Invasive weed that is toxic to cattle and horses threatens Northwest Colorado agriculture |

Invasive weed that is toxic to cattle and horses threatens Northwest Colorado agriculture

Lauren Dodd
For the Craig Press
Leafy spurge in false-flower along the banks of the Yampa River.
Sasha Nelson/Craig Press

CRAIG — As spring flowers start to bloom, so will an invasive pest capable of decreasing property value, harming livestock and rendering agricultural land useless in Routt and Moffat counties and across the state.

Leafy spurge, an aggressive exotic perennial weed found in the Yampa Valley, will be the focus of an upcoming public meeting held by the Yampa River Leafy Spurge Project, a coalition of state, federal and local agencies. 

For the first time since its formation in 2015, the group is inviting the public to join them in a stakeholder meeting and dinner at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion, 640 E. Victory Way, Craig.

“What’s going on right now is that the infestation along the Yampa River, which started between (Craig) and Hayden about 40 years ago, it’s been slowly intensifying over time and getting bigger,” co-founder John Husband said. “This is a weed that is toxic to cattle, toxic to horses. In Montana alone, there are a million acres of land that is agriculturally worthless, people can’t sell it, and they can’t graze it because of that weed problem.”

Leafy spurge is a master at self-preservation, according to the Colorado State University Extension. The weed’s root system can bury itself 15 feet or more into the ground. When in bloom, a single plant can produce about 140 seeds, which can spread up to 15 feet from the plant.

“That’s one of the reasons why it’s so difficult to kill,” Husband said. “You can kill the top, spray it, and it’ll start coming up from the roots.”

Once the plant is in an area, he said it steals nutrients from native plants and eventually can take over large areas of land.

“There’s a county in Wyoming to the north of us that has made the decision that they can no longer afford to try to control this plant because it’s too widespread,” Husband said. “It costs too much to try to control it. We don’t want to have us get in that situation. We want to try to keep it contained.”

If you go

What: Yampa River Leafy Spurge Project meeting
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 24
Where: Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion, 640 E. Victory Way, Craig

In an effort to tackle the problem in Moffat County, the group has joined forces with University of Wyoming plant science professor Daniel Tekiela.

In the coming months, Tekiela’s research team will select sites to begin testing the effectiveness of various leafy spurge control methods including mechanical treatment, grazing and chemical treatment. The group plans to map out the extent of the infestation and design a management strategy to address the problem. 

Husband said he hopes Northwest Colorado residents, land owners and business owners attend the upcoming meeting to gain a better understanding of how to spot and tackle the invasive pest.

“It will take all of us working together to get a handle on this situation,” he said.

This story is from

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.

For tax deductible donations, click here.

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User