Summit County’s weed whackers
Summit Daily News
When vast meadows are filled with the same flower, it’s likely it’s a noxious weed.
So said John Taylor, who helps coordinate the Summit County portion of Pulling for Colorado, as he showed photos of colorful fields in the county’s back yard.
Noxious weeds are those plants that aren’t native and don’t provide natural food for grazers. That’s why they can populate a field so vastly and uniformly.
‘They’re pretty flowers that were brought in,” Taylor said, explaining that Dame’s Rocket, Yellow Toadflax and Oxeye Daisy are among the most popular weeds in the area.
“These species, by and large, don’t have any enemies, so they kind of run rampant,” he said, adding that in doing so, the weeds eliminate natural forage for the same animals that won’t eat the unnatural species.
The goal of the statewide project is to curb the weeds in various areas to either eliminate or contain them. Pulling the weeds helps eliminate the seeds from the environment, which keeps them from spreading.
Taylor brought up an image of a volunteer with an armful of weeds, saying that bundle could have as many as a million seeds.
“So people can feel they’re having an impact,” he said.
The Summit County Weed Pull is slated for 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, July 9. Volunteers meet at the Summit County Community and Senior Center in Frisco, where a light breakfast is served prior to a short educational segment on noxious weeds. Then, volunteers head to various sites identified by the weed pull organizing team as areas needing particular attention. Certain weeds are better suited for hand pulling than others – Canada thistle is one that “can get mada nd come back and bite you,” Taylor said, so that’s left to spray crews or more heavy duty removal. Lunch is served after the event, with gift giveaways.
Some of the areas set up for pulling right now include the Lower Blue, Dillon to Frisco, and Frisco to Breckenridge.
“Education is a big component of the event,” Taylor said, because as information about noxious weeds spreads – particularly the pretty, flowering ones – their movement across the landscape can slow.
“People might think (these flowers) are pretty and take some home, and that spread (the seeds),” Taylor said. He showed a picture of oxeye daisy running up an old road off of Rock Creek Road north of Silverthorne. The road heads into the wilderness from Pebble Creek Ranch, and is covered in small, white flowers. Presumably, it started as a household decorative plant, Taylor said, and escaped. As a perennial, it spreads by roots and seed.
He estimates that the Summit County Weed Pull, now in its fourth year, might see more than 200 participants this year. Last year, about 140 showed up, and the year prior, about 120 volunteers.
The effort actually started seven years ago, with Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness finding a grant from the National Forest Foundation. About $10,000 bought the ability to bring in an outfitter to spray the invasive weeds, with an emphasis on Canada thistle.
“He started by coming in for a week,” Taylor said. “Now, we’re down to three or four days because he’s gotten the infestations down to a level that the Forest Service and Forest Service volunteers can go in and backpack spray.”
He said there have been victories along the way, not just in getting more volunteers out for the weed pull, or with awareness spreading about noxious weeds and their impacts on the environment. There are also visible results, he said, such as a hillside along the North Ten Mile trail, which had an entire hillside covered with yellow toadflax.
“You go up there now, and it’s gone,” Taylor said.
His new target is a meadow above Officers Gulch, sitting at about 11,000 feet. There’s an isolated patch of yellow toadflax Taylor wants gone.
“Last year we sprayed it. This year, we’ll see if it worked,” he said.
Even with small victories, the battle against noxious weeds isn’t ending anytime soon, Taylor said. The goal is to educate the population about their urban setting impact and prevent the spread of weeds beyond the trailheads.
“You don’t hit home runs in this,” Taylor said. “You hit base hits.”
That’s with education and the Canada thistle. They throw out 20,000 seeds that have a life of several years before they germinate and come up. So spraying isn’t just a one-time event, either.
“We hope to nibble away at the edges and hope to get to the center and get it taken care of,” Taylor said.
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