Six-county weed cooperative under way |

Six-county weed cooperative under way

SUMMIT COUNTY – There is power in numbers, and local weed director Paul Schreiner hopes that power will net the newly formed Upper Headwaters Cooperative funding to fight noxious weeds in the High Country.

Representatives from Summit, Lake, Eagle, Clear Creek, Grand and Chaffee counties met Thursday to discuss how to get the cooperative up and running. Immediate goals include developing a strategic plan and recruiting more stakeholders. After that, they hope to leverage their united front to obtain grants to fight weeds and educate people about noxious weeds in the region.

The cooperative is modeled after the Upper Arkansas Weed Cooperative, which was formed five years ago.

“There were people out there doing weed work anyway,” Schreiner said. “They took what they were each doing, put it together and said, “How much does that equal? (in terms of funding).’ Then they moved into the federal funding realm.”

Federal grant programs generally mete money out on a 2-to-1 matching basis, with the local entity supplying the smaller amount, Schreiner said.

Schreiner hopes to include other stakeholders in the cooperative venture. Some of them are Denver Water, the Colorado Department of Transportation, the U.S. Forest Service, Trout Unlimited, the Bureau of Land Management, the Northwest Colorado Council of Governments and the city of Aurora, all of which have land holdings in the six-county area.

He can’t fight weeds without money to lease weed-munching goats, mow acres of Canada thistle, spray herbicides in remote areas or release insects to protect native species.

“It’s important to work with your neighbors,” Schreiner said. “It’s so important to know what’s going on in your neighbor’s yard, in the county next door. We get so busy we don’t have time to call Lake or Park and ask, “What do you have going on next to my border?'”

The six counties share a high altitude in which the same noxious weeds take root. In Summit County, high-priority weeds include leafy spurge, most thistles, false chamomile and spotted knapweed – all of which exist in the other participating counties.

Lingering cold weather has delayed plant growth this spring, meaning Schreiner’s weed crews will have to cram four months of work into three. Last year, Schreiner and his crew treated 420 acres, and they expect to treat the same amount this year because of the increased moisture this spring.

High-priority areas this year include a newly discovered, 9-acre patch of knapweed near Lowry Campground on Swan Mountain Road. Schreiner suspects the infestation began when heavy equipment dropped a knapweed seed while cutting a path through the forest to make way for the power lines above.

Another hot spot will be along Highway 9 north of Silverthorne, where construction has disturbed soil. Whenever the soil is disturbed, dormant weed seeds quickly grow and proliferate, Schreiner said.

Weed crews also will work along the county’s roads and the shore of the Dillon Reservoir. Originally, Schreiner thought the exposed lake bed would become a sea of white as false chamomile took hold. But water officials now say the lake should fill to 92 percent if spring precipitation continues.

“That makes me so happy,” Schreiner said. “I’m sleeping at night again.”

The weed-eating goats that have visited the county for the past two summers have been cut from the county’s budget this year. Schreiner plans to mimic their grazing by mowing weeds at the budding stage.

Schreiner said much of the hard work – controlling weed populations – has been accomplished in the past three years, and now crews spend most of their time ensuring reinfestations don’t occur.

“We’ve thrown our lariat, and our loop is really huge right now,” he said. “Whether we have a horse big enough to stop it is the question. But we’re better off now than we were three years ago.”

Money for Weeds

The Board of County Commissioners has allocated $10,000 this year for a cost-share program to help homeowners and homeowners associations fight noxious weeds. The county will provide 50 percent of the cost, up to $500, for private landowners to eradicate weeds.

Applicants must apply for the funds and submit a weed

management plan. A weed advisory board will evaluate plans on a first-come, first-served basis. Criteria include the intensity of an infested area, the type of weed, the location of the land – particularly if it’s near a waterway – and other considerations.

People interested can call County Weed Coordinator Paul Schreiner at (970) 668-4252.

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