State weed rules give Routt County guidelines

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When rules for the 2003 Colorado Noxious Weed Act came out last week, Routt County Weed Control Supervisor Matt Custer said he was happy with what he read.

"It clarifies priorities at the state level," Custer said.

Before the rules, which stemmed from the act passed last year by the Colorado Legislature, the state had one long list of 80 weed species, with all infestations considered the same. With the new rules, that changed.

"Now, the state has a priority on 17 species that are the ones that we can make the biggest difference on," Custer said.

The state has organized noxious weeds into three lists. Counties are required to eradicate any of the 17 weeds on the "A" list.

The weeds on that list are ones that have small populations but are "nasty invasive weeds," Custer said. Because they are only in a small area, the state has the best chance of getting rid of them with concentrated efforts.

Meadow knapweed, for example, found on a 20-acre area near Mad Creek, is on the list. Routt County has the only known infestation of the weed in the state. The plant can grow up to 40 inches tall and has nickel-size pink flowers and lance-shaped leaves. It has caused big problems for irrigated hay meadows in Washington.

"Of course, we don't want to have any more problems for our irrigated hay meadows, and the state doesn't want a problem like this getting bigger than 20 acres if it can help it," Custer said.

The county has started to identify the weed's range and has come up with eradication plans, he said.

Two other weeds on the "A" list are found in Routt County in very isolated spots and are used as ornamentals. Purple loosestrife is in three spots as an ornamental, including at the McDonald's in Steamboat, and the county has been working to remove the plant. McDonald's restaurant officials have been very cooperative in helping to get rid of their plants, Custer said.

The other ornamental, myrtle spurge, is only found in one spot, he said.

Under the new state rules, Routt County is required to eradicate those three weeds.

For weeds on the "B" and "C" lists, counties can choose which ones it wants to manage. Some of the weeds should be eradicated, while others are so widespread they should just be managed in the best way possible by the county, Custer said.

Routt County is continuing to work on eight noxious weeds on its own list, which includes the water-thirsty tamarisk.

In related news, Custer was elected to a one-year term as president of the Colorado Weed Management Association. The 350-member organization educates the public on noxious weed issues. He also participated in the National Invasive Weed Awareness Week in Washington, D.C., last month, during which weed-management professionals and representatives from federal land groups and congressional staff discussed noxious weed issues.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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