Noxious weeds raise plenty of problems in Vail Valley |

Noxious weeds raise plenty of problems in Vail Valley

Gregg Barrie
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily/bugwood.orgMilk thistle is a noxious weed commonly found in Colorado's Vail Valley

VAIL, Colorado ” You may not realize it, but a war of the worlds is underway in Colorado’s Vail Valley ” an alien invasion of sorts. You won’t see any little green men running around your back yard, but the arrival of spring brings a fresh crop of noxious weeds to the Colorado High Country.

By definition, a noxious weed is a highly aggressive, non-native plant that is officially listed on the Colorado noxious weed list. These plants invade native habitats and agricultural lands, can harm wildlife, water quality, and take up recreation space.

“Why should I care?” you might ask. And maybe you don’t. But if you value the things that brought most of us here, such as fishing, hunting, camping, fields of wildflowers and wildlife grazing the hillside, then please, read on.

Noxious weeds must be controlled for several reasons. First of all, it’s the law. The Colorado Noxious Weed Act requires all property owners, both public and private, to manage noxious weeds on their property.

On a more ecological level, control is essential because of the damage these plants cause. Noxious weeds tend to form “monocultures,” meaning that once they take root, they drive out most other plants and eliminate the biodiversity a healthy ecosystem needs.

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They have few predators and little competition, allowing them to spread at an alarming rate. Additionally, wildlife usually do not eat noxious. Therefore, when the native plants are gone, so are the animals that feed on them.

Noxious weeds can cover hiking and biking trails. They also can invade stream banks, which threatens fish and makes it harder for fishermen and animals to get to the river.

The “monocultures” created by noxious weeds leave open soil between plants, which increases the amount of soil that gets into streams. Noxious weeks also can overrun and destroy crop lands and grazing areas. In fact, many of these plants are poisonous to livestock and wild animals

Those are just a few of the reasons for managing invasive plants. With more than 25 species identified within Eagle County, controlling and eliminating these plants won’t be easy . Federal, state and local agencies have been working on the problem for many years, the cooperation of private landowners is essential. After all, your weed control is only as good as your neighbor’s.

For the next 15 weeks, the Vail Daily, in conjunction with the town of Vail, Eagle County Weed and Pest, and the Colorado State Extension, will feature a Weed of the Week. The articles will offer tips on identifying and controlling plants found in Eagle County as well as suggestions for native replacements to many of the escaped ornamentals found in some local gardens.

Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” Weed management agencies recognize that the best tool against the spread of invasive species is through the spread of information.

For more information on how you can help fight noxious weeds, or about the weed management programs in Eagle County visit or Or call the Eagle County Weed and Pest Department, 970-328-3540, the town of Vail Department of Public Works 970-479-2158, or the Eagle County Extension Office 970-328-8630. The Vail Daily will highlight a noxious weed in this space each week.

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