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What is a Noxious Weed?

Noxious weed is a legal term used at the federal, state, and county level to identify and list plants that pose a significant threat to agriculture, the environment, recreation, and public health.

At a State level, The Utah Noxious Weed Act defines a noxious weed as " ... any plant the commissioner determines to be especially injurious to public health, crops, livestock, land, or other property”.

Typically, noxious weeds are invasive* non-native plants, that once established are not only difficult to control but spread aggressively. Outside of their native origins, noxious weeds become oppressors with no known natural competitors to keep their populations in check. These silent invaders quickly begin to out-compete native plants often forming monocultures, and forever changing our landscapes. Unlike other ornamental and introduced plants that blend in harmlessly, noxious weeds are nothing short of ecological time bombs.

*Invasive Plant: An invasive plant is "an unwanted plant that is not native to the area of infestation and is capable of displacing native species. " (California Weed Science Society. 2002). Invasive plants are not listed on the State Noxious Weed List, but have the potential to become a listed noxious weed. Therefore, the Salt Lake County Weed Control Program monitors invasive plant infestations.

What is an invasive plant?

An Invasive Plant is "an unwanted plant that is not native to the area of infestation, and is capable of displacing native species." (California Weed Science Society.  2002).  Invasive plants are not listed on the State Noxious Weed List, but have the potential to become a listed noxious weed.  Therefore, the Salt Lake County Weed Control Program monitors invasive plant infestations.

What impacts do noxious weeds have?

Noxious weeds reduce crop yields, destroy native plant and animal habitat, damage recreational opportunities, lower land values, create erosion problems and fire hazards, and poison humans and livestock.

According to the Oregon Invasive Species Council, next to habitat lost to land development and transformation, invasive species pose the greatest threat to the survival of native biota in the United States and many other areas of the world.

With an estimated increase of 3 million acres of new infestations each year adding to the already infested 100 million acres in North America, it is no wonder that attempts to prevent, detect, control, and contain these plants are frequently portrayed as a biological wildfire. However, unlike a wildfire, the negative impacts of noxious weeds are often permanent.

Why should I care about noxious weeds?

Noxious Weeds are everyone’s concern and community involvement can reduce the impacts noxious weeds have on future generations.

Weeds spreading from adjacent lands can impact even lands that don’t currently have noxious weeds on their property. Seeds are one of the most common ways that noxious weeds are spread. They can be carried by wind, water, cars, people, and animals. Their invasive nature means that no land is immune to their spread.

Salt Lake County is working on an education program that emphasizes prevention of new infestations and control of existing infestations through outreach and stewardship efforts. Check the Education & Mapping pages.

How does Salt Lake County enforce the state's noxious weed law?

Salt Lake County is unable to actively investigate noxious weed complaints or conduct enforcement activities related to Utah’s noxious weed law. We rely on property owners to identify and control any noxious weed infestations on their land.

If you are aware of a property with a noxious weed problem, let us know the location and we are happy to provide education to the property owner about plant identification, the impacts of noxious weeds, and possible control options.

Many individual municipalities in Salt Lake County do provide active noxious weed enforcement via their city weed ordinances; check with your city’s civil or code enforcement department to see if you can also report a noxious weed problem to them.

Why does Salt Lake have a noxious weed program?
Salt Lake County, like all other Utah counties, is responsible for implementing the Utah State Noxious Weed Act. This act outlines the duties of the commissioner, county weed boards, and weed supervisors to "detect and treat noxious weeds" within the County, compile data on infested areas, and implement a noxious weed control program that educates the public on the impacts of noxious weeds and enforces the law preventing the spread of noxious weeds.
What is the Salt Lake Weed Board and what do they do?

The Salt Lake County Weed Board is comprised of five unpaid, appointed citizens from the community at least two of which are required to be farmers and/or ranchers.

Weed Board members are appointed for a four-year term and meet monthly to initiate and implement the noxious weed control program goals and objectives.

Will Salt Lake County take care of my weeds?

The County will come out and provide assistance in identification and control of the noxious or invasive weed and provide additional resources for the landowner in managing the infestation.

However, according to chapter 4-17-7 of the Utah Noxious Weed Act, it is the property owners' responsibility to control the noxious weeds and prevent the spread of those noxious weeds to adjacent properties.

Most often noxious weeds require long-term management including monitoring the site for additional infestations throughout multiple years.

What can I do about noxious weeds?

The most economical means of weed management is prevention and early detection. Take the time to know how to identify noxious weeds in Utah, educate others, and notify weed experts with noxious weed sightings.

If you think you may have a noxious weed contact your local weed supervisor for a site visit. Once the weed has been identified the weed control program can provide you with IWM information specific to that weed and the location.

What is Integrated Weed Management?

Integrated Weed Management (IWM) is multidisciplinary, ecological approach to weed management using education; prevention; physical or mechanical methods; biological control agents; herbicide methods; and other general land management practices.  IWM uses the most appropriate methods to meet the given weed control objectives over a given time frame, often multiple years.  Other program aspects that are coordinated with this decision-making approach include surveying, mapping, monitoring and restoration.