duty of all persons to use integrated methods to manage noxious weeds if the same are likely to be materially damaging to the land of neighboring landowners.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture maintains a list of noxious weeds designated for management which is divided into three separate lists, A, B and C. List A plants are designated for eradication on all state, federal and private lands. List B weeds include plants whose continued spread should be stopped by containment and suppression and List C weeds are designated for recommended control methods.
The Department of Agriculture also maintains a watch list, including plants for which additional monitoring and evaluation are indicated to determine if they warrant inclusion as a noxious weed. A complete listing of these weeds can be found at the Department of Agriculture, Division of Plant Industry website and the Routt County Weed Program can provide booklets and help in identifying these weeds.
The Colorado Noxious Weed Act also gives the counties authority to designate weeds not on the Colorado lists and mandate management responsibilities. Routt County’s list consists of 13 weeds which are common to the Colorado list and include: Cypress spurge, Myrtle spurge, leafy spurge, diffuse knapweed, meadow knapweed, Russian knapweed, spotted knapweed, Dalmatian toadflax, yellow toadflax, whitetop, houndstongue, orange hawkweed and purple loosestrife. Some of these weeds are prolific in Routt County and some are very rare, but the presence of any of these weeds on a property requires that an effort be made to manage them.
The Weed Act requires control efforts to be instituted and if they are not, it gives the county the authority to treat the weeds and bill the property owner or place a lien on the property for the costs incurred in treating the weed infestation. It also requires the county to control the weeds on any right of way adjacent to said property.
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That summarizes the legal responsibility of landowners to manage noxious weeds, but what is the real value in treating them? Noxious weeds displace native vegetation which can seriously impact native plant communities, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, livestock grazing and land value.
An example of weed impacts would be the effect of leafy spurge on cattle production, where 40% cover by the spurge can result in a 90% loss of grazing productivity. Local wildlife officers report that every elk coming through a game check station for many hunting seasons has had houndstongue burs on their hide. Most of this seed comes from infestations on private ground below the national forests. I think most of us strive to be good neighbors and exercise responsible stewardship over the lands under our care and we can start by controlling our own weeds.
Greg Brown is the weed supervisor for Routt County Weed Program.
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