The battle against oxeye daisy, an invasive weed that has spread across many local counties, will continue this spring.
Nine Southwest Colorado counties and a handful of government agencies have formed a San Juan Mountains Cooperative Weed Management Area this year and plan to cooperate on efforts to control oxeye daisy, said Rod Cook, La Plata County weed manager.
Oxeye has taken over vast swaths of land, and it is particularly noxious because animals, such as elk and deer, can’t graze on it, and it pushes out native grasses. Its hold is particularly strong in higher elevations, Cook said.
The goal is use herbicides on oxeye daisies along 109 miles of road this summer. The control efforts will start along U.S. Highway 550 between Durango and Red Mountain, Cook said.
“The whole thing is about habitat improvement, making things better for wildlife, birds and insects and trying to save our diversity of scenic wildflowers,” he said.
The group received $40,000 this year from the state to treat the oxeye daisies and map the noxious weed infestations with GPS.
“We were funded for one year, but we’re looking for a five-year-plus project,” Cook said.
The amount of money available for weed control from the state fluctuates each year. But Steve Ryder, state weed coordinator, said it was a long-term project his department is interested in working on.
“It’s a good start we’re hoping for the best with it, for this year and next year as long we have the funds,” he said.
The group plans to focus on roadways because weed seeds cling to vehicles.
“The roads are where these plants tend to spread from,” Ryder said.
The group chose to use herbicides on the oxeye daisies because it is the least disruptive to the soil and low doses of herbicides can kill the plants, Cook said.
“We have a short growing season and an awful lot to do,” he said.
As part of the grant, the group also plans to train military veterans and help them get licensed to use herbicides because the area is lacking in weed-management companies.
In the past, Cook’s office has contracted with the U.S. Forest Service to map and treat noxious weeds locally.