County program aimed at killing weeds

John and Debbie Wellman and their children are no strangers to the hemlock weed or how quickly the poisonous plant can spread.

Almost immediately after the plant first appears, it can take over a field and push out other vegetation, John Wellman said.

The best way to get rid of hemlock, Wellman said, is to physically remove the plant. Chemical spraying doesn't always work, he said.

In June, the Wellman family took part in the Moffat County Pest Management Department's "Weed Bounty" program.

Through the program, the county pays residents for cutting down and killing non-native plants such as hemlock. The plants can push out native species and ruin grazing and crop lands.

The Wellmans cut down 7,100 pounds of hemlock, more than anyone in the county.

"That is a mountain of weeds," said Gary Brannan, pest management department director.

Eric Wellman, 17, said he was surprised his family's weed haul was the most in the county.

"We knew we had a lot, but I don't if know we expected to have the most," he said.

At Tuesday's Moffat County commissioners meeting, the commissioners gave the Wellman family a check for $300 and a certificate for bringing in the most non-native weeds.

The Bureau of Land Management and the State Land Board give the county $40,000 each year to pay residents for collecting weeds.

Brannan said the Weed Bounty program, which is in its seventh year, is a good way for officials to educate people about the non-native weeds that invade the county and that it helps keep the invasive-plant population down.

Last year was an average year for the program, Brannan said, with 20,000 pounds of weeds. Pest management crews collected another 20,000 pounds, Brannan said.

The only way to kill some of the weeds is by cutting them at the root and throwing them in the landfill, Brannan said.

If the weeds are allowed to grow, they can out-compete native plants for soil and water, Brannan said.

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