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War on weeds has 19,646 acres to go - article

Posted by GoatWorld on October 25, 2001 at 17:55:20:

Maybe some of you will remember this from earlier this year where they began using goats to control weeds. Here's a follow-up and a possible goat-keeping job for someone...

War on weeds has 19,646 acres to go
Jane Stebbins

BRECKENRIDGE — Paul Schreiner has sprayed 290 acres of land in his quest to kill noxious weeds this year.

The county’s noxious weed director has set loose a herd of 500 goats that devoured 60 acres of Canada thistle. He’s released thousands of insects — called bio-control — in areas too sensitive for goats to trod. He’s revegetated four acres of land in hopes of bringing back native species of plants. He’s sponsored community weed-pulls, talked with elementary school children and taken scores of people on tours of infested areas.

And he’s hardly put a dent in the noxious weed problem facing Summit County.

“Hey, you have to start somewhere,” he said.

Between 20,000 and 25,000 acres of land in Summit County are infested with noxious weeds, defined as non-native plants that have no natural predators and can therefore spread with abandon, overtaking native plants and, if left unchecked, leave a monoculture of weeds in their stead.

Schreiner’s also spent about 200 hours this summer mapping areas of infestation so he can go back later and see how well suppression efforts have worked. Some species of weeds are easy to map.

“The false chamomile and mayweed,” he said of the white daisy-like flower lining most of Summit County roads, right of ways, berms and bike paths. “We can draw an outline, a big circle, around Summit County.”

Others are easier. For instance, at a community weed pull this summer, Schreiner and about 50 volunteers yanked about a half-acre of spotted knapweed from the ground.

Few methods are controversial. Even the Nature Conservancy prefers spraying over bio-control, as insects can mutate over time and begin attacking native species of plants.

The goats, brought this July to Summit County by Lani Lamming of Alpine, Wyo., were arguably the most successful. They ate 60 acres of weeds, but attracted the attention of hundreds of people — a captive audience for Schreiner’s weed education.

“We might have to consider a herd for Summit County,” Schreiner told county commissioners at a worksession Monday morning. “The only hitch in the goat program is that it’s really intensive. It’s 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We’d be tying ourselves into a pretty labor-intensive program.”

For the time being, Schreiner recommends leasing the goats for designated areas, but asked commissioners to consider obtaining a herd in the future and sharing it with another county that could use the goats in the winter when Summit County is covered in snow and its weeds are in hibernation.

“You have to have someone there all the time,” he said of overseeing the goats. “Maybe we could find an old retired couple that wants to live up here for the summer.”

An issue facing the weed director is coordinating weed-eradication efforts with the numerous entities on whose land they grow. While member agencies of the Dillon Reservoir Recreation Committee — including the towns of Dillon and Frisco, Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service and Denver Water — have complied with the county’s weed killing efforts, others, notably the Colorado Department of Transportation, have been difficult to work with.

CDOT’s district in which Summit County lies extends from the Kansas border to Vail Pass. Because altitude plays a part in when weeds are attacked, CDOT workers start work on the Front Range and gradually work their way up to the High Country.

But by the time they get here, Schreiner said, it’s too late for some species.

“The problem with CDOT is the higher-priority weeds,” he said. “By the time they get here, it’s a great time to treat our perennials, but they’re treating for others a week too late.”

The problem is exacerbated by new sightings for spotted, Russian and diffuse knapweed, which are just now getting a toehold in the CDOT rights of way.

“If CDOT’s not going to be on it early enough, we have to do something about it,” he said. “In Castle Rock, there’s a lot of land down there they’ll never be able to reclaim. It’s done.”

Another possible problem is the bales of seed CDOT used in its revegetation work along Straight Creek near the Eisenhower Tunnel.

According to Schreiner, officials there didn’t use certified weed-free seed in that project; Commissioner Tom Long believes what’s growing up there now is a noxious weed.

Schreiner plans to continue mapping efforts and distribute an inter-governmental agreement to agencies throughout the county to present a united front against the war on weeds.

Jane Stebbins can be reached at 668-3998 ext. 228 or She covers Breckenridge, the county, open space and issues concerning the Upper Blue River Valley.

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