Weed beaters

Colorado State Cooperation Extension office taking a whack at noxious weeds

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— In the 1820s, Russian immigrants moving into North Dakota unknowingly brought over an obnoxious little weed that would eventually haunt Routt County.

Now in the 21st century, Colorado and other states are spending millions of dollars fighting the descendants of nonnative plants and animals throughout America.

In Routt County's case, officials have targeted seven noxious weeds, including the Leafy Spurge, which was first brought in by the Russian immigrants and their straw.

"Before Styrofoam, travelers used straw as packing material," said Matt Custer, weed supervisor with the Routt County office of the Colorado State Cooperative Extension.

"The weeds would come in with the straw."

Custer said landowners can ask the extension office to send someone out to inspect their pastures or land for these noxious weeds.

"We don't do anything in town. We don't do lawns, but if they have a pasture or corral ," Custer said.

The county will then spray the weeds for the landowner, charging them for the labor and chemicals.

The seven weeds targeted by Routt County are very invasive and can replace natural vegetation, eventually leading to the displacement of wildlife as well.

"In Montana, the Spotted Knapweed has been shown to reduce elk foraging by 98 percent," Custer said.

Spotted Knapweed is on Routt County's list as well.

The targeted weeds are also useless for livestock grazing.

"The weeds don't have any competitors here," Custer said. This could eventually lead to the noxious weeds taking over entire pastures, he said.

Custer said the county can start spraying in lower elevations next week. Higher elevations may have to wait a little while longer.

The state actually requires each county to develop a weed plan to try to control the spread of nonnative, invasive weeds.

"We want to stop them before they get so bad they can't be controlled," Custer said.

For more information, call Routt County Weed Control at 870-5246.

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