Fighting the war on Noxious Weeds
|Yellow toadflax is a plant declared a noxious weed by Carbon County.|
With spring approaching after an extremely wet winter, many have begun thinking about what to do with their gardens. Along with the concerns of what to plant and how to take care of existing plants, gardeners and farmers consider how to deal with weeds.
While some weeds are simply a common nuisance, others, known as noxious weeds, have become more of a concern due to their ability to reproduce quickly, spread rapidly and choke out other plants. Others are classified as noxious weeds because they increase erosion and harm animal habitats. Many are non-native plants that have been brought into areas by animals, water routes, wind and humans.
One such example is the recent growth of tamarisk in the Colorado Plateau. Experts suggest the plant invaded the Southwest of the United States about 100 years ago, and spread through the Rio Grande and Colorado river systems.
Tamarisk has spread through the Colorado River System, up the Green River to the Price River and its tributaries. Though the plant mostly grows below 2,000 feet, it is just one example of how a weed can spread, causing changes to the ecosystems it invades, and upsetting the plant life in areas it invades.
Federal law began addressing noxious weeds in 1976, when noxious weed regulations were added to USDA code. The law has been expanding ever since with a list of dozens of specific plant species, with the last additions made in April 2001.
Utah law reciprocated by enacting the Utah Noxious Weed Act in 1981. The law adds 19 weeds to the federal list, including the following:
|Musk thistle is on Utah's noxious weed list. It is a rapidly-producing weed, but can be easily stopped.|
Bermudagrass (cynodon dactylon)
Canada thistle (cirsium arvense)
Diffuse knapweed (centaurea diffusa)
Dyers woad (isatis tinctoria L)
Field bindweed (Wild Morning Glory) (convolvulus arvensis)
Hoary cress (cardaria drabe)
Johnsongrass (sorghum halepense)
Leafy spurge (euphorbia esula)
Medusahead (taeniatherum caput-medusae)
Musk thistle (carduus mutans)
Perennial pepperweed (lepidium latifolium)
Perennial sorghum (sorghum halepense L & sorghum almum)
Purple loosestrife (lythrum salicaria L.)
Quackgrass (agropyron repens)
Russian knapweed (centaurea repens)
Scotch thistle (onopordum acanthium)
Spotted knapweed (centaurea maculosa)
Squarrose knapweed (centaurea squarrosa)
Yellow starthistle (centaurea solstitialis)
Counties have power to create their own lists. Carbon County added russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia L. ), dalmation toadflax (Linaria genistifolia ssp. Dalmatica) and yellow toadflax (Linaria vulgaris).
Mike Johnson, supervisor of the Carbon County maintenance and abatement department, operates under the Utah Noxious Weed Act and works with property owners to help them comply with the regulations.
|Icelander wash runs south from Columbia to Green River. Members of the Skyline Cooperative Weed Management Area plan to combat Russian knapweed in the wash through help from government agencies and volunteers.|
"The biggest problem is the people who own the property won't take care of their own noxious weeds. It's a state law that they're supposed to. People think it's the county's job, but it's the county's job to enforce. A lot of people don't know what they are. There's the other problem. People need to be educated," said Johnson.
The Utah law defines common dissemination means and places restrictions on the following:
Machinery and equipment, particularly combines and hay balers
Farm trucks and common carriers
Screenings sold for livestock feed
Livestock feed material
Hay, straw or other material of similar nature
Soil, sod and nursery stock
Noxious weeds distributed or sold for any purpose
The law defines regulations for transportation or sale of the items listed.
"The county has a plan to help the private people take care of their noxious weeds. We'll go in and explain to them what it is and cost share with them for the first few times until they get caught up. Then they're supposed to take over," Johnson explained.
The country is divided into cooperative weed management areas. The concept of a CWMA is to allow different government agencies to partner in combating the weed problems.
"In the past, the forest service could only take care of forest service land, the state road department could only take care of the state road property," said Johnson.
"But now with this cooperative, there are no more boundaries. The forest service can come and help us, we can help them, the state can help the BLM. Everybody can go anywhere they need to to take care of the weeds."
This allows organizations to pool resources and manpower to take care of problems as they arise and cooperate in the process.
|Purple loosestrife is a noxious weed common in Utah wetlands.|
Carbon, Emery and Sanpete counties are part of the Skyline CWMA, which spans from Skyline to Green River. Agencies within the area are able to pool their resources and obtain grants to cover additional costs.
Most grants require the cooperative to match the funds. They usually do this with time, equipment and chemical. The employees and volunteers with the different agencies can pool the value of their time and capital resources, such as machines and equipment and match the funds donated.
Rosann Fillmore, of Manti-LaSal National Forest Service, works to develop many of the grants. Fillmore explained that there's a lot of money out there for weed control. The challenge is matching it. In order to obtain grant money, volunteer efforts and equipment often have to be in place.
One project which recently received funding is planned for controlling Russian knapweed in Icelander Wash, a wash running south from East Carbon.
"We've put together work days with cooperation from BLM, Forest Service, the Division of Wildlife Resources, Carbon County and Emery County. We even have a local ATV group involved," said Johnson.
A containable infestation of dalmation toadflags near Electric Lake and Fairview Lake will be addressed in another CWMA project using funds from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. Fillmore explained that she hopes to explore an option to combine that effort with combating musk thistle.
Fillmore explained that she hoped to begin a public education campaign on musk thistle, informing land users that cutting the tops off musk thistle before they get ready to spread their seeds can help stop the spread of the weed.
A CWMA in Idaho paid students for every pound of weeds they killed. Fillmore suggested that a similar idea might work in this area with musk thistle, where land users could be paid for every pound of musk thistle heads they gathered for destruction.
One project which began under the Skyline Cooperative will soon become a resource for Utah agencies to track weed management.
When the cooperative started, various agencies used differing methods to track weed management. Some were using sophisticated digital databases, and tracking locations using GPS devices. Others were logging their efforts in spiral notebooks, and using less precise location-tracking methods.
The Skyline and Sanpitch CWMAs began a project of compiling all of the data into a centralized database, and mapping the weed management and problem areas. Using funding from the U.S. Forest Service, made available to the CWMAs through the state, the database will be combined with other mapped systems to become a public resource for weed control.
Presently there is no mapping structure in place for compiling the data, but the Utah Automated Geographic Reference Center and Utah Department of Agriculture will develop a state standard of shared codes for the database and make the data available with other geographic mapping resources at the AGRC's website, http://agrc.utah.gov/.