In the beetle-killed forest, a second scourge grows
Invasive weeds pose an insidious threat to Summit County’s post beetle-kill forest landscape.
A host of exotic plant species are already making an impact in our area. These noxious plants could find conditions in dying lodgepole pine tree stands even more conducive to explosive growth as fire mitigation and timber recovery efforts provide unintended ways to introduce undesirable seed stock into the backcountry.
Non-native plant species of particular concern to locals include:
– Scentless (false) chamomile, which can produce 10,000 to 200,000 seeds per plant;
– Oxeye daisy, a showy, pretty plant that crowds out native grasses;
– Yellow toadflax, an escaped ornamental harmful to livestock, which is common in soil disturbed by utility construction or by fire;
– Canada thistle, attracted to piles of wood chips, which can colonize an area 3 to 6 feet in diameter in just one or two years;
– Musk thistle, a biennial weed that can grow up to 8 feet tall.
Since noxious weeds do affect property values, state law requires seller disclosure of their presence. In North Dakota, for example, banks will not write loans to finance purchases of land infested with the noxious weed leafy spurge until it is completely eradicated.
What can be done? Make sure the contractors that you hire to remove the trees clean all their equipment before arriving at your job site. Determine where they were last working and make sure they understand the effects noxious weeds have on the environment and particularly your job site. Use certified weed free straw for protective mulch and revegetate the area as soon as possible to let native plants and grasses become established before the weeds move in. Continually monitor the site and remove any weeds that might appear.
The county weed program maintains a website providing a comprehensive overview of invasive exotic plants at http://www.co.summit.co.us/Weeds/weedville.htm.
Landowners may also access information on the county’s weed control cost-share initiative there. You may contact a weed control specialist there at (970) 668-4252.
Matt Barnes, a rangeland management specialist with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, has an inventory of grass seed for sale for anyone considering a revegetation or erosion control project.
Those interested in purchasing a supply may contact him at the Kremmling Field Office, (970) 724-3456 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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