Jefferson County questions noxious weed board’s goals since funding increase

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County officials questioned the Jefferson County Noxious Weed Control Board’s priorities during the board’s annual report to the county.

County Administrator Philip Morley on Monday said the Noxious Weed Control Board is “losing the battle” and that “infestations are getting more extensive,” despite the county adopting in 2015 a fee schedule that provides about $150,000 to the board.

Before the fee assessment was adopted — set at $4 per parcel plus 30 cents per acre — the board worked on a budget of less than $20,000.

The control board coordinates management of noxious weeds to prevent, control or mitigate their spread in order to protect human health, livestock, wildlife, native habitat and ecosystem function.

Noxious weeds are non-native plants introduced into the state that cause both ecological and, through affecting agriculture, economical damage, the state Noxious Weed Control Board says on its website, www.nwcb.wa.gov.

“I think there was an expectation that in bringing more substantial — like 10 times as much — financial assets to the weed board through the fee, there was a political sense that would improve our ability to control weeds,” Morley said, adding the result has appeared to be the opposite.

“Until a few years ago, it appeared we were making progress in controlling the key infestations.”

The weed board’s coordinator, Joost Besijn, told Morley and the Board of County Commissioners he disagrees and that board has had “growing pains” since his position was created in 2015.

“We’ve increased capacity,” he said. “The weed board hasn’t put boots on the ground at the same level we did a couple years ago.”

He said the fee structure allowed the weed board to hire two well-educated people who have worked on setting up a structure, on finding the definition of what the weed board needs to do and spread the message to private citizens and leadership in the county.

He said there has been a focus on “rebuilding bridges” and changing the role of the weed board.

“Yes, we have less boots on the ground … but the focus is different and I think it is more valuable and the board thinks it is more valuable,” he said. “But once again, it’s a very flexible board and you are all invited to board meetings.

“If you wanted to bring that opinion — and I will bring it too — it will be a welcomed discussion.”

Commissioner David Sullivan said he has heard from constituents who question what the weed board has been doing since the fee was implemented.

“It’s inconsistent for the constituents I hear from,” he said. “We instituted a fee and now we’re doing less — is the way they look at it — because they don’t see people out taking care of weeds.”

Besijn told commissioners the weed board’s focus this year has been primarily on noxious weed surveys, coordination of noxious weed control and education outreach.

The largest focus has been the surveys he said.

“We wanted to create a good database from which to work from,” he said. “The main goal is to increase control efficiency.”

Jefferson County Noxious Weed Control Board

In 2017, officials found 751 new infestations in Jefferson County, 76 percent of which were on public lands. About 15 percent of those infestations were controlled.

Of the 14 percent of infestations found on private property, 67 percent of infestations were controlled.

He said the likely reason there were significantly more infestations discovered on public lands is because he has access to public lands.

Infestations have been logged on a map, showing infestations across Jefferson County.

He said the map is updated constantly and allows people to look up their homes to see the nearest infestations.

“It can be used as a reference as a planning tool, but also as a measurement for control,” he said. “You’ll see some infestations declining.”

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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