Teton County Weed Summit
Dozens Attend Teton County Weed Summit!
The Problem: Noxious weed infestations are reaching a crisis point in Teton County, many of them stemming from unmanaged properties and zombie subdivisions. The Board of County Commissioners called this weed summit to discuss the problem and what can be done about it. About 30 people (include representatives from the US Forest Service, Driggs, Victor, and the adjacent counties) packed into the courthouse to discuss this growing problem.
The Facts: Weed enforcement in our county is conducted by a single half-time employee, Ben Eborn, who shared with the group the many challenges of his job. Eborn said that public education has been touch to achieve. He also pointed out the enforcement challenges posed by zombie subdivisions where each vacant lot is owned by a different person. Further, his budget has dwindled each year. In 2009, the county weed budget was $59,000, but budget shortfalls in 2010 forced a cut down to $38,000. For 2011, the Commissioners have raised the budget up to $44,000. In addition, $6,000-$18,0000 of annual funding is no longer coming from the state budget.
Our county’s budget numbers pale in comparison to the monies set aside in surrounding counties: Jefferson County has a 12-person staff with a budget of $237,000. Bonneville County has a budget of $380,000 to combat both weeds and invasive species. Even Fremont County, with a smaller population, has a budget of $80,000 and a staff of 6. Interestingly, Freemont County has been successful at supplementing their budget by charging landowners for treatment and preventative work, bringing in an addition $60,000 of annual revenue. It was unclear as to which counties had formed a weed taxing district (similar to our mosquito abatement district) to fund these programs.
What happens next? The Board will meet at their next work meeting to discuss a new plan of attack for weed control in this county based on the all the feedback and information received at the weed summit.