Basalt resident says Pitco kills weeds the wrong way | AspenTimes.com

Basalt resident says Pitco kills weeds the wrong way

Naomi Havlen

A self-proclaimed “weed lover” is expected to appear before the Pitkin County commissioners today to argue the county’s revised weed management plan is too dependent on herbicide.Jerome Osentowski, a Basalt resident and director of the Central Rocky Mountain Permaculture Institute, said he is interested in educating the commissioners and the general public about the overuse of herbicides in the valley. The chemicals used to kill weeds are poisonous and not proven safe, he says, and could end up polluting local watersheds.”I subpoenaed the records from last year, and $50,000 was spent applying herbicides, while $30,000 was spent on all the other methods [of eradicating weeds],” he said. “In the last five years the county has spend a quarter of a million dollars on herbicides.”The methods Osentowski supports for getting rid of noxious weeds that can threaten native plants in the county don’t include chemicals. He favors simply pulling weeds up manually, using insects known to eat certain noxious weeds, and replanting areas with native species to keep weed infestation low.Some of these methods, he said, are longer-term solutions to weed management, rather than just killing weeds temporarily with herbicides.”I don’t think [Pitkin County] should be the nozzlehead community in the nation, which it is right now,” he said. “I think we can do better than that. Pitkin County needs to come up with a real integrated plan that spends more on other alternatives than it does on herbicides.”But Pitkin County Land Manager Jim Lewis said the county does try alternatives to herbicide each year. About 15,000 brown-legged spurge flea beetles are released each July in the county to eat up the leafy spurge.Other insects have been used on yellow toadflax with some success, but when results are not great and weeds continue to spread, the county does use herbicide, he said.”For a 300-gallon tank, one pint of herbicide is used,” he said. “It’s very diluted, but it still works with selective spot spraying, just putting it on one target species.”Lewis said the county employees who do the spraying get training from Colorado State University in order to keep their spraying licenses intact. They do not spray near water, he said, or around irrigation ditches.”If there was an alternative, I’d love to use it,” Lewis said. “They’re constantly researching safer herbicides – some have been approved to use in standing water, but we don’t want to spray near water. We tend to use mechanical pulling to keep our rivers clean.”Osentowski said he doesn’t think the county understands the ramifications of using herbicides on the environment.”Aspen and Pitkin County are supposed to be green, but if they pass a plan like this and continue to spray for the next five years, we can’t call ourselves green,” he said. “If you stop smoking cigarettes in restaurants but you’re still spraying $50,000 of herbicides on open space, and people are out there running and walking dogs, it’s like, come on.”Osentowski has made a video on alternative methods for controlling weeds called “Natural control for noxious weeds.” It’s available at the Pitkin County Library.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com