Some of them may look pretty, but they threaten to change the High Country forever.
On Saturday, Summit County is hosting its seventh annual community weed pull, where volunteers will claw and dig at the issue of invasive plant species.
“We’re sitting at a point in time where people can make a difference with noxious weeds,” said Steve Elzinga, range technician for the east zone of the White River National Forest. “If you don’t know which noxious weeds are which, the weed pull is a great event to come to to learn that.”
Volunteers will meet at the Community and Senior Center in Frisco at 8 a.m. Saturday, July 12, for a brief presentation before splitting up to pull weeds at two locations. One will be near the Dickey Day Use parking area next to Dillon Reservoir near Farmers Korner, and the other spot will be along the Blue River in Breckenridge next to Airport Road.
In both places, volunteers will focus on invasive thistle varieties that don’t get aggravated and multiply when they’re yanked out of the ground.
“People don’t really understand what they are and the damage that they do,” said Lisa Taylor, the county weed manager. “Because they’re nonnative, they have no natural checks and balances here.”
That means even innocent-looking plants like daisies can take over, she said. When they aren’t eaten by wildlife or livestock, they push out native animal species and change entire ecosystems.
The Friends of the Dillon Ranger District hosted the county weed pull for its first five years, and the county has organized it for the last two, Taylor said. She added that because the county won’t host it next year, the event might not continue unless another group decides to sponsor it.
She said the state and county maintain lists of weeds that have been proven to cause environmental or economic harm.
Elzinga has managed noxious weeds in the area for 15 years and called the plant invasion a big environmental issue.
“These plants will throw our environment completely out of whack,” he said.
Another public event next week will target ranchers, large property owners and caretakers, educating them about weed identification, control methods, herbicide application and revegetation.
“It’s definitely not rocket science,” Elzinga said.
At the same time, he wants people to be more effective and efficient. “There’s good ways to do it, and then there’s really hard ways to do it,” he said.
That event is hosted by the Middle Park Conservation District, the Weed Departments of Summit and Grand counties, Colorado State University Extension and Friends of the Lower Blue River. For more information, visit summitcountyweeds.com.