RIDGWAY – The weeds are getting away from us, and San Miguel County Weed Manager Sheila Grother wants to do something about it. At a June 17 tri-county work session, Grother presented an ambitious proposal to establish a Cooperative Weed Management Area on Wright’s Mesa that would combat the rapidly proliferating weed known as whitetop. Grother told county representatives that over the past several years, whitetop has been spreading from Wright’s Mesa to other locations within the counties, including the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, the mesas and the Uncompahgre Plateau.
“Wright’s Mesa is an area struggling to remain agriculturally viable, and it is the opinion of both county weed control specialists that agriculture is being severely impacted by this noxious weed. Without a concerted effort on private lands, agriculture will continue to see these impacts,” Grother wrote in a background paper which contained photographs of ditches and pastures infested with the weed.
Multiple strategies for controlling invasive weeds were evaluated by the San Miguel County Weed Advisory Board, and herbicides were determined to be the most viable and least expensive control method.
Grother asked that a weed management area or district be established in order to facilitate grant funding to underwrite the spraying and administrative time needed to monitor the contaminated areas, particularly on privately owned lands. “I’m looking for money for grants; we can’t dedicate staff time to deal with this enormous problem. Setting up a weed management program with the money flowing would make it that much easier,” Grother said.
Grother said that in the spring of 2007, there was a public meeting in Norwood to discuss the problem. Thirty area residents attended the meeting, where they heard a presentation from Dr. George Beck of Colorado State University. Beck told the group that the weed, also known as hoary cress, would continue to spread and degrade infested fields, pastures and rangeland.
In May 2008, Montrose and San Miguel counties and Yvette Henson of the CSU Extension Program conducted a landowner survey. Grother reported that over 250 landowners were sent the survey and that there were 72 respondents, a 25 percent response rate. The survey revealed that a “large majority” of landowners supported the creation of a weed management area and that a few also supported the creation of a taxing district. Respondents to the survey reported that 470.34 acres were infested.
Both counties currently share costs for weed management, with Montrose County paying 50 percent of the cost of application; about half of the infestation is situated in Montrose County. San Miguel County will be providing spraying equipment at no cost to residents, according to Grother. The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, Colorado Department of Transportation and the Town of Norwood have indicated their support for the project.
The three counties received an update from BLM Field Manager Barb Sharrow, who said that uranium exploration is continuing “hot and heavy” and that there are two mining plans currently being worked on. Sharrow said that there are currently 25 companies “out there exploring.”
Forest Service Ouray District Ranger Tammy Randall-Parker told the counties that there will be a prescribed burn of 100 acres next to Dave Wood Road north of Elk Mountain Resort as part of a fuels reduction exercise, and that Yankee Boy Basin is partly open but that Corkscrew Gulch has yet to open, due to damage to the road.