Weed Free Hay

U.S. Forest Service Requires the Use of Noxious Weed-Free Hay.

           The Forest Service will requires all hay, straw or mulch used on National Forest System lands in Colorado and Wyoming to be certified as noxious weed-free.  This requirement will affect persons who use pack and saddle stock, outfitters, ranchers with grazing permits, ski areas and certain contractors.


          Some hay and straw contains harmful weed seeds that can be introduced in to vulnerable National Forest ecosystems.  Noxious weeds like Leafy Spurge, Spotted Knapweed, Musk Thistle, Purple Loosestrife and others are alien to the United States and consequently have no natural enemies to keep their populations in balance.  They displace native vegetation and severely reduce the productivity and health of natural resources.  Water quality, wildlife habitat, forage production and recreational opportunities are negatively impacted by the spread of noxious weeds.  An estimated six million acres of National Forest already contain these harmful weeds and they are spreading to another ten percent of lands yearly.


          Rocky Mountain Regional Forester, Elizabeth Estill, decided to implement this requirement as one method of controlling noxious weeds.  “We have been assigned the responsibility to care for the National Forest for the American people,” stated Estill.  “It would be irresponsible to ignore this problem.  To prevent further spread of these noxious weeds, I have decided to alter our traditional way of doing business and allow only certified hay and straw.   Processed pellets and grains will continue to be allowed.”



Certified Noxious Weed-Free Hay Requirement

Questions and Answers

Q. Are hay and straw the only forage products that need to be certified as noxious weed-free to be used on National Forest System lands?

A.   Hay, straw or vegetative mulches used for re-seeding purposes need to be certified as noxious weed-free. Use of certified noxious weed-free pellets, cubes or grains is recommended but not required under this closure order.


Q. What species are considered noxious weeds for inspection purposes?

A.    Each state has a noxious weed list.  Inspections are done to determine the occurrence of the species on that list. Weeds on county lists that are not on the state list are not inspected for; however, these instances are rare.


Q.  The use of any hay is already prohibited in several wilderness areas throughout the Region. Does this closure order over-ride local closure orders and allow the use of certified hay in these wilderness areas.

A.    This closure order does not over-ride local closure orders. If wilderness areas have restrictions against any use of hay, then hay will continue to be prohibited in these areas.


Q.  How is hay certified, who does the inspections and how is certified hay marked?

A.    Hay or straw is inspected in the field prior to baling. Fields that are subsequently certified as free of noxious weeds are cut and baled. In Colorado, the certified hay bales will be marked with a strand of orange and blue twine or a strand of galvanized wire. All hay bales certified in other states must have an inspection certificate accompanying them. All inspectors must be certified through a State Agriculture Department. Each state maintains a list of qualified inspectors in their state. For Colorado Certified weed free suppliers, contact the Colorado Department of Agriculture.


Q.  Can hay certified in another state be accepted in Colorado and Wyoming?

A.      Six states (Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, Nebraska and Idaho) have entered into a regional certification program with similar weed lists and certification standards. Hay certified in any of these states can be accepted in any of the other states.


Q. Where can the Forest visitor locate and purchase certified noxious weed-free hay or straw?

A.    Each State Agriculture Department will maintain a list of known producers. Each Ranger District office will also maintain lists of producers and feed stores in their local areas where certified hay can be purchased.


Q. Are there penalties for violation of these closure orders and how will the orders be enforced?

A.   Yes, there are penalties for violation under the statutes listed on the orders. The order does allow local Forest officers to issue individual written exemptions to the order for justifiable cause. Compliance will be stressed, but our main emphasis will be on education and public awareness.