Summit County weed warriors holding their own
Summit County, CO Colorado
SUMMIT COUNTY, Colorado – New types of weeds, including the dreaded tamarisk, have been sprouting in the area, but the county’s weed eradication program is holding its own.
Tamarisk, also known as salt cedar, was found a couple of years ago growing in a rock wall in Frisco. The plants were likely brought in during construction, said Lisa Taylor, director of Summit’s weed control program. The invasive plant has infested many areas in the lower Colorado River Basin, drinking millions of gallons of water that could otherwise be used for irrigation, municipalities or environmental purposes.
A second tamarisk sprout was located near Silverthorne, Taylor said. The plant is difficult to eradicate when established, requiring heavy duty applications of herbicides and even burning.
Taylor said the Summit County specimens are gone. It’s not clear how easily the plants spread in the higher-elevation cool climates, but Taylor doesn’t think tamarisk will be a major problem here. Keeping Summit County free of tamarisk is a high priority because of its impact on water resources.
Taylor said a couple of other non-native plants have made a spotty appearance in Summit County, including absinthe wormwood and sulphur cinquefoil, the latter in the Heaton Bay campground.
Weed fighters say certain invasive plants can quickly displace local vegetation and damage habitat for animals that depend on native plants. The county’s program has been effective in treating county rights of way and open space areas, but less successful getting rid of unwanted plants on private property.
Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier wanted to know how enforcement is going.
“We’ve taken a kindler, gentler approach,” said assistant county manager Steve Hill, explaining how Taylor’s department works with homeowner associations to underscore the benefits of getting rid of weeds. Local property owners can rent a sprayer from the weed department for a do-it-yourself approach, he said.
State law enables local jurisdictions to get serious about invasive plants. In the worst cases, authorities can write tickets or treat weeds at an owner’s expense.
Taylor said she first sends out a friendly educational letter when she or staffers spot a problem.
“It’s, ‘Hi, here’s what you’ve got.’ About 20 percent respond to that,” Taylor said.
Then there’s a not-so-friendly letter that explains the potential repercussions of non-action.
“The third letter says, ‘if you don’t do something, we’re going to come get you.’ We’ve never gone beyond that,” Taylor said, explaining that direct action would require permission from a judge. In any case, that final step is only warranted with certain weeds designated on the state’s “A-list.”
“I feel we need more enforcement,” Taylor said. “What will that be? I don’t know. It takes time to go out and look, write the letters and follow up.”
“If we need to get more aggressive, I’d be supportive,” Stiegelmeier said, also cautioning about the use of herbicides near water.
The Ptarmigan neighborhood near Silverthorne will be an area of focus this year. Taylor said she’s working with residents to get a grant for large-scale treatment and hopes to qualify because the homes are located next to a national forest.
Keeping weeds out of national forest wilderness areas is also an ongoing goal. With grant funding from local ski areas and the National Forest Foundation, some trails leading to local wilderness areas will once again be treated this summer.
And in typical Summit County fashion, local residents will take a hands-on approach Saturday with a community weed pull. Participants will meet at 8 a.m. at the Summit County Community and Senior Center near Frisco and then fan out across the county to do their work. For more information, call (970) 409-8867.
Also visit http://www.co.summit.co.us/weeds for all the information on local weed control.
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