PlayCleanGo: Why it is important in Archuleta County

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By Ethan Proud
SUN Columnist
PlayCleanGo Awareness Week takes place June 1-8 across North America. The goal of the campaign is to show outdoor enthusiasts how they can stop invasive plants and pests from spreading — while enjoying the great outdoors.
PlayCleanGo is a program that promotes healthy outdoor recreation and partners with many agencies involved in the fight against invasives.
Noxious weeds are arguably one of the biggest threats to our natural areas that are frequented by tourists and travelers from out of state. Vehicles are a major vector of weed seeds that can cling to the tires or undercarriage of cars, ATVs and bikes. Even our own county residents can be responsible for the spread as driving from one trailhead to the next could introduce a new species of weed.
Cleaning off vehicles, boots and our pets is necessary to stop the spread of weeds. By taking a few moments to remove the mud from your shoes, you can save you and your subdivision from accidentally bringing a noxious invader home with you. Not only is chemical treatment costly, but waging a war with invasives is a lifelong commitment; a single plant going to seed is enough to repopulate your yard with hundreds to thousands of plants. Prevention is the best management practice.
While planting a diverse lawn of native grasses, proper watering, and mowing or grazing when necessary are great cultural practices you can undermine all of that by taking home a hitchhiker.
Harboring noxious weeds is not the problem of a few select negligent individuals. There are 19 prevalent species in Archuleta County from a tiered state list of 70 A, B and C list species and another 24 species on the watch list. On top of the state noxious weed list, there are many species which are invasive, though their control is not mandatory. Kochia is problematic on county road shoulders and areas that see frequent disturbance, along with Canadian horsetail and Russian thistle (which is not a thistle).
All landowners in Colorado have a legal responsibility to manage populations of noxious weeds, and there are many tools in a land manager’s arsenal and all should be used as part of an integrated management plan. The most important tool, however, is prevention and education.
The major hurdle of noxious and invasive plants is that until they exhibit invasive behavior in their new habitat, they are classified as introduced and may not cause problems. Our ecosystems are full of imported plants that have settled in alongside their native neighbors without outcompeting them. If you spot a new plant in your yard, don’t run for the pesticides either, take a few pictures or a sample (a specimen with roots, leaves and flowers is easiest to identify) and make a stop at the Archuleta County Extension office or Weed and Pest (offices are located in the Road and Bridge building now, above Building and Planning).
When you find yourself recreating in our natural areas, take a look around and try to spot some noxious weeds. The sea of yellow flowers that wasn’t there three years ago is certainly a prime suspect. Imagine transporting those seeds by accident to your favorite area and watching as it, too, falls to invaders. Always brush mud off your boots, pick the burs from your socks and make a quick stop at the car wash. A little effort goes a long way in preserving our native ecosystems.
Controlling noxious weeds is not about prejudice against foreign plant species, but mitigating our effect on natural habitats, weeds that would normally not be introduced to a region are being transported via human activity.
Upcoming events
June 3-4: Free babysitting course. There are a few spaces left; call the office to sign up at 264-5931. This is sponsored by Department of Human Services and Noon Rotary of Pagosa Springs.
July 13: Archuleta County Annual Weed Tour.
Aug. 1-4: Archuleta County Fair. Do you quilt or sew, can vegetables or fruit, grow hay crops, veggies or flowers? Maybe you do leather or wood work? Possibly brew beer or make wine? Or, maybe you have a hidden crafting talent that you would like share with us? If so, then you can enter the Archuleta County Fair Open Classes. Go to www.archuletacountyfair.com/exhibits-rules to find out how to enter. It’s homegrown and county pride.
CPR and first aid classes
CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. Anyone needing to receive or renew certification can register by calling the Extension office at 264-5931.
We will also attempt to schedule classes on additional dates with five or more registrations. Cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. The type of first aid information provided will vary by the needs of the audience.