Noxious Weeds Law Needs Fixing
Sept. 8, 2008
By Jerry Kopel
Because of a claimed large loophole, the state's Noxious Weed Act may
become an obnoxious waste of time, at least if Clear Creek County's towns
are any model for what is happening in other counties across the state.
Eighteen years ago, the act, carried by Rep. Lewis Entz (R) Hooper, passed
the state legislature as House Bill 1175. The bill was a needed answer to
damaging weed proliferation across Colorado. I voted for and co-sponsored
The law gives county commissioners the mandate for ridding weeds from all
UNINCORPORATED lands within the county, and the commissioners appear to be
doing their job.
But noxious weeds don't obey lines separating towns from unincorporated
land. In Georgetown, Idaho Springs, and Silver Plume in Clear Creek
County, there has been little effort to rid the towns of noxious weeds
including Chinese Clematis.
The reason? I talked to Ted Brown, who manages the Clear Creek County
noxious weed program. He stated towns to pass ordinances, resolutions, or
other regulation to remove the noxious weeds.
Mr. Brown recently notified all county residents that the program to rid
Clear Creek County of the noxious yellow-flowered vine called Chinese
Clematis had been completed August 1, 2008. I wrote him that the vine was
alive and flourishing along Main Street in Georgetown and asked for his
We spoke by phone. I learned the county was helpless to act because the
Noxious Weed Act had given incorporated towns separate jurisdiction to
control noxious weeds within their town limits.
Brown's report to residents indicated Clear Creek County has "more Chinese
Clematis than any other county in Colorado... If we can treat it we can
The county manager of noxious weeds believes the three towns' failure to
pass town ordinances was based on lack of funds. But the Weed Act, CRS
35-5.5, has Section 106 (3):
"The governing body may cooperate with counties and other municipalities
for the exercise of any or all of the powers and authority granted by this
article. Such action shall take the form of an intergovernmental agreement
In other words, the three towns could lease equipment or obtain weed
killer from the county to destroy the Chinese Clematis, at a much lower
cost than purchasing it.
I know this sound crazy, like something the federal government could be
accused of. Here is a county commission getting rid of the weed, only to
have the clematis cream colored fluffy balls of seeds float by the
thousands in the wind out of the towns and into unincorporated Clear Creek
County, where Mr. Brown will have to do again what he spent county money
doing this year.
It is time for legislators representing counties containing towns ignoring
and not killing noxious weeds to amend the weed law.
Colorado's weed law claims it is a matter of "statewide importance", which
means the legislature by amendment can give counties discretion to kill
weeds in towns, under rules adopted by the county commissioners.
The Section 108 declaration states: "The general assembly hereby finds and
declares that the noxious weeds designated by rule are a present threat to
the economic and environmental value of the lands of the state of Colorado
and declare it to be a matter of STATEWIDE IMPORTANCE that the governing
bodies of counties and MUNICIPALITIES include plans to manage such weeds
as part of their duties pursuant to this article."
The weed law, Section 113 , also allows towns and counties to declare
noxious weeds on premises a public nuisance subject to "such action
including removal and destruction ... as in its discretion appears
necessary". Owners of the property could be charged with the cost.
Chinese Clematis moves along the ground until it finds a tree or fence or
bush to climb. According to a noxious weed brochure provided by Mr. Brown,
clematis "has been known to kill large trees by blocking the sunlight". It
actually does a faster kill on large shrubs.
If you don't believe that is possible, take a walk along the 900 and 1000
block of Main Street in Georgetown.
And what is happening in your town?
(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)