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A Ravalli County commissioner and her husband have told the county weed board they'll go their own way in creating a weed management plan for their ranch south of Hamilton.

Last fall, eight neighbors of Lee and Suzy Foss filed a complaint with the weed district under the county's relatively new noxious weed policy.

The policy requires landowners to complete a compliance form that outlines their plans to control noxious weeds on their property following a complaint.

Ravalli County Weed District coordinator Kellieann Morris said the couple told her they will not fill out the county's current form.

In a report to the county weed board Tuesday night, Morris said the Fosses were concerned about language in the form they believed would give the county perpetual access to inspect their ranch.

Instead, the couple agreed to complete their own weed management plan and turn that over the county.

Morris told the board she has no idea when that might arrive.

At Tuesday's meeting, the board adopted new language to the compliance form in an effort to address the concern brought up by the Foss family. Morris said she will present that new form to them at her next opportunity.

The process to get to this point has been drawn out and sometimes contentious, Morris told the board. Meetings with the Foss family were rescheduled for a variety of reasons last fall, including the election and other family obligations.

Morris said the first meeting she had with the family wasn't pleasant. She declined to elaborate on what exactly occurred.

A weed board member accompanied her on the second visit, which resulted in a promise from the couple to develop their own weed plan.

"We're hoping to get that in the near future,' Morris said.

There are eight different noxious weeds identified on the ranch, including knapweed, toadflax, hounds tongue and Canadian thistle.

"There are a lot of weeds out there," Morris said.

Lee Foss told Morris at an earlier meeting that he had his own weed management plan that he had been working on for years.

About 15 complaints have been filed under the county's noxious weed ordinance since it was adopted in last August. Nearly all have involved relatively small parcels of property.

The Foss family's ranch is "by far" the largest land holding involved in a complaint so far, Morris said.

"That does make it more problematic for the landowner," Morris said. "It takes more time to treat weeds on a larger property and you have to spend more money."

So far, 99 percent of those complaints have been resolved through education, Morris said.

"Most of the landowners didn't even realize they had noxious weeds on their property," Morris said. "They thought they were just pretty flowers."

When the county receives a weed complaint, Morris calls the landowner and attempts to set up an educational walk-through on their property.

If the landowner is receptive and agrees to address their weed issues, the complaint is filed away.

Should the landowner balk for whatever reason, Morris will send them two certified letters that outline the process to resolve the issue.

If they continue to refuse, the weed board can choose to turn the matter over to the county commission. The commission has the option to hire a weed control specialist to spray the property.

The county can add an additional 25 percent of the actual cost of spraying weeds to pay "for all the headaches" caused by the process, Morris said. If the landowner refuses to pay, the charge will be added to their property taxes.

With spring in the air and the countryside beginning to turn green, Morris said the eight neighboring landowners are getting antsy about weeds on the Foss ranch.

If the county doesn't receive a written weed management plan from the Foss family soon, the weed board will need to "go to the drawing board" to decide its next step, Morris said.

The Fosses were not at the Tuesday night meeting. They didn't return phone calls from the newspaper on Wednesday.

Reach reporter Perry Backus at 363-3300 or pbackus@ravallirepublic.com.

 

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