As Colorado's big-game season gets underway, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are reminded of the importance of using weed-free forage for livestock while in the backcountry. Hay, straw and mulch must be certified free of noxious weeds before anyone stores or uses it on federal lands and Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) properties. Hay must be clearly marked by the certifying state or province.
The Weed-Free Forage Program, provided by the Colorado Department of Agriculture, inspects forage or mulch before it is harvested to verify there are no unwanted noxious weed parts. State agriculture and wildlife officials believe the use of certified weed-free forage and mulch helps reduce the spread of weeds.
Noxious weeds are non-native plants that often exist without the presence of any natural predators, thus giving them the ability to spread extensively and pose a severe threat to the delicate balance of our native ecosystems. Invasive species such as leafy spurge, yellow toadflax, orange hawkweed and many others can displace native plants, causing tremendous damage to wildlife habitat and agricultural productivity in Colorado.
The Colorado Parks and Wildlife encourages you to help protect the outdoor areas you recreate in by feeding weed-free forage to your riding and pack animals to help prevent the introduction and spread of noxious weeds.
Every year the Colorado Department of Agriculture publishes a state-wide directory of sources where the public can buy weed-free forage. The current Crop Directory (sorted by producer or town) can be found on the Department of Agriculture's Weed-Free Forage page. You can also contact the Department of Agriculture by phone at (303) 239-4149. Many CPW offices can provide these lists, as well. Visit the Department of Agriculture Weed-Free Forage program page for more information.
Colorado is part of a regional weed-free forage certification program along with several surrounding states. If more convenient, those who are out-of-state and would like to bring forage onto public land in Colorado can check with their own Department of Agriculture. If their state has a recognized weed-free forage program, bringing your state’s certified forage into Colorado is fine.
With your help, we can keep Colorado naturally beautiful!