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.
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.
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.
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.
Salt Lake County utilizes Integrated Weed Management (IWM)* to control noxious weed infestations on county owned and county maintained properties. IWM is based on the knowledge that by using the most appropriate tool from the toolbox the weed manager will be more effective in weed management than by using a single tool.
Salt Lake County has also initiated a program to survey and map noxious weeds, respond to weed complaints, track known infestations from year to year, and provide educational opportunities to the community. Once an infestation is identified, the landowner is contacted and given a variety of options to most effectively manage the infestation. These options include manual or physical; cultural; and chemical control methods. The infestations are then tracked from year to year and monitored for additional infestations. Most noxious weed sites are controlled voluntarily.
The weed control program controls only a handful of sites, and as authorized by the state law, non-compliant landowners are then billed for the cost of control plus any administrative fees associated with the infestation.
*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.
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.
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.
A Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) is cooperation among land managers and owners within a given area, such as a watershed. These areas replace jurisdictional boundaries in favor of natural boundaries that facilitate cooperation, coordination, and implementation of effective integrated weed management programs for listed noxious weeds.
Salt Lake County is involved in the newly formed Bonneville CWMA. Members of the BCWMA include the Forest Service, BLM, UDOT, Salt Lake Soil Conservation, Kennecott Copper, and many more. More information on the Bonneville CWMA is forthcoming.