For a second year, the Montezuma County Board of Commissioners is using its enforcement authority to control unattended noxious weeds on private lands.
The commissioners have made weed control a higher priority in recent years to prevent their spread and protect crops of neighboring farmland.
Under the Colorado Noxious Weed Act, if a landowner does not control a significant weed problem, counties may pass a resolution that authorizes contractors to enter private land and conduct weed mitigation measures.
In 2017, at the request of weed manager Bonnie Loving, the county used its enforcement authority to treat weeds on properties on County Roads 21, M, CC, 38 and J.
Last week, county commissioners approved treated of five properties on Colorado Highway 145 and County Roads 38.5 and 10.
Property owners are sent a bill for the treatment, and they have been paying, county officials said. Under the Noxious Weed Act, the county may place a lien on a property until the bill is paid.
Noxious weed infestations receiving county treatment include hoary cress, Russian knapweed, musk thistle, Canada thistle, Russian thistle, hound’s-tongue and oxeye daisy.
Enforcement procedures are a last resort, Loving said, that “target extensive noxious weed populations that are affecting adjacent lands.”
First, landowners are sent notification letters informing them of the noxious weeds, how to manage them, as hot to get cost-share programs.
The landowner then is requested to submit a weed management plan. If the weed problem does not improve in a year or two and continues to pose a threat to neighboring land, a certified enforcement letter is sent out.
The letter gives the landowner 10 days to submit a management plan. If the property owner doesn’t comply, county commissioners are asked to approve a resolution allowing right-of-entry onto the property and contract treatment.
Noxious weeds cause significant problems for neighboring farms that do control weeds, Loving said. Blowing seeds infest nearby crops, reduce yields, increase weed control costs, and can result in a farmer not getting weed-certified hay. Farmers bordering infestations are also forced to rotate crops in a way that is not desirable.
Russian knapweed is becoming more a problem in the county, Loving said. Based on a recent survey, she estimates that one out of 20 properties has it.
“It is fatally toxic to the horse family, not palatable to most grazing animals, and puts zinc into the soil to kill off native species,” Loving said.
Overgrazing is a leading cause of Russian knapweed, because it easily moves into damaged native grass populations, then emits zinc into the soil, suppressing native plants.
Reclaiming land with a large area of Russian knapweed can take years to reclaim, Loving said, and will require using multiple management methods.
“I hope we all make it a priority to take care of our land,” she said. “When you disturb an area, you need to reseed and manage it correctly.”
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