Community Agriculture Alliance: Only you can prevent the spread of noxious weeds |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Only you can prevent the spread of noxious weeds

Kelsey Crane
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Wildfires are ecological disturbances that, if timed and managed correctly, can provide significant benefits to nearly all ecosystems. Similarly, the properly guided management of nonnative species — such as agriculture crops and domesticated animals — typically provide great benefits for human interests.

It is only when some nonnative species are released from their natural barriers or escape human control and they begin to harm other ecosystems and human interests, that they are viewed as invasive.

Invasive plants usually spread from a single source, expanding outward often on recently disturbed or bare ground. They are a subtle yet significantly growing threat to native ecosystems and they should be viewed in a similar light as unprecedented and uncontrollable wildfires.

The ability for invasive weeds to spread and successfully establish across the western United States has drastically increased with damaging ecologic and economic effects, and in many cases it has prompted legal requirements for the prevention and control of specific weeds deemed noxious. 

When an invasive species is introduced into a balanced native ecosystem, the new species is not restricted by their natural barriers and have an unprecedented advantage in the new environment. This action can have tremendous implications for the entirety of the invaded ecosystem.

Invasive species tend to have characteristics that make them superior competitors, like musk thistle, which has high rates of seed production and can inhibit the growth of other plants by producing harmful chemicals in the soil. Weeds can spread via wind, water, people, animals and equipment- all potentially sparking a new and thriving population of invasive species. 

The principles of noxious weed management include elements for prevention and early detection, timely control and ecosystem rehabilitation, which often require extensive and costly resources. Educational outreach, like Smokey Bear, have been critical in creating awareness and involvement in fire prevention. 

There are many resources available to become familiar with local noxious plants and their identification. Early detection is critical — identifying noxious weeds on public and private lands is vitally important to the success of eliminating noxious weeds from our local community.

Visit your local public lands or county managers’ office for more information on local noxious weeds and how to identify, prevent and manage them. Only you can prevent the spread of noxious weeds.

Kelsey Crane is the rangeland management specialist for the U.S. Forest Service, Hahns Peak/Bears Ears Ranger District.

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