Pueblo County Noxious Weed program
By Mary M. Miller
USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
"Got Weeds? We Can Help!" has been the motto of the Turkey Creek Conservation District.
In 2008 Bill Alt, president of the TCCD and chair of the Pueblo County Noxious Weed Advisory Board, saw that Pueblo County had a void in the noxious weed program--no staff--so he said, "Why can't Turkey Creek do this?" The TCCD decided that it would send a proposal to the county commissioners to be private contractors who would handle the county's noxious weed program.
The TCCD board developed a concept of operations on how the program would work and presented it to the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners. The district also told the commissioners that they could not do the program unless the county helped fund it. The commissioners agreed with the proposal and to fund the program. During 2008, the district and county worked to get all of the legalities set up. In December of that year, the county commissioners and the district signed an Intergovernmental Agreement.
While working on the IGA, the TCCD anticipated that everything would go as planned so it applied for a grant for assistance with its noxious weed program through the Colorado State Conservation Board. By the time the IGA was signed, the district had grant funds from the CSCB.
As 2009 rolled around, the district had approximately $91,000 from the county and the CSCB to begin the program. County funds were used for outreach and for independent contractors. CSCB funds were used for cost-share with landowners. Other partners in the project were the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, various other Pueblo County Government offices besides the Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners, Colorado Association of Conservation Districts, and the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
The district then hired Beth Campbell to be an independent contractor to help administer the program.
Since the weed program under the district was new, it had to create everything from scratch. Campbell spent time creating many documents, such as the form for the landowners to sign when the district does an evaluation of their property and another for the integrated noxious weed management plan. The weed management plan explains to landowners everything they need to do to control the noxious weeds on their place. Now that Campbell has the forms developed, she is able to streamline the process from the evaluation to the weed management plan. "The weed management plan that Beth developed is the best in the state," Alt said.
The district works with landowners on a first-come-first-serve basis. To qualify for the program landowners must have property in unincorporated Pueblo County. They must also have A or B list weed species as found on Colorado's Noxious Weed List on the Colorado Department of Agriculture's website under the Conservation Services Division, Noxious Weed Management Program.
To get the word out, the district attended homeowner association meetings, produced radio commercials, wrote an article for The Pueblo Chieftain, distributed postcards and fliers, used word-of-mouth, and developed a static display on the program.
In 2010, the district has partnered with the South Pueblo County Conservation District plus its previous 2009 partners on the noxious weed program. TCCD has CSCB grant funds for education and outreach while SPCCD has a CSCB grant for cost-share funds. In addition, TCCD has a Colorado Department of Agriculture High Plains Invasives Project grant for certain species east of I-25, such as diffuse and Russian knapweed. The Pueblo County Board of County Commissioners have also put funds into the 2010 work.
In only its second year, the district's program is growing rapidly. "It's nice to go out and do the field work. That is my favorite part," Campbell said. "But the challenge is that there is too much work for one person." To help with the workload, the district also hired Jana Gregg as an independent contractor. Gregg helps Campbell in developing weed management plans. In addition, Campbell and Gregg developed a static display describing the noxious weed program that the district takes to conferences, workshops, and expos, such as the Arkansas River Basin Water Forum.
"They [Beth and Jana] did a beautiful job on it," said recently hired Eve Triffo, the district's independent contractor in charge of outreach and education. Triffo hit the ground running and has already helped TCCD develop 60-second radio ads that are running on KIQN and KWRP and 30-second ads running on KCSJ. All three stations are broadcast from Pueblo. Triffo worked with Pueblo Community College's New Media Center on these. As time progresses, Triffo hopes to put ads on more radio stations and on local TV stations. The TV ads will have testimonials from landowners who have worked with the district and even some humorous skits with a "Weed Fairy." "They say that you have to hear an ad three and a half times before it sticks," said Triffo. She has the radio ads running at least through July.
Through the noxious weed program, the district has dealt with most of the county's targeted weeds, such as yellow starthistle, musk and Scotch thistle, Canada thistle, diffuse knapweed, leafy spurge, hoary cress, houndstongue, and Russian knapweed.
"There is one colorful aspect of the property inspections that Beth and Bill do together," said Triffo. "That is they always do them as a team because there are certain hazards out in the field, such as poisonous snakes, wild animals, terrain, and weather."
For further information on the TCCD weed program go to www.puebloweeds.com.