A Montezuma County resident criticized part of the county’s weed management policy and called for more public outreach at Monday’s county commissioners meeting.
Laurie Hall, who runs an organic farm, said county staff should make a better effort to exempt people who don’t want their property sprayed with herbicides. Some county residents, including Hall and other organic farmers, created homemade “no-spray” signs to indicate that the property owners did not want the roadsides or other adjacent county rights-of-way sprayed.
Hall said the homemade signs for years were honored by county weed management staff, but recent policy changes now require people to sign a “no-spray agreement” form and pick up official county signage. Hall said she had made an effort to educate people about the change, including putting up informational posters and writing letters to the editor.
Hall said the no-spray policy was aggressive and some of the language should be changed. The policy includes a yearly deadline of April 15, by which time people must sign the agreement to be considered a participant in the program. The agreement also includes a statement absolving Montezuma County of any liability.
“I think deadlines and threats are counter-productive,” Hall said.
County weeds manager Bonnie Loving said the no-spray policy was not new, and had been around for at least the past two years since she has been in the position. She agreed with Hall, saying that the policy could benefit from some changes.
Loving pointed out that Colorado state law requires that noxious weeds be managed, and she said some people who have homemade “no-spray” signs do not manage noxious weeds well. She said she had been making an effort to provide the public with information on noxious weeds, appearing at the Four Corners Ag Expo and mapping the county’s problem areas for weeds.
County crews spray herbicide to mitigate harmful and invasive weeds, as well as mow tall vegetation on roadsides so it does not obstruct drivers’ views, Loving said.
The county will enter into a moratorium on spraying areas with homemade “no-spray” signs until the first week of August, Loving said. After that point, people will be expected to sign up for the county’s official no-spray program if they do not want areas sprayed near their property.
Commissioner Larry Don Suckla said the county’s effort to fight noxious weeds is still relatively new, so staff and officials are still getting used to the procedures. Suckla agreed that the no-spray policy had some issues.
“We’re willing to say we made a mistake,” he said. “But we need to work together and move forward.”
Commissioner Keenan Ertel said the noxious weed problem in Montezuma County is severe, and county officials are committed to improving the situation.
“We’re serious about taking care of noxious weeds in Montezuma County,” Ertel said. “I think we’re on the way to a solution.”