Noxious weed management ramps up as spring comes to the Gunnison Valley
Written by Aimee Brown   
Wednesday, 03 April 2013
Gunnison County Weed District works to preserve local ecology

Warmer temperatures and longer days mean melting snow and blooming plants in Gunnison County. Not all plants are created equal, however.


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In a report to the county commissioners meeting on Tuesday, March 26, the Gunnison Weed District reported that last year it treated more than 690 acres of federal, state, county, municipal and private lands for noxious weeds, using chemical and non-chemical approaches. Noxious weeds are classified as such because of their potential to inflict serious ecological and economic damage on the landscape. In the wildflower-rich upper Gunnison Valley these plants pose a significant risk to native vegetation.
“Primarily we’re using chemical and mechanical controls—pulling, mowing and weed whacking, but we also use biological controls and integrated approaches to weed management where appropriate,” said Gunnison County Weed District coordinator Jon Mugglestone.
In 2012, the weed district used 102 pounds of chemical herbicides for weed management, up from just over 56 pounds in 2011. However, with that increase the district treated more than four times as many acres of land in 2012 as in 2011. The majority of applications were along the county’s rural roads; none were along waterways, said Mugglestone.
The most common herbicide used by the district last year is the broad-spectrum herbicide Milestone. According to the manufacturer, Dow AgroSciences, Milestone is registered under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Reduced Risk Pesticide Initiative and “demonstrate[s] lower risk to the environment and humans than market place standards.” Among other plants, Milestone is effective in the control of Musk thistle, Russian knapweed and Oxeye daisy—weeds that are of particular concern in Gunnison County.
“Herbicides [are] a powerful tool to be used very carefully, thoughtfully and as sparingly as possible,” said Mugglestone. ”The best scientific research currently available tells us that for effective control of many of the noxious weeds in the Gunnison Basin, herbicides are a necessary part of an integrated weed management program. We need herbicides to be effective in our goal of managing noxious weeds, but recognize the need to use them carefully and respect concerns that occasionally arise regarding their use.”
In addition to treating lands, the weed district also inspected and reported on 170 reclamation permits in 2012. The permit program functions to ensure that development and construction are managed in such a manner as to mitigate and recover soil disturbances that can lead to the establishment of noxious weeds and other invasive species.
The weed district also provided more than 80 telephone and on-site consultations to private landowners, agency representatives and businesses.
In the coming year, the district will continue to focus on raising public awareness of noxious weeds, and expanding the use of integrated approaches to weed management, said Mugglestone. The district will also work with the county to ensure large-scale soil disturbances associated with construction projects like the Taylor Canyon road improvements are regularly monitored and treated as necessary for noxious weeds.
To learn more about noxious weed control in Gunnison County, visit: