Weed-wary education offered by Extension

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— It costs thousands of dollars to treat and already has rendered hundreds of acres of land useless for agriculture in Routt County.

That's why the Routt County Cooperative Extension Office wants to educate people about noxious and poisons weeds. To do that, the office is giving free tours of the town and countryside to show landowners what to look for.

The Routt County Cooperative Extension Office is hosting noxious weed tours over the next several weeks: Noxious Weed Tour of Steamboat Springs area, today at 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., meet at the Routt County Courthouse parking lot. Poisonous Plant Tour in Steamboat Springs area hosted by Tony Knight, 10:30 a.m. to noon; meet at Routt County Courthouse parking lot. Noxious Weed Tour of West Routt, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., July 12., meet at the Hayden Town Hall. Noxious Weed Tour of South Routt, 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m., July 13, meet at the Oak Creek Town Hall. RSVP requested to the Routt County Extension Office, 879-0825.

The first tour begins today and will take people to noxious weed patches in the Steamboat area. It will last an hour and a half. That will be followed by a poisonous weed tour on Friday, hosted by the nation's leading poisonous weed researcher, Dr. Tony Knight. Similar tours will be offered in Oak Creek and Hayden in July.

"We're going to show people weed infestations and why we are concerned," Extension Agent C.J. Mucklow said.

For people in the city, noxious and poisonous weeds are no big deal. The plants are even welcomed by some people because of the flowers some produce.

However, for ranchers, noxious weeds suck up the nutrients in the land, push out native grasses and are not edible for livestock or wildlife.

Because they are not indigenous to the area, noxious weeds have no natural predators to keep populations in check.

Poisonous weeds are a different problem. Most are not edible, but they do grow in hay fields. If not identified and treated, the weeds can be cut and mixed with hay and fed to animals.

The best way to combat the invasive plants is to stop infestations before they get out of control. That means property owners need to be aware of what the plants look like. Often, one property infested with unwanted plants can affect surrounding property.

"It's always a big problem," said Jo Stanko, who owns a ranch south of Steamboat with her husband, Jim.

Luckily, all their neighbors spray for weeds, but it's still a problem that needs to be dealt with every year.

The Stankos fight infestations of the noxious weed white top and a poisonous weed called lupine.

"We lost 15 acres in a hay field to lupine," Stanko said.

Plus, last year the Stankos had to spend $1,000 to treat for the unwelcomed plants.

Routt County officials have identified many noxious and poisonous weeds that live in the Yampa Valley.

In and around Steamboat, the noxious plants spotted knapweed and white top have flourished, as well as the poisonous weed hemlock.

Hayden is overrun by leafy spurge.

"South Routt is the least infected in the county," Mucklow said. That's because it is the least populated. However, a large breakout of musk thistle near Morrison Creek on Lynx Pass has been spotted and is being treated.

Dalmatian toadflax, diffuse knapweed, hoary cress, Russian knapweed, spotted knapweed and yellow toadflax are found around Routt County.

"We want people to be really careful of spotted knapweed," Mucklow said.

The plant was spotted in Steamboat last year and is the most invasive weed in the county.

Along with lupine, houndstongue and hemlock are the poisonous plants in the valley.

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