The Montezuma County Noxious Weed Program is enlisting volunteers in the fight against leafy spurge, hoary cress and other unpleasant plants.
This summer, the county government started a volunteer adopt-a-trail program. Through it, local organizations can choose a trail in the San Juan National Forest and develop a weed management plan for it. As of Tuesday, two local groups, the Mesa Verde chapter of the Back Country Horsemen and the new Montezuma County chapter of Great Old Broads for Wilderness, had signed up to participate.
Bonnie Loving, manager of the weed program, said it’s in the county’s best interest to keep noxious weeds from spreading on forest trails because they can cause problems for tourists and their pets, and can also spread to private property if they’re not kept in check. Although the Forest Service has often handled San Juan weed control in the past, she said it doesn’t always have the resources to manage every trail and recreation area.
“The Forest Service’s budget, they just keep significantly decreasing for noxious weeds,” she said. “We’re trying to get the community to step up and try to help out the forest.”
The Back Country Horsemen plan to adopt the lower Chicken Creek Trail near Mancos, while the Montezuma Broads will tackle the Mavericks Loop trail in the Boggy Draw area. Loving said her office would give each of them an orientation on how to recognize noxious weeds and remove them, as well as how to introduce weed-eating insects and other biological controls to the area. Then they’ll work with each group to develop a management plan for the trails. The Montezuma Broads will be the first group to get their orientation, which is scheduled for Friday.
Each group that participates in the program must have active members who are willing to perform weed removal along their chosen trail at least once a year. In return, the county plans to post a sign on each adopted trail honoring the groups that worked on it.
Noxious weeds are plants the Colorado Department of Agriculture considers to be harmful to crops, livestock and native species. The department separates them into three priority categories: List A, which includes species designated for eradication before they become common; List B, which includes already-common species to be controlled and suppressed; and List C, which includes less-dangerous species that are still recommended for suppression. Montezuma County currently has seven List A species, 15 List B species and 11 List C species.
Loving said hoary cress, an aggressive rangeland weed that is unpalatable to grazing livestock, seems to be the fastest-spreading species this year. She said she saw it on 87 new properties within the county this spring, bringing the total number of local properties containing the weed to 260. Leafy spurge, a species on List A, was also found on four properties this year.