According to County Weed Control Program Manager Sheila Grother, there were 6.46 acres of land within the Town of Telluride treated for noxious weeds last year on eight different dates as part of its Integrated Weed Management Plan. This is a drop in the number of acres needing treatment from previous years. Those acres that have been focused on have also seen native and desirable vegetation improve.
“We have done remarkably well in a lot of areas,” Grother said in an interview Tuesday, adding that the program is not only working well within the limits of Telluride but throughout San Miguel County. “Weed control isn’t about spraying some stuff and forgetting about it. This is an ongoing process. We have completely eliminated some uncommon weeds that we had in small populations. It’s not very often that you can say completely eliminated.”
The common tansy near Cornet Creek was absent this year after treatment began in that area in 2005. Cypress spurge was not found at three known locations this year, and Grother believes that no houndstongue was found. There were several locations within Telluride where scentless chamomile was found; those plants, most of them growing on private property rather than town property, were hand-pulled and treated, when possible. At the water treatment plants at Mill Creek and Tomboy Road, yellow toadflax and Canada and musk thistle have been greatly reduced and require minimal treatment. A patch of Canada thistle in Bear Creek that had been treated for approximately three years didn’t need treatment, for the second year in a row. Populations of black henbane, purple loosestrife, Dalmation toadflax, and spotted knapweed, which have been found within Telluride in the past, seem to have been eliminated. Grother and her crew will continue to search each year for those noxious weeds.
For Grother, the ongoing success in implementing the county’s weed management plan is thanks largely to the cooperation of local governments and residents who take a proactive approach to controlling noxious weeds.
“What makes this program so effective is the willingness to work with people and give them advice on what to do,” Grother said. “The one thing I encourage people not to do is do nothing.”
Grother said she understands concerns about spraying herbicides and that one of the best ways to keep spraying to a minimum is to keep weeds at bay.
“The goal is to identify them early and remove them as fast as possible,” she said. “Then make sure they are observed constantly until they are gone. If we can all pull together, which is what the community is doing, we can win and get to the point where you don’t have to spray. That is the goal.”
Moving forward, Grother said the biggest challenge is the ongoing threat of the introduction of new species of noxious weeds.
“If somebody comes in from Montana where they have been hiking in a wilderness area and then come here and sit down at a trail head and clean off their socks, suddenly we have a new infestation that we never had at that location,” she said. “That happens on a continuous basis – more than I could possibly know about.”
The battle against noxious weeds may currently favor the eradicators, but the war, it seems, is never won.
“That’s just the way it is,” Grother said.