June and July are months in which our family dutifully weeds the yard and garden. However, August brings a flurry of family activities. There is the family vacation, the County Fair, the family reunion, the oil change, the flat tire, the raspberries. On top of this school starts soon and there are the backpacks, the shoes, the clothes, the paper, the pencils, the binders, the registration, and don’t forget back to school night at the elementary school, the middle school, and the high school.
By the time August has come and gone my garden has been transformed from neat rows of vegetables to a solid mat of weeds. Additional weeds line my driveway, grow tall around the barn, and envelope the tractor. Weeds hide my trailer, my canoe, and an old lawn mower. Weeds also line the ditch and the edge of the alfalfa field.
A few of the weeds on my property are bona fide noxious weeds. Canada thistle, morning glory, and more.
Idaho law obligates me as a landowner to control noxious weeds on my land and property. Idaho Code § 22-2407(1). In addition, the cost of controlling those weeds is my responsibility as the landowner. Id. at (2).
Counties are given the duty and authority by Idaho law to have noxious weeds controlled within a county. Idaho Code § 22-2406(1). Counties can quarantine a property and stop the movement of noxious weed infested items. If necessary, a County can also destroy crops that are infested with noxious weeds. Usually, however, a County will notify a landowner in writing of a problem and demand that noxious weeds be destroyed, lest the County do the work and bill the landowner for it.
Any person who fails to control noxious weeds on their property can, in addition to paying the costs of control, be assessed a civil fine. However, no civil fines can be assessed without first giving a landowner notice and opportunity for a hearing. Idaho Code § 22-2409(2)(b).
Additionally, and perhaps as a last resort, a landowner who fails to comply with the noxious weed requirements and rules for the State of Idaho can be charged with a misdemeanor. The noxious offender can be fined up to $3,000 and jailed for up to twelve months. Idaho Code § 22-2409(1). Any person who interferes with state or county efforts to control noxious weeds can also be charged.
In summary, next summer when the kids complain about weeding the garden, remind them that if they don’t, they could go to jail!
– Lance J. Schuster is an attorney at Beard St. Clair Gaffney. He and his wife raise kids and cattle on their small farm near Idaho Falls. He can be reached at 523-5171 or firstname.lastname@example.org