Douglas County officials have long restricted the use of chemical pesticides and herbicides on county-owned land, but now they are going to make an exception to address minor outbreaks of invasive species on county forest land.

The county’s Forestry, Parks and Recreation Committee approved a blanket exemption to the county’s pesticide ordinance for small, localized outbreaks of species like buckthorn or Japanese knotweed.

“It’s a lot of work filling out the application, going through the whole approval process, when it basically takes someone 10 minutes to go out there and treat the thing,” said Jon Harris, director of forestry and natural resources.

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The county would have to go through that process more often as infestations are discovered more frequently because state law requires landowners to control invasive species on their property, Harris said. The goal behind the blanket exemption is to address the small occurrences the forestry department staff comes across.

Mark Liebaert, chairman of the forestry committee, said the committee has previously allowed exemptions to the ordinance to address invasive species. He said the process can take two to three months to get approved, which could allow the infestation to spread.

From Liebaert's point of view, it makes sense to have the exemption for small growths that can be taken care of using a backpack sprayer.

“My only concern is that we open the door,” he said. “I’m OK with it given the current management we have now. We just have to remember now that we’ve opened that door.”

The only land affected by the decision is county forest land, Liebaert said. Other county-owned property still have the pesticide prohibition.