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Indiana State Weed Control Laws

Dr. Gerald A. Harrison

Several Indiana statutes provide enforcement tools for weed control. Although formal enforcement of the weed laws may be unpopular in most communities, the township trustees are under a duty to take action to control certain weeds.

Township Trustees' Duty

Destruction of detrimental plants is required by IC 15-3-4. Detrimental plants are Canada thistle, Johnson grass, sorghum almum, bur cucumber, and in residential areas only, noxious weeds and rank vegetation. Various methods of control may be used as long as the plants are not allowed to mature.

The township trustee under procedures in this statute may investigate and provide notice to the owner or person in possession of the real estate of the requirement to destroy the weeds. The owner of the real estate has five days after proper notice to destroy the detrimental plants.

If necessary, the trustee may take action to control the weeds, bill the owner, and, if the bill is not paid, arrange for the amount due to be collected like real estate taxes.

The township trustee who fails to perform his or her duties under this law commits a Class C infraction. A Class C infraction has a maximum penalty of $500—each day is a separate offense.

The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service (CES) provides technical assistance to township trustees for the control of detrimental plants.

A separate statute, IC 15-3-5, provides for the control (do anything possible to restrict the growth and seed production) of Johnson grass between July 1 and September 15. The law applies to the Indiana Department of transportation, railroads, drainage districts, township boards, public utilities, and managers of public and quasi-public corporations.

Weed Control Boards

A weed control board (for each county) is provided under IC 15-3-4.6. This law permits the county commissioners to provide for a WCB by ordinance, on their own initiative, or after receiving a petition for a WCB signed by at least five percent of the registered voters of the county.

A WCB must consist of (1) one township trustee, (2) one SWCD supervisor, (3) a representative of the agricultural community of the county, (4) a representative from the county highway department, and (5) a CES Extension Educator to serve in a non-voting advisory capacity.

Noxious weeds under the WCB are: Canada thistle, Johnson grass, bur cucumber and shatter cane.

A WCB has broad powers of enforcement for the control of specified noxious weeds. WCB may give notice to the landowner or to a person in possession of the real estate if there is a failure to control the appropriate weeds. A WCB has the authority to: employ staff to assist with WCB enforcement activities, enter upon land after a 48-hour notice to inspect, hire custom operators to control weeds, and to bill the appropriate party for control costs. A five-day notice to remove noxious weeds (delivered by certified mail or the sheriff) consistent with township trustee weed control activity, is required.

Further, the WCB must notify the appropriate township trustee of the fact that a notice was sent to a person to remove weeds growing on real estate in the trustee's township. When the WCB has incurred the weed control cost and the billed party does not pay the bill, the bill can be collected in a manner similar to property tax.

Failure to begin a program recommended by a WCB within the prescribed time, is a Class C infraction.

In a county with a weed control board (WCB), a township trustee may defer to the WCB to take action where the trustee has identified real estate containing detrimental plants. Where funding and specialized staff is in place, this consolidation of effort may be efficient. However, the WCB is not obliged to perform a task that is already a duty of a township trustee and may decline jurisdiction and refer a weed control problem back to a township trustee.

Other Weed Control Statutes

1. The propagation of multiflora rose and purple loosestrife is greatly restricted at IC 14-24-12.

2. County highway departments are required by IC 36-2-18 to control detrimental plants defined in IC 15-3-4-1 and noxious weeds.

3. Likewise, the same weeds identified in IC 15-4-1 are to be controlled on railroad rightsofway according to IC 837. However, the penalty for noncompliance is $25!

4. In the case of cemeteries, IC 231474, and both IC 231468&69 (township trustee) require destroying detrimental plants (as defined in IC 15-3-4-1), noxious weeds, and rank vegetation. Failure to do so may result in a Class C infraction.

5. A flexible statute, IC 36-7-10.1, empowers legislative bodies of municipalities or counties to adopt ordinances to require owners of real estate to remove weeds and other rank vegetation growing on the property. This law provides that the ordinances adopted must specify:

(1) The department of the municipality or county responsible for the administration of the ordinance.

(2) The definition of weeds and rank vegetation.

(3) The height at which weeds or rank vegetation becomes a violation.

(4) The procedure for issuing notice to the owner of real property of a violation of the ordinance.

(5) The procedure under which the municipality or county, or its contractors, may enter real property to abate a violation of the ordinance if the owner fails to abate the violation.

(6) The procedure for issuing a bill to a landowner for the costs incurred by the municipality or county in abating the violation, including administrative costs and removal costs.

(7) The procedure for appealing a notice of violation or a bill issued under the ordinance.

If there is a failure to pay a bill for weed control, the bill may be collected along with the property taxes.

In the various weed control laws, there are references to "noxious weeds." Noxious weeds are identified in the Indiana Seed Law [IC 15-4-1]. Seed law deals with the allowable amounts of noxious weed seed that are permitted in other seeds sold for agricultural, horticultural, and other uses. Seed labeling standards are administered in Indiana by the Seed Administrator in the Office of Indiana State Chemist and Seed Commissioner.

The Indiana Administrative Code [360 IAC 1-1-5] identifies noxious weed seeds in two groups: prohibited and restricted noxious weed seed. Those in the prohibited category are characterized as perennial weeds, which reproduce by seed and by underground roots, stems, or other reproductive parts. When well established, they are highly destructive and difficult to control by good cultural practices. Those in the restricted category are very objectionable in fields, lawns, and gardens, but can be controlled by good cultural practices.

Gerald A. Harrison is an Extension Economistis in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Purdue University.

 


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