As citizens of Colorado, we have a responsibility to manage noxious weeds as designated under the 2003 Colorado Noxious Weed Act, Title 35, Article 5.5. The law states that it is the duty of all persons to use integrated methods to manage noxious weeds if the same are likely to be materially damaging to the land of neighboring landowners.
The Colorado Department of Agriculture maintains a list of noxious weeds designated for management that is divided into three lists: A, B and C.
List A plants are designated for eradication on all state, federal and private lands. List B weeds include plants whose continued spread should be stopped by containment and suppression and List C weeds are designated for recommended control methods.
The CDA also maintains a watch list, including plants for which additional monitoring and evaluation are indicated to determine if they warrant inclusion as a noxious weed.
A complete listing of these weeds can be found at the CDA, Division of Plant Industry website and the Routt County Weed Program can provide booklets and help in identifying these weeds.
The Colorado Noxious Weed Act also gives the counties authority to designate weeds not on the Colorado lists and mandate management responsibilities.
Routt County’s list consists of 13 weeds that are common to the Colorado list and include: cypress spurge, myrtle spurge, leafy spurge, diiffuse knapweed, meadow knapweed, Russian knapweed, spotted knapweed, Dalmatian toadflax, yellow toadflax, Whitetop, houndstongue, orange hawkweed and purple loosestrife.
Some of these weeds are prolific in Routt County and some are rare, but the presence of any of these weeds on a property requires that an effort be made manage them.
The Weed Act requires that control efforts be instituted, and if they are not, this gives the county the authority to treat the weeds and bill the property owner or place a lien on the property for the costs incurred in treating the weed infestation. It also requires the county to control the weeds on any right-of-way adjacent to said property.
If a plan and effort are made to treat the weeds, no treatment by the county is authorized.
That summarizes the legal responsibility of landowners to manage noxious weeds, but what is the real value in treating them?
Noxious weeds displace native vegetation that can seriously impact native plant communities, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities, livestock grazing and land value.
An example of weed impacts would be the effect of leafy spurge on cattle production, where 40 percent cover by the spurge can result in a 90 percent loss of grazing productivity.
Local wildlife officers report that every elk coming through a game check station for the last few hunting seasons has had houndstongue burs on their hide.
Most of this seed comes from infestations on private ground below the National Forest. I think most of us strive to be good neighbors and exercise responsible stewardship over the lands under our care and we can start by controlling our own weeds.
Greg Brown, of the Routt County Weed Program, can be reached at 970-870-5246 or email@example.com.