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Conference scheduled to assist residents in complying with Utah noxious weed law

By Sun Advocate

A conference slated at the end of the month will be of importance to Carbon County resident. Yet few members of the general public are aware of the topic or may not understand the gravity of the situation. It is about the problem of noxious weeds.
When the subject is brought up during public meetings, snickers in the audience ensue about what county agencies consider to be a serious concern. In actuality, the problem is nothing to snicker about.
Laws dealing with noxious weeks in many areas have been on the books for a hundred years. According to early editions of the Sun Advocate, in 1919 the Carbon County Commission began dealing with the problems presented by certain plants that were choking streams, spoiling grazing range and intertwining with crops in the valley.
The weeds creating havoc for industry and agriculture are no joking matter.
Citizens who enjoy the outdoors are also affected by the importation and spreading of noxious weeds.
In 1984, the United States lost $7.4 billion in annual crop yield because of the plants. Noxious weeds compete with native plants, often degrading grazing ranges and forcing out good vegetation. The weeds pose threats to cattle that eat the noxious plants.
But the tentacles of the mounting problem goes beyond agriculture. Each year, departments of transportation throughout the nation have to fight the weeds along highways to keep the plants from becoming fire hazards. Some noxious weeds are deadly to road structure.
Noxious weeds can kill off plants that protect the soil from erosion and provide little soil anchoring capabilities.
Many weeds classified as noxious are also large pollen producers that can affect people with allergies. Some can also produce skin and eye irritation.
In Utah, the plants are regulated by the Utah Noxious Weed Act. The act names the plants that are considered problems. The list includes Bermuda grass (except in Washington County), bindweed, morning glory, broad- leaf peppergrass, Canada thistle, diffuse knapweed, Dyers woad, Johnson grass, leafy spurge, Medusahead, musk thistle, purple loosestrife, quackgrass, Russian knapwood, Scotch thistle, spotted knapwood, squarrose knapweed, whitetop and yellow starthistle.
The list is evaluated periodically and new plants are added as the weeds become problems within the state’s boundaries.
Many of the weeds are not native to Utah. The noxious plants were brought from someplace else, either on purpose or accidentally.
The act deals with the problem of transportation and dissemination. The weeds can be spread by combines and hay balers, brought into an area by farm trucks or common carriers. Unregulated seed sources may contain noxious weed seeds. Sometimes, a weed comes in livestock feed materials or carried by the animals when transported or moved.
Sources less close to farming and ranching are found in sod for yards or in nursery stock used around homes.
Because of the problems, the transportation and sale of seeds or noxious weed stock is highly regulated within the state.
According to state law, machines used on fields or areas that include noxious weeds have to be cleaned before the equipment can be transported.
State law also extends to selling any materials that may even inadvertently contain the seeds or beginnings of noxious plants.
The materials include animal feed, including hay and grain, straw, bedding plants, top soil and even manure.
Animals that may have grazed where noxious plants are present are not supposed to be moved or transported to another area until the livestock have been fed weed free feed for at least 72 hours.
By state statute, the county weed board must post annual general notices in public places and newspapers indicating that all property owners have the responsibility to control and prevent the spread of noxious plants.
The legally mandated responsibility includes controlling noxious weeds on any land a citizen controls or has in his or her possession.
The county weed board also has the power to serve an individual notice on people who own or control property that the local residents must clean up the noxious weeds on their premises.
Finally, the board has the right to place a lien against property that has noxious weed problems if the owner does not take care of the problem and the county has to send crews in to clean up the plants.
The financial action taken by the county usually comes in the form of a tax lien that must be paid with the individual’s property assessments.
As for the Carbon County area, the biggest problems experienced in the past associated with noxious weeds have involved the white top and musk thistle.
“We have fought hard to control these weeds,” explains Mike Johnson, manager of the county’s weed control program. “We don’t want Carbon to look like some other counties where those weeds have taken over some areas.”
For the current year, there are also three additions to the statewide noxious weed list. The additions include the black hem bane, Dalmation toad flax and yellow toad flax.
“These are not major problems in our area yet,” states Johnson. “That’s why we wanted them on the list. The growth is small enough right now that we can stop it before it gets out of control.”
One of the problems with controlling noxious weed is public education.
The members of the general public may not recognize the nature of the mounting noxious weed problem because the related concerns are not as close to them as some other things.
“I am also in charge of mosquito control,” points out Johnson. “People get bit by a couple of mosquitos and they want something done about it. But they just don’t pay attention to weeds that cause problems.”
The local public education process will begin for the upcoming 2002 growing season with the noxious weed conference on March 20.
The informative session with be conducted from 8:30 a.m. until noon at the Carbon County Courthouse on Main Street in Price.
The general public is encouraged to plan on attending the conference. Refreshments will be served to participants.

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