Noxious weed outbreak compromises Carbondale and its no-spray policy |

Noxious weed outbreak compromises Carbondale and its no-spray policy

CARBONDALE ” An outbreak of absinth wormwood is causing the town of Carbondale to relax its long-standing “chemical free” policy when it comes to noxious weed management.

The town board voted 5-2 last week to authorize the public works department to contract with a licensed applicator to apply the herbicide Milestone in areas where the weed has proliferated.

The decision follows a unanimous recommendation from the town’s Environmental Board that the herbicide be allowed, at least in this particular case.

Carbondale Public Works Director Larry Ballenger said absinth wormwood, a plant resembling sage brush but not native to Colorado, has been identified by the state of Colorado as an invasive weed with a high priority for control and/or eradication.

The outbreak in Carbondale likely began a number of years ago with some contaminated hay seed on a ranch south of town, and has spread through the various ditch systems running through town. It is most prevalent throughout the River Valley Ranch and Hendrick Ranch neighborhoods, Ballenger said.

“We have determined that hand control does not work with this weed,” Ballenger advised the trustees at their March 10 meeting.

Milestone is considered the least harmful chemical herbicide on the market, he said.

Last spring, the town had begun using Milestone as part of its weed management plan, with the blessing of both the town board and environmental board.

However, when town trustees took up a separate request to use an insecticide to control the town’s pine beetle infestation, trustees rejected the proposal and further declared that Carbondale was to be a “chemical free community” with regards to the use of pesticides. After that, the town stopped using Milestone on the absinth wormwood and instead hired day laborers to dig and bag the plants.

Since establishing its “chemical free” policy in the late 1990s, the town considers any use of pesticides on a case-by-case basis, and always with input from the environmental board.

Trustees John Hoffmann and John Foulkrod voted against herbicide use on the absinth wormwood.

“We’re basically saying that this plant is more deadly than the poison we’re putting down to control it,” Hoffmann said.

Trustee Pam Zentmyer also had concerns, more on policy grounds, but did favor use of the herbicide. She added, however, that it doesn’t make sense to allow the use of chemicals in one situation and not another, especially if the use of an insecticide in the case of the pine beetles might have saved some of the town’s oldest trees.

Contact John Stroud: 384-9160

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