Understanding the cost of noxious weeds

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By Ethan Proud | SUN Columnist

Who really cares about noxious weeds? A select group of weed managers? Ranchers? While many people may not actively participate in weed control or even understand what invasive species can do to an ecosystem or a property, everyone should care. 

Noxious weeds degrade native communities, alter migration routes, increase the frequency of fires and may harm human health. But, they are plants, how can they be bad? Many supporters of weeds will argue that it’s a plant and it is serving some role in the ecosystem, but invasive plants are biological litter. They would not have established a foothold without help from humans — the damage they cause is a direct result of human activity. 

In their native range, they compete with other plant species, pathogens, insects and animal herbivory. In their invaded ranges, they have left their competitors behind, and our native plants and animals have not adapted to their presence. This means that without human interference, they will run rampant and create dense monocultures that outcompete other plants. The key to a healthy environment is a diversity of plant species to support multiple mammal, bird, reptile and insect species (this also means that a lawn of Kentucky bluegrass is not a healthy environment).

A 2014 study by W. Marshall Frasier conducted by the Colorado Weed Management Association, Colorado departments of Natural Resources and Agriculture, and Colorado State University addressed the cost of noxious weeds in Colorado. The article is titled “Economic Impact of Invasive Weed Species in Colorado.” 

Loss of value was calculated by three use components: the average economic value of uninvaded parcels, proportion of diminishment of economic value due to the presence of one or more weed species (only 10 noxious species were included on this study), and the proportion of invaded land which displaced value activity. The product of these three values identified the cost of weed presence. 

The total cost of these 10 species was $13,838,920 when the cost to agricultural land, wildlife habitat and recreational lands were combined. The data that was considered in this report came from one source: county weed managers. Mapping is voluntary and not all programs have weed districts, meaning that the data has many gaps and should be considered a conservative report. 

This analysis did not take into consideration the cost of controlling noxious weeds by private landowners and public agencies, but rather the degradation of value to land due to the presence of noxious weeds. Simply put, noxious weeds by virtue of being here cost Colorado nearly $14 million before control measures are considered. The cost of doing nothing to control weeds is monumental.

Archuleta County Weed and Pest is your local resource for managing noxious weed populations.

Volunteers needed

Archuleta County 4-H needs volunteers. We are looking for short-term commitment for superintendents at the county fair. Please contact our office at (970) 264-5931 or contact 4-H Coordinator Becky Jacobson at rjacobson@archuletacounty.org.

Shredding event

The shredding event has been canceled until further notice. Due to new ownership of the shredding company, we can no longer offer our biannual shredding event. We used this service, too, so we understand the inconvenience. We will work on bringing another shredding event to Archuleta County. Thank you for your past participation. 

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered every other month starting Feb. 21 and 23 from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid, and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at (970) 264-5931 to register.

Visit online

Visit us on the Web at https://archuleta.extension.colostate.edu/ or like us on Facebook and get more information: https://www.facebook.com/CSUARCHCTY.