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Letter To The Editor: What Is A Weed?

on November 6, 2017 - 7:58am
Los Alamos

We went to the County Code Enforcement presentation last Thursday at UNM-LA sponsored by the local Republican Party because we had recently received a notice from the county. Our garden is big, so we thought it might be a good idea to see what didn’t comply to county standards. It is easier to move “offensive” plants now when they are getting ready for their winter slumber. At least I think it is – my son has the green thumb.let

Gardens can be both cost and labor intensive so it’s good to get things right the first time. The county code men at last week’s presentation described their employment backgrounds. They do not have a whole lot of horticultural experience, so they have been seeking advice from our wealth of local gardening clubs.

As might be expected, gardeners agree about very little. Each group has its own vibe and disagreements within groups are frequent. Some people feel herbicides are wonderful. Others believe such gardeners to be barbarians. 

An audience member last Thursday asked the county code men to define a weed. They were unable to do this. They said to go and ask PEEC for their list of noxious weeds. There also was some confusion during the slide presentation when the chief county inspector mentioned a cited area of land as being an ideal site for future “xero-scaping”.

In horticultural circles in our high mountain desert community, xero-scaping is sort of something disdainful. Xeriscaping is a wonderful way to keep your garden natural, low maintenance and cost efficient, but xero-scaping is taboo.

It is a good thing they are willing to work with local gardening clubs but in the meantime, one wonders how they are really able to issue citations for weeds if they are unable to clearly discern what a weed is? They mentioned the county is planning to have gardeners “register” their gardens. They seemed almost frightened of those around town who have taken the time to have their properties listed as natural eco-friendly zones.

My family lives directly on one of the four major drainage areas of Los Alamos. A couple of summers ago LANL scientists and some researchers from the state of New Mexico set up lots of equipment behind our house as part of a project to study local watersheds. They promised to send their findings, but we never received anything.

My worry is that if the county authorities have declared a somewhat undefined war on weeds – aside from a lowly purple thistle pictured in last week’s presentation – might those of us living in watersheds slowly be being poisoned? How many members of the community will address their supposed weed “problems” in an environmentally sustainable fashion? Has the sale of herbicides around town increased? I worry. My daughter who spends hours outside in our yard daily year-round has had a few weird rashes lately. I usually blame laundry detergent, but I am beginning to wonder.

Anyone who shares my concerns about whether our county is putting property values above the health of our community I urge to attend Tuesday evening’s Council meeting. (6 p.m. in Council Chambers at the Los Alamos County Municipal Building, 1000 Central Ave.)