OURAY COUNTY – Asked how he managed to get Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar to agree to come to Ouray County’s (“first ever, maybe annual”) Weed Symposium, April 28, County Weed Manager Ron Mabry answered, “I called him up and asked him.”
Mabry is the no-nonsense spearhead behind efforts to get a handle on the noxious weed problem confronting not just the county, but the municipalities of Ridgway and Ouray as well. And he’s happy to tell any private landowner who asks about the responsibilities and solutions to invasive plant species in Western Colorado.
It’s not that the county thinks it might be a good idea to control the spread and reduce populations of spotted knapweed, leafy spurge, oxeye daisy and Canada thistle, among others, it’s the law.
“The state has 72 weeds on its noxious weed list now,” Mabry said. “We have to enforce the state plan.”
The weeds are divided into three categories. A-rank weeds must be eradicated. Period. B-rank weeds have to be controlled, meaning prevent seed production and reduce populations. C-rank weeds, according to Mabry, “are so widespread we know we’ll probably never eradicate them, but we have to do something to suppress them.” Most of the troublesome species in Ouray County, including the knapweed, spurge, daisy and thistle listed above, are B-rank weeds, meaning that under state law, they must be controlled, if not completely eradicated.
Control methods – and these will all be discussed at the Symposium, which takes place all day (9 a.m. – 4 p.m.) April 28 at the 4-H Event Center in Ridgway – fall into four categories.
Mechanical methods physically disrupt the weed’s growth and seed production and include: mowing, weed-whacking, hand-pulling and grazing. Mabry said the Town of Ridgway is considering renting a herd of goats to graze certain infested town-owned properties.
Biological management means using organisms to disrupt the growth of weeds. Introducing certain insect species has been effective elsewhere in Colorado to control noxious weeds. The harsh winters in Ouray County may make insects a minimally effective method of control, however.
Cultural management includes a toolbox of methods designed to encourage desirable plant species, including native plants, to out-compete noxious weeds in an area. Optimizing soil fertility and moisture levels, in addition to planting native species can work in this way.
The final management tool is chemical control, using herbicides or plant growth regulators to disrupt the growth of weeds.
Integrated management plans, such as the one the county has adopted and Ridgway is currently developing, will use all four techniques depending on the particular weed, the location, the available man- and machine-power, and the cost. Mabry stressed that control is not a quick fix; it will take years to bring certain weeds under control.
Speakers at the symposium will address these topics and more. “We have a great lineup!” Mabry said. In addition to Commissioner of Agriculture Salazar, “most of the weed managers on the Western Slope will be there.”
Dr. George Beck, weed science professor at Colorado State University, will speak on successional weed management.
J.R. Phillips, of the Upper Arkansas Regional Weed Management Cooperative, will talk about how his organization has operated in three East Slope counties since 1998.
Terri Locke of the Palisade Insectary will talk about biological controls.
Fred Raish of the Yuma County Pest District will talk about the history of roadside weed control; his district has over 5,000 miles of roads.
Barry Johnston of the U.S. Forest Service will address river ecology.
And finally, Kevin Gallagher, of Van Diest Supply, a chemical supplier, will discuss “how to read an herbicide label.”
The symposium is “open to anyone wanting to know more about the noxious weed problems in Ouray County.” Mabry has “about 80 people signed up right now. Please register,” he stressed. “I’m providing lunch, so I need a head count.”
You can learn more, and register at 970/626-9775 x 23.