County presses forward with noxious weed penalty

At their regular meeting in Virginia City last week the Madison County Board of Commissioners approved the first reading of Ordinance No. 1-2012, establishing a civil penalty for non-compliance for the management of noxious weeds.

The ordinance requires landowners and their representatives to comply with Madison County’s Weed Management Plan. Montana Code Annotated 7-22-2116(1) states that it is “unlawful for any person to permit any noxious weed to propagate or go to seed on the person’s land, except that any person who adheres to the noxious weed management program of the person’s weed management district or who has entered into and is in compliance with a noxious weed management agreement is considered to be in compliance with this section.”

The penalty for non-compliance with the county’s noxious weed management program is $100 per acre, which may be enforced through a court order by the Madison County Board of Commissioners.

Madison County deputy attorney Chris McConnell explained that the civil penalty was intended by the legislature to be used as a last-resort measure for people who refuse to adhere to a noxious weed management plan.

“It’s out there as a remedy that’s available in the worst case scenarios,” he said. “The legislature wanted counties and weed boards to have the ability to have a hammer, to go after the landowner who is non-compliant and refuses to go through the steps of the management plan.”

County commissioner Jim Hart said the court-ordered civil penalty is at the end of a long list of options for resolving any issues a landowner has with noxious weeds.

“There are a number of avenues to take before it ever gets enforced,” Hart said.

While it may be impossible to be 100 percent weed free, Hart said the goal is to work in that direction by following a management plan. According to MCA 7-22-2123(2)(b), landowners have 10 days to comply with their district’s noxious weed management program after notification before they are considered non-compliant.

A full version of Ordinance No. 1-2012 can be found online here. The second reading and public hearing on the noxious weed ordinance has been scheduled for July 24 at 6 p.m.

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