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Noxious Weed Board members are nice | GUEST VIEWPOINT

November 23, 2012 · Updated 10:13 AM
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BY JANET STEIN

The Island County Board of Commissioners is currently seeking applicants to fill two vacated positions on the Island County Noxious Weed Control Board (ICNWCB). The Record had a bit of fun when the positions were last advertised back in June when they printed the headline as “Noxious board members sought.” A few people even took the time to write responses and to ask “How noxious does one have to be to qualify for the board?”

Well, as Island County’s Noxious Weed Program coordinator I want to clear some things up. The ICNWCB members that I have gotten to know since being hired back in March are not only nice, they are also a highly educated group, dedicated to eliminating and controlling the spread of non-native highly detrimental invasive plants on our beautiful islands. It’s interesting that when I tell people what I do for work these days, I usually get a couple of different responses. Either people sort of chuckle because they hear that word noxious and they think it’s funny or they say something like: “Wow, that’s such an important job, but it must be totally overwhelming.”

I have realized over the last several months that a big part of my job is education. I want everyone living in and visiting Island County to understand what problems noxious weeds present for us. I’ll give you some examples. They can be a drain on our economy. For instance, Island and other Puget Sound counties have spent millions of dollars eradicating the non-native sea grass, Spartina, which at one point threatened the hydrology and species diversity in many Island County estuaries. Noxious weeds threaten our native plants and ecosystems and reduce wildlife habitat. Currently there are efforts to eradicate the noxious weed “spurge laurel,” Daphne laureola, which is spreading on Whidbey Island. Spurge laurel is an escaped cultivar that has toxins in the sap, stem, leaves and fruits and can rapidly form monotypic stands that outcompete native understory plants.

Noxious weeds negatively affect recreational activities. Many Lone Lake residents probably remember the days when the noxious aquatic weed, Brazilian elodea, was choking the lake, limiting swimming and boating areas. The elodea was eradicated but, again, at a significant cost to the taxpayer.

In addition, some noxious weeds are toxic to people and animals. Both tansy ragwort and poison hemlock fall into this category. Did you know that it is the landowner’s legal responsibility to control many noxious weeds and that fines can be imposed if the control is not accomplished? Weeds such as giant hogweed, garlic mustard, hairy willow-herb, knotweed, tansy ragwort, poison hemlock, purple loosestrife, spurge laurel and Canada thistle are several that are designated for control here in Island County.

The ICNWCB recognizes that the control of noxious weeds is a community effort and will only succeed if everyone does their part. The two current ICNWCB vacancies are for District 3 (from Race Road to Freeland) and District 4 (from Freeland to the southern end of Whidbey Island). So if you have an interest in helping with the noxious weed problems here in Island County, I would encourage you to apply. I would prefer it if you were nice, but getting mad when you’re dealing with noxious weeds sometimes helps get the job done.

Application materials may be obtained by contacting Janet Stein at 360- 678-7992 or by email at janet.stein@wsu.edu. Deadline to apply is Nov. 30.

Janet Stein is the Island County Noxious Weed Program coordinator.

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