What are noxious weeds?

"Noxious weed" is the traditional, legal term for invasive, non-native plants that are highly destructive, competitive, and difficult to control or eliminate. Noxious weeds can include non-native grasses, flowering plants, shrubs, and even trees. Noxious weeds can also include aquatic plants. Many noxious weeds started out as ornamental plants that eventually escaped the garden setting, while others were accidentally introduced through human travel and trade. Regardless of how they got to Washington State, all noxious weeds pose a serious threat to our economy, agriculture, local ecosystems, and wildlife habitats. Some noxious weeds are toxic to humans and livestock. They can reduce crop yields, destroy beneficial native habitat, damage recreational opportunities, clog waterways, and diminish land values.

Not sure if your weeds are noxious? Bring a sample specimen of the whole fresh plant to our office for identification or check out an online search tool for a comprehensive search by habitat, color or name. If you have questions or need assistance, feel free to give us a call or weeds@lewiscountywa.gov

How is a plant designated as a noxious weed?

The State Noxious Weed Board, a group of citizen volunteers representing all areas of the state, annually adopts and publishes a list of weeds to be researched, controlled or eradicated based on both public comment and input from county weed boards. The Lewis County Weed Board customizes the state list and puts out a list of Lewis County's priority weeds that are required by law to be controlled by the property owner. The Lewis County Noxious Weed Control Program, which can be reached at (360) 740-1215, can provide color photos and descriptions of noxious weeds to help citizens identify and eliminate noxious weed infestations.

What is the Noxious Weed Control Program?

The Lewis County Noxious Weed Control Program focuses on education, prevention, technical assistance and control of noxious weeds through voluntary compliance. Preventing the spread of weeds in the first place is always more effective and less costly than eradication! From March through October, when weeds are growing the most rapidly, the program employs field staff to survey public and privately owned lands in Lewis County for noxious weeds and to work with landowners to achieve effective weed control. Much of the survey work is the result of citizens reporting infestations and asking for information and assistance in getting rid of noxious weeds on their property. Field staff finds additional infestations as they travel the county during regular surveys.

What is a noxious weed assessment, or special assessment?

Lewis County established a special assessment for noxious weed management, as allowed per state law, a number of years ago. Noxious weed "special assessments" are used by over half of the counties in Washington State to provide a dedicated source of funding to their County Noxious Weed Control Board. This is one of two methods by which the RCW 17.10, the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Law, allows for the funding of county Weed Boards. The noxious weed assessment is levied against lands classified as non-forest land and forest land throughout Lewis County, with some exemptions provided for by law, such as Federal and Tribal lands. More Info

Can I avoid the $8 'Noxious Weeds' charge on my property tax if I don't have any?

In short, the answer is no. There is no way to avoid this fee or receive a refund for it. We understand that this may be frustrating for diligent landowners who eradicate the weeds on their property but this fee funds the entire Noxious Weed program and the resources to verify every single property that claims to be "weed free", would be astronomical. Instead, our office makes sure that we offer a large variety of services to all whom inquire. We have cost-share programs, offer free pesticide credit opportunities, coordinate disposal events, orchestrate supervised weed burning events, research control recommendations, produce relevant publications and handouts, coordinate volunteer events, and so much more. Our activities are beneficial to the entire county. Even if a property owner does not have weeds on their property, our efforts help keep it that way by reducing the weeds nearby, which may seed and infest that property.

If you are concerned about neighboring property's present weeds, please be sure to make an anonymous report to us so that we can focus our survey efforts and can notify adjacent owners of their responsibilities. You can report noxious weeds here.

Why is the forested parcel with the noxious weed assessment rate less than the parcel where my house and out buildings are located?

The noxious weed assessment is categorized into two land classifications: Non-Forest land and Forest land. The rate of Forest land is at one tenth the rate of Non-Forest land, per State Law, (RCW 17.10.240). Property classified as Forest land is defined in Chapter 84.33, RCW (Use Code 88, as defined by the State Department of Revenue). No refunds of noxious weed assessments are allowed where multiple parcels are owned by a single landowner. More Info

Does Lewis County Noxious Weeds use glyphosate? Isn't it dangerous?

Yes, we do use glyphosate, and no, it is not dangerous. Contrary to popular belief, glyphosate is a very safe active ingredient for applicators to use. Glyphosate is the most-used herbicide in the world and helps agricultural producers keep food more affordable. There is only danger in using this herbicide when it is misused, or when the applicator fails to adhere to the proper PPE and protocols recommended by the label.

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Why should landowners pay an assessment if they live in the city or don’t have noxious weeds on their lot or parcel?

Control of noxious weeds is a benefit to all lands and helps provide for the long-term stability of our area’s economy and the value of property. The invasive nature of these plants means that no land is resistant to their spread and the establishment of new infestations. Noxious weeds destroy native plant and animal habitat, reduce recreational opportunities, degrade waterways and increase flooding impacts. In short, noxious weed control is a community effort and benefits us all! More Info

Will the County Noxious Weed Control program now be responsible for coming out to control landowner’s weeds?

No. The Noxious Weed Control office will not become the primary entity for weed control throughout the county. The Noxious Weed program will still rely upon landowners taking responsibility for their weed management, along with other agencies taking charge to control weeds on city, county and state right of ways and the lands they manage. Noxious weed control is a community-wide effort that requires all Lewis County residents participate and work together. Remember, there are way more of them than there are of us! More Info

Can bio controls be the solution to all our noxious weed problems?

In short, no. Bio-controls are a great ally in the effort of control (especially as they address isolated, hard to reach, or unknown infestations) but they are not adequate to achieve full control and by design will never eradicate their target pest species. Landowners cannot solely rely on bio-controls to meet their legal obligations for noxious weed control on their property!

We do work with Washington State University, Integrated Weed Control Project to acquire and distribute Bio-control agents in Lewis County in hopes to aid in curbing weed reproduction, though. We are currently in talks to figure out how best to distribute more Bio-Control agents to help manage Tansy ragwort, Canada thistle, Scotch broom, Meadow knapweed and other weed populations in Lewis County.

For more information, please see the: Integrated Weed Control Project.

Why am I seeing less of the Cinnabar moth and how can I obtain more?

While very iconic, the cinnabar caterpillar is not the end-all answer to Tansy Ragwort control. Like all bio-controls, the moth's success is very dependent on numerous environmental factors, such as over-wintering conditions, reproductive success, and survivorship. The moth was introduced in the 60’s and gained in popularity through the 70’s and 80’s, but has since been observed targeting other Senecio species and is therefore no longer being released. Scientists have also found that there are more effective bio-controls for Tansy, such as the flea beetle.

The caterpillars can defoliate the plants quite efficiently and when that occurs in the hottest part of summer the plants can become incredibly drought stressed. This is not always a death sentence, however, and those that do survive the ordeal get to pass along their stress-tolerant seeds. Thus, hardier Tansy.

To summarize: pull your Tansy! And if you see these guys on the plants when you’re pulling, just shake them off. They can travel fairly far, despite their small size, and will seek out hidden rosettes in the grass.

WSU is no longer distributing the Cinnabar moth. Click on the links below to learn more about the other two agents available:

Ragwort Seed Head Fly
Tansy Ragwort Flea Beetle

Should I get a pesticide license? How would I do that?

Obtaining a private applicator license can be very useful to a landowner who is in need of access to particular herbicides. We actually recommend that landowners with weed infested riparian zones and adjacent waterbodies obtain their license with an aquatic endorsement so that they can purchase water-safe herbicides. Contact WSDA pesticide licensing for more information and for local opportunities for continuing education credits.

Web resources on how to become licensed can be found at: Washington State Department of Agriculture.