Weed Management Plan
Meadow Lake Resort consists of more than 320 acres of rich forest, meadow and aquatic lands. Within its boundaries exists a diversified resort community including golf and other recreational facilities. Typical for northwest Montana, invasive noxious and targeted weeds exist and annually expand their range within the resort. As required by Montana law, and to fulfill its stewardship responsibilities over the resort’s common use areas, the Meadow Lake Homeowners Association (MLHOA) has developed a weed management program as represented in this plan.
This plan specifies a series of goals and objectives which direct the weed control activities of the MLHOA’s Beautification Improvement Maintenance (BIM) committee. The primary goal is to reduce the infestation and spread of noxious and targeted weeds at Meadow Lake by controlling weeds, not eradicating them. Eradication is not realistic, and the cost for controlling weed infestation is of its nature a limiting factor. The association will fund weed management programs with the expectation that, as weeds are effectively brought under control, weed management costs will reduce. Funding will come from the association’s landscape budget.
To affect this plan, to fulfill its goals and achieve its objectives, the BIM committee will seek the services of reputable weed management professionals for technical guidance, and mapping of the resort’s weed infestation. Licensed contractors will provide treatments needed to combat the weed problem. Additionally, the committee will develop education and training for resort property owners and periodically report results to the association’s board of directors and general membership.
Weed management is a Montana legislated responsibility of all Meadow Lake owners and activities. Through this plan, as the association responds to weed control needs across all properties, the resort’s general membership will collectively fulfill that responsibility.
Why This Plan?
Weed Management Goals and Objectives
Treatment Methods and Risk Assessment
- Livestock (Grazing)
- Human Activity (Weed Pulling)
Weed Management Responsibilities
Limitations and Restrictions
Weed Management Plan For Meadow Lake Resort
The MLHOA developed this plan to combat noxious weeds posing a threat to the resort’s environment. Authority for this plan is found in Article IV, Section 1, of the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs) established for Meadow Lake in 1985 in which the homeowners association (HOA) is charged to maintain the resort’s common area. In 2017 the MLHOA expanded this Weed Management Plan to include targeted weeds that were invading the Meadow Lake Community. These targeted weeds have shown to be very invasive as well and threaten our common areas as well as private properties. While not on Montana’s list of noxious weeds, these targeted weeds have proven to be very difficult to control, and warrant specific targeting.
In 2010, MLHOA began developing a long range strategic plan for managing the association’s chartered responsibilities. In a vision statement for that plan, which the HOA board of directors drafted as fundamental to the resort’s future, the board seeks “to enable all Meadow Lake residents, timeshare owners, guests and commercial interests to enjoy a lifestyle consistent with a quality resort image through effective and efficient stewardship of the common use areas and responsibilities as dictated by the governing documents.” Accordingly, with a commitment to its stewardship responsibilities and the goals specified in the resort’s long range plan, MLHOA has defined the goals, objectives, risks, resources, methods, and limitations for effectively managing noxious weeds within resort boundaries. This revised weed management plan thus provides a framework for actions designed to control the introduction and spread of noxious and invasive (targeted) weeds as well as reduce known weed infestations.
The plan provides for a long term process in attacking the resort’s weed problem. It also serves to bring the resort into compliance with Montana weed control laws. Through strategies to reduce the risk of weed introduction, for managing existing infestations, monitoring weed control results, and educating property owners, MLHOA intends for this plan to serve all Meadow Lake interests. It is the responsibility of every owner at the resort to participate in and support this plan’s efforts to control noxious and targeted weeds within the resort’s boundaries.
Why This Plan?
It is the law. The Montana Weed Control Act, Montana County Weed Control Act, and Montana Environmental Policy Act plus other legislation establish a requirement for managing noxious weeds. These laws apply to Meadow Lake owners, as well as all other Montana property owners. But the need for the resort to confront this problem is not just directed by law. Noxious and targeted weeds are impacting the resort community and presenting a growing environmental problem across all properties.
Properties surrounding Meadow Lake are weed infested. These weeds provide seeds that find their way into the community which begins a long term process of degrading the native grasses, forbs, and woodlands that contribute to the quality of life enjoyed at the resort. These weeds also impact the hydrologic cycle found in the wet lands at Meadow Lake. The waterways are being damaged as grass yields to weeds and erosion potential increases. Additionally, wildlife habitat is adversely altered as aquatic conditions are changed and native plant species yield to invasive weeds. Small animals, fish, deer, elk, moose and other wildlife will ultimately find their habitat less desirable and eventually not be part of Meadow Lake’s environment.
As the weed problem grows, the solution to correct it becomes more difficult and costly. Periodic heavy use of herbicides will have a negative cumulative impact on the soil and aquatic environs unless a more integrated weed control approach is taken. Finally, some property owners may on their own initiative take action which could more seriously impact the environment unless their efforts are coordinated with a broader overall effort.
Accordingly, the MLHOA board of directors developed this integrated weed management plan by which noxious and targeted weed control is continuously managed within the resort. The plan is designed to satisfy the law and ensure the Meadow Lake community promotes an environment desired by all association members.
Weed Management Goals and Objectives
Goal 1: To strengthen, support, and coordinate weed management efforts at Meadow Lake.
- 1.1: Coordinate weed management efforts with the Flathead County Weed Control and Parks and Recreation Director, ensuring Meadow Lake’s efforts are consistent with county requirements.
- 1.2: Seek the cooperation of Meadow Lake owners in identifying and controlling weed infestations on their respective properties.
- 1.3: In coordination with the resort’s neighborhood HOAs, commercial interests, timeshare managers, and individual owners, monitor MLHOA responsibilities and those of selected association members regarding weed management.
Goal 2: To educate and assist resort property owners in the management of noxious and targeted weeds on their properties.
- 2.1: Develop a community education program to better inform resort owners of their responsibilities for effective weed management and practices they can employ on their properties in fulfilling those responsibilities.
- 2.2: Provide annual weed management reports to resort owners through the community website, public announcements, and presentations at annual general membership meetings.
- 2.3: Provide timely feedback to property owners when weed management issues arise pertaining to their properties and individual management efforts.
Goal 3: To inventory and monitor noxious and targeted weeds within the MLHOA’s common use areas and across all resort properties as may be requested by individual member owners.
- 3.1: With professional assistance, develop an inventory of weeds found at Meadow Lake and map their distribution,
- 3.2: At appropriate times during weed season, update the weed inventory and distribution map.
- 3.3: Develop a tracking strategy to monitor the successes and failures encountered as various weed management strategies are employed, and report trends to the board of directors and resort community.
Goal 4: To integrate weed management methods best suited to the environment, topography, and infestation found at Meadow Lake.
- 4.1: Using contracted services, select appropriate weed management strategies to effectively reduce noxious and targeted weeds each year and do so within existing restrictions and budget limitations.
- 4.2: Using available resources, determine best methods for treating and reducing inventoried weeds, and apply those methods at times to maximize treatment impact.
- 4.3: Maintain an active liaison with contracted services to ensure services rendered meet MLHOA expectations regarding anticipated results, costs, environmental impact, application methods, and locations serviced.
Goal 5: To provide adequate resources for successfully combating Meadow Lake’s noxious and targeted weed problem.
- 5.1: Provide adequate funds in the MLHOA annual landscape budget to meet weed management program costs as funding resource limitations allow.
- 5.2: Assist contracted weed management services as may be necessary for scheduling, documenting, coordinating, and facilitating in any feasible way the processes necessary for successful and cost effective weed control.
Treatment Methods and Risk AssessmentMethods used to implement an integrated weed management plan should also include consideration of risks. Weed control methods at Meadow Lake may involve herbicides, mechanical removal, biological treatment, or the use of animal or human activity (i.e., grazing, weed pulling). Each method carries some degree of risk to the participant, environment, or property. Before a course of treatment is selected, consideration of the inherent risks should occur.
- Most herbicides that may be used at Meadow Lake will require a licensed specialist to purchase and apply the herbicide. This will ensure proper herbicides are selected to attack the weeds targeted for control and that overuse does not occur. As a result, proper use of the herbicides will help protect the resort’s hydrologic cycle, prevent damage or injury to non-targeted vegetation, and sustain a safe environment for both animals and humans. Due to the nature of Meadow Lake properties, herbicides should only be used by licensed/certified agents. Application by such agents will help minimize costs, provide service to areas that present limited equipment access, protect desirable vegetation, and achieve proper timing for varied weed species.
- Mechanical Removal. Using a mower, sickle or other cutting device to remove weeds is commonly referred to as a “mechanical” method. Property owners generally use this method, and contracted weed treatment may also at times require mechanical methods. Within Meadow Lake, mechanical means may be appropriate for certain weed sites as this method might be more environmentally friendly, cheaper, or effective. While this method may reduce seed production if performed before seed head development, it does not kill the plant. Additionally, unless the cut weeds are bagged and removed from the site to a landfill location, this method may disperse weed seeds (if seed heads are present) and contribute to a growing weed problem. If not properly done, mechanical removal can work as an effective seed dispersal agent. The primary risks include injury to operators or nearby persons as debris are propelled or equipment safety procedures are violated. Job safety and cutting before seed head production are therefore necessary for effective mechanical removal.
- Biological Treatment. Some weeds, such as knapweed, are candidates for biological control. In northwest Montana biologists have introduced beetles that feed on either weed seed heads or root systems. These beetles, once introduced and allowed to thrive, can provide effective knapweed control with little or no adverse impact on the environment. Initial beetle introduction is expensive and must therefore be carefully considered before selected as a treatment. Successful treatment, however, is long term and often illusive. If effective, it can reduce the need for various treatment methods. This method may work best as a “zone specific” treatment, such as in open platted spaces where long term results are sought.
- Livestock (Grazing). Goats, sheep and other livestock are often used to help control weeds. When effectively done, grazing keeps weeds from maturing and prevents the development of seed heads (however, if livestock consume weed seeds, the animals may become dispersal agents). It does not eliminate the weeds but contributes to controlling their expansion. Controlling livestock control can be a problem, and Meadow Lake as a recreational and residential property does not offer “range” suited for livestock use. Limited opportunity does exist, however, for controlled grazing at specific undeveloped sites using tethered livestock to prevent free roaming. Undeveloped lot owners might want to try this method, but first should consider CC&R issues and coordinate the activity with the BIM committee.
- Human Activity (Weed Pulling). Pulling weeds is a common activity. It is effective at specific sites for removing roots and seed heads. However, for some weeds (such as knapweed) soil disturbance caused by the pulling the weed may facilitate seed germination of more plants at that particular site. Repeated weed pulling at a small site (as on a private lot or where a small infestation of weeds is occurring) can be a cost effective method. While reducing herbicide use, weed pulling is beneficial if the plants are discarded to a landfill rather than left on the ground where seed heads (if present) can still mature and deposit their loads. Other than the physical effort associated with this activity, weed pulling is relatively risk free in terms of safety and the environment. It is, however, time and labor intensive. Lot owners and members who walk the resort’s roadways are encouraged to use this method.
Weed Management Responsibilities
The MLHOA has historically left weed management to the individual resort property owners. In recent years the MLHOA cited owners of developed properties for allowing weeds to grow along driveway edges. The MLHOA, however, has not had a plan for adequately fulfilling its responsibilities. As a result, weed control has only occurred on an occasional basis or when lawn care professionals treated common use areas or private properties under separate contracts. The golf course, in contrast, has maintained an effective integrated weed management program since 1999 using chemical, mechanical, and hand removal methods.
In 2011 the association began management of weeds as a formal annually budgeted program directed by an association committee. Specific weed control treatments taken by the MLHOA will target common use areas and association roadways. In general, however, it is the legal responsibility of all resort property owners to control weeds on their respective properties. In support of its membership, the MLHOA provides weed management assistance for individual owners if feasible when requested by the owners. Property owners may be cited by the MLHOA for failure to control weeds on their property. The association may perform weed control functions on private property within the resort if an owner fails to respond to citations (see Community Standards, Appendices C, X, HOA Policy 07-01 Aesthetic Standards for Vacant Lots, and HOA Policy 13-05 Weeds on Private Property). Not covered by this plan, are the golf course and other sites not platted within the resort boundaries, and gardens of developed properties.
Weed problems at these locations remain the responsibility of site owners. However, to prevent the spread of noxious and targeted weeds to other resort properties, the association will coordinate with those property owners, the necessary actions for controlling known weed infestations at sites in question as per HOA Policy 13-05 Weeds on Private Property.
To combat the continuing weed problem within the resort, the MLHOA will annually provide funding for the weed control program. The Beautification, Improvement, and Maintenance Committee (BIM) will determine the scope of activities necessary for an effective weed management program at Meadow Lake consistent with the goals and objectives of this plan. It will also work with contractors to ensure safe, effective and efficient treatment of weed infestations, that adequate inventory mapping and timely analyses take place, and a beneficial weed management education/information program exists for the resort community. The committee’s primary purpose is to implement programs that will fulfill the program’s purpose and achieve the plan’s goals and objectives.
Limitations and Restrictions
MLHOA operations are limited by a lack of manpower. The MLHOA has no employees and must contract all of its activities and services unless volunteer assistance is available. The weed control will require contract work and volunteer help from community members. Hence, property owners are encouraged to fulfill their responsibilities for managing weeds on their properties.
Budgeting for contract work is a function of the MLHOA board of directors. Funds supporting the weed management program are reflected in the association’s “landscape” budget. The MLHOA expects weed management costs to decline as the benefits of controlling weeds improve each year, and associated costs thereby become less. Initial annual costs were forecasted at about $10,000 beginning in the spring of 2011. Annual funding will continue as a needed. The board does not anticipate the program will generate an increase in owner monthly association dues since adequate funding already exists for landscape projects in the association’s budget. However, future landscape projects not yet defined by the board of directors may contribute to assessment increases.
There are limited resources within the resort community for conducting the treatment options best suited for Meadow Lake. While the golf course may have the capability to spray and mow its properties, other Meadow Lake entities must use contractor or volunteer services. The MLHOA has no equipment to support this effort. Owners, if they accept their responsibilities for weed management, can help reduce the effort and costs the MLHOA might otherwise incur.
Expertise in weed management is another factor limiting the MLHOA’s effort. The association lacks trained, certified weed management experts able to purchase and apply federally controlled herbicides or other chemicals. So that this plan can be properly implemented, and its goals and objectives achieved, the MLHOA must contract professional personnel to provide the advice and services needed. This is an expensive process, and program costs are a primary concern of the association membership. The BIM committee must exercise good judgment in performing its duties.
Budgeting requires a multi-year commitment by the MLHOA to control weeds at Meadow Lake. By aggressively attacking noxious and targeted weeds the association can expect to reduce annual costs until achieving a balanced, manageable weed control program. As weeds are controlled, less effort will be necessary to sustain the weed management program. For example, when herbicide treatment is used, about one-third of the costs go to labor and two-thirds to chemicals and equipment. As infestations shrink and treatment areas reduce, labor and chemical costs will likewise decline. Within a few years program costs will become more reasonable, and Meadow Lake will offer its owners and guests a more natural and environmentally friendly resort experience.
This plan became effective upon approval by the MLHOA board of directors in the spring of 2011. The board of directors may make changes to the plan consistent with the MLHOA’s long range strategic plan and board proceedings as specified in the association’s bylaws.
Adopted 3/22/17, Updated 4/22/17