Locust control plan in works

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— They're coming.

Signs of the big-eyed bugs everyone loves to hate could pop up in Routt County as early as next month, Routt County Cooperative Extension Office Director C.J. Mucklow said Monday.

The county does not yet know if the number and intensity of grasshoppers in 2003 will rival last year's infestation.

A cold, damp spring could rein the grasshopper population back to normal levels, but county officials aren't holding their breath.

"We can't wait," Mucklow said.

The county extension office began meeting with area homeowners' associations in October to look at possible ways to prevent future grasshopper outbreaks. The final meeting to help rural and subdivision homeowners, farmers and ranchers prepare for a potential infestation is scheduled for Wednesday.

The grasshopper population swelled last summer because of a warm, dry spring that protected eggs. By the time county officials realized the size of the grasshopper outbreak, it was too late to stop it.

The unwelcome winged visitors devoured fields and lawns left bone-dry by drought.

Last fall, Steamboat Springs High School senior Joe Pokay gathered information for the county extension office about the damaging effects of drought and grasshoppers on area agricultural and residential properties. Pokay's survey area stretched from north of Clark to south of Oak Creek, and west of Hayden to Steamboat Springs.

His data revealed that grasshoppers did not attack well-irrigated areas with the same intensity as they did dry areas.

No state or federal funds are available for controlling the pests, so private resources are essential in fighting the spread and scope of grasshoppers this summer.

The county extension office would like to identify homeowners who want to pool their resources and jointly pursue a plan to prevent another possible infestation.

Wednesday's meeting is intended to educate interested homeowners about grasshoppers and discuss strategies to cooperatively control the pests.

The county is hoping homeowners in the Old Carver Ranch area, as well as homeowners in Steamboat II, Silver Spur and Heritage Park subdivisions along Routt County Road 52, will attend the meeting.

"To have a truly effective control program, we must form an unofficial pest district and combine our individual efforts in an area-wide program," Mucklow said. "If we can accomplish this, we can have a more effective control program at less cost to individuals."

The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the commissioners' hearing room in the Routt County Courthouse Annex.

-- To reach Danie Harrelson call 871-4203 or e-mail dharrelson@steamboatpilot.com

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