Utah’s Noxious Weed Act Criminalizes all Landowners with Noxious Weeds

by Robert Stevens, April 23, 2021; updated May 18, 2021

Utah’s Noxious Weed Act criminalizes all landowners growing any of 56 noxious weeds. Violators are subject to fines, liens and are liable for county costs.

“An owner or person in possession of property who fails to take action to control or prevent the spread of noxious weeds as specified in the notice is maintaining a public nuisance.” 4-17-109(3)

Hundreds of thousands of Utah citizens are already guilty so until the Utah Noxious Weed Act is declared noxious and eliminated, enforcing it will require thousands of full-time employees to regularly police hundreds of thousands of properties both in and outside incorporated cities.

Utah County regulation 14.12.C.9 further exasperates the problem by tying compliance to new subdivisions (hereinafter the regulation). Since only a dozen new lots are approved annually, developers are the minority; however, tyranny always begins by targeting minority groups.

10 Reasons to Delete Utah County’s Regulation Tying Noxious Weed Certification to New Subdivisions

1. It is redundant — compliance is already mandatory by the Utah Noxious Weed Act

2. Noxious weed-free acreage is currently unachievable; control is temporary with repeated applications of toxic herbicides

“A certification that lands being subdivided are free from invasive noxious weeds or have undergone appropriate noxious weed control treatment, shall be submitted with the application.” — Utah County regulation 14.12.C.9

“The area inspected must be noxious weed-free. Any noxious weeds found must be controlled before the certification can be approved.” — Utah County Public Works Noxious Weed Certification Form

Utah is 84,899 square miles. Noxious weed seeds and plants are ubiquitous. Wind, water, and birds can carry them for miles. Wind can blow from any direction. Noxious weeds also creep underground and on the surface and cannot be eliminated according to the Utah State Extension Service.

Using tractors and excavating equipment, elimination of noxious weeds is very difficult along boundaries such as roads, fences, irrigation ditches, boundary berms, and waterways.

Disking Land
This newly disked lot will fail Utah County’s noxious weed certification

The 5.25-acre lot shown in the picture above looks cleared but its boundaries are not so it will fail Utah County’s noxious weed certification.

3. Toxic herbicides are toxic

Forcing landowners, especially those with health conditions, to spray toxic herbicides on their land is harmful, and as appalling as would be requiring car dealers to smoke cigarettes in new vehicles.

Many people cannot or refuse to eat food grown in herbicide- or pesticide-contaminated soil.

“Growing evidence suggests exposure to chemicals and industrial pollutants may increase risk of systemic lupus erythematosus” — National Institute of Health https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4020505/

Ask Utah County Commissioner Amelia Powers Gardner how in her struggle with lupus she reduced herbicides in her West Mountain farm to grow food and raise animals organically

RoundupNotice.com claims there is $10.9 billion to settle Roundup lawsuits because Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is linked to Roundup.

What unintentional health consequences will toxic herbicides cause, especially to children living on sprayed farmland? Is the government willing to pay for those damages and for the cleanup of contaminated soils? What will be the total cost to the government and society?

4. The regulation is untimely and interferes with agricultural production

“Inspections can only be made during the period of April 1st through September 30th” — Noxious Weed Certification Form, Utah County Public Works

Timing matters weeds must be sprayed during specific growth stages. Spraying after crops are planted may damage the crops; spraying too early on wet ground may damage both soil and crops.

Individual farming situations are unique so schedules to perform tasks cannot be expected to conform to government mandates.

It is difficult to schedule busy contractors to disk farmland and nearly impossible to schedule an IFA store to spray toxic herbicides immediately after disking.

This spring after disking we delayed planting new grass seed because we hoped IFA would find time to spray our acreage. Now it is too late to plant due to the summer drought.

How many times must landowners re-disk to comply with the regulation? Repeated disking is costly. The going rate to disk a 5.25-acre parcel is $500, or more if the ground is not level or debris must be removed. After disking, the current cost to harrow and replant is $525 plus the cost of the seed.

5. The regulation was neither designed to eliminate nor control weeds

“The certification shall remain viable for a period of two (2) years from the date applied to the certification by the Inspector.”

In other words, comply once and you’re done for two years. It was never about “doing your part,” just about obedience.

In December 2020 we hired a contractor to disk and plant new grass seed for $1k per 5.25-acre parcel. The picture below was taken just four months later in April 2021. Notice there appear to be more weeds than grass. Does it make sense to uphold a regulation that requires one-time obedience and expects future failure?

Field disked and planted. In just four months the weeds returned.

6. It targets the wrong group

County employees argue the regulation was created because buyers of new subdivision lots tend to allow noxious weeds to grow, so then shouldn’t the regulation require adherence after and not before subdivision approval?

That makes sense because land developers are motivated to remove the majority of weeds with excavation equipment, and new owners are motivated daily to control new growth and the lingering minority.

7. It fails equal administration of justice

The phrase equal administration of justice is engraved on the west pediment, above the front entrance of the United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C.

To apply equal justice, the regulation must be applied to every property both in and outside incorporated cities, and not to serve only as a roadblock for developers to obtaining county subdivision approval.

8. The regulation mainly benefits herbicide manufacturers and contractors

Hand weeding is feasible for small city lots but not for farmland. Besides spraying herbicides, there is no other solution at this time; however, there is a solution being developed in England by SmallRobotCompany.com that is expected to be released in 2022 — drone photography to identify weeds and then a robot that will zap each weed with electricity.

9. It places tyrannical power solely on inspectors

“Only County Weed Control approved inspectors may certify land noxious weed-free” — Utah County Public Works Noxious Weed Certification Form

Spend your life’s savings on farmland in Utah County and then suffer under the decree of one county employee acting as judge, jury, and executioner, who knows if he looks close enough he will always find noxious weeds; therefore, he always has the power to deny.

“Whenever government is given power to abuse our rights for one reason it will inevitably use that power to abuse our rights for other reasons as well.” Ron Paul

In December we had three 5.27-acre parcels disked and planted with a grass seed mix, and then three more 5.25-acre parcels disked in April. We thought all six parcels looked beautiful and would easily be granted Utah County’s noxious weed certification; however, Jake Johnson, the Weed Control Supervisor at Utah County Public Works wrote us on April 20, 2021:

“Your land parcels did not pass my inspection for the Noxious Weed Certification due to Hoary Cress infestation density and distribution throughout plots 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14. During my inspections plots 16, 17, & 18 were clean except along the north end of the parcels along the ditch where the ground wasn’t able to work had Hoary Cress (White Top) and Musk Thistle. I’ve attached 3 pictures named 1, 2, & 3 that I took during the inspection. If you look at the pictures the small green broadleaf rosettes on the ground are Hoary Cress.”

In other words, disking to remove noxious weeds was not enough. To comply we must use herbicides.

10. It is unnatural

Many tract home builders now plant Bermudagrass which requires less water during hot summer months. The problem is it isn’t natural so any natural grass that grows looks unnatural. Often to meet neighborhood HOA requirements, any grass except Bermudagrass growing on lawns must be eradicated, which requires herbicides.


Many people cannot or will not eat food grown in toxic herbicide-contaminated soil.

Timing disking, planting and spraying is problematic.

Obtaining a one-time noxious weed certification doesn’t keep the weeds from returning, nor has the government proved its necessity.

The regulation wrongly targets landowners before subdivision approval based on the supposition that noxious weeds grow after subdivision approval.

Perhaps those who couldn’t peaceably convince their neighbor to spray toxic herbicides on Musk and Scotch Thistle or Hoary Cress asked their representatives to create Utah’s Noxious Weed Act.

The regulation doesn’t solve anything and may create new health problems, and forces developer serfs to comply with yet another stupid and costly regulation decreed by county rulers who create and uphold non-essential regulations because they can.

Without bias, Utah County cannot assume the worst for new subdivisions and assume the best for all other properties. 

Those trying to obtain subdivision approval already have enough government-induced problems–they must deal with rising costs, comply with the Utah Farmland Assessment Act‘s agricultural production requirements to avoid five years of rollback taxes, and show beneficial use of their water rights before they expire; otherwise, they will lose their water rights and the state water engineer will require their well be cemented.

Utah County must make it abundantly clear the health of its citizens is essential, protecting farming parameters is equally critical, and deleting the regulation tying compliance to new subdivisions is an applaudable first step to eliminate the Utah Noxious Weed Act which creates the legal foundation for a new police state that cannot be enforced without a huge increase in government power.

With so many regulations, is Utah becoming California?

Why stop with noxious weeds? Why not create the Utah Noxious Bug Act and require all new subdivisions to be free of noxious bugs? Mosquitos are more dangerous than weeds.

For new subdivisions in Utah County, there is no need to add to the war against liberty when state compliance is already mandatory. Utah County Commissioners, your constituents want you to shrink government overreach by deleting harmful regulations, so please delete regulation 4-17-109(3).


Q. What is the average size of a lot in a new subdivision?
A. Probably 5.25 acres

Q. Are one-lot subdivisions allowed?

Q. In one word, what is government?
A. Force

Q. What is the proper role of government?
A. To protect liberty

Q. How does tying noxious weed certification to new subdivisions protect liberty?
A. It doesn’t.

Q. Is this regulation destructive to liberty?
A. Yes. If you don’t agree, please re-read the Declaration of Independence which was later ratified by an act of Congress, and explain how the regulation is not destructive.

Q. Who benefits?
A. The fertilizer industrial complex, IFA or other herbicide control companies, excavators, and government employees who feel it is their role to tell people what to do.

Q. What evidence is there that Roundup is harmful to humans?
A. See Weed-Whacking Herbicide Proves Deadly to Human Cells

Q. How does the free market address noxious weed control?
A. People are self-motivated to control weeds for farming, ranching, aesthetics, to maintain peace with their neighbors, and to sell their properties.

Q. What about the argument that everyone should do their part?
A. Given only twelve 5.25-acre lots are approved annually, 640 acres per square mile and Utah County is 2,144 square miles, one-time removal of noxious weeds on 63 of Utah County’s 1,372,160 acres is just 0.0004591301 of the whole, far less or 45/10,000 of 1%. If everyone did their part and sprayed, Utah County would have a toxic herbicide nightmare and would probably still have noxious weeds.

Q. Is disking enough?
A. No, some roots are up to six feet deep. It is also difficult to disk along roads, fences, canals, and other boundary barriers.

Q. How can noxious weeds be removed from those areas?
A. By hand which is not feasible for large areas or by burning.

Q. Does burning cause other problems?
A. Yes, few people are trained in fire control, have water trucks, or the ability to stop a fire once it gets out of control.

Q. To put the burden of proof on the government, can they prove spraying herbicides on new subdivisions is essential?
A. No

Q. Can the government prove spraying herbicides on new subdivisions is permanent?
A. No

Q. Besides spraying toxic herbicides to kill the 56 types of noxious weeds, is there another solution for organic farming?

A. There is a solution that is expected to be released in 2022–drone photography to identify weeds followed by a robot that will zap each weed with electricity. Watch their video 5.5-minute video. Here is their press release.

Q. The noxious weed certification isn’t a new regulation. Why now?

A. We had no problems with eight inspections done by the previous county inspectors; however, since disking is no longer enough to appease the current inspector who looks for new growth (which can occur the next day after disking), the government overreach is now unacceptable.

Q. Why are government employees against removing this or any regulation?
A. Perhaps for the same reason why federal employees and their contractors are immune from criminal prosecution? It would start a precedent and domino effect that threatens them, their jobs, and those who benefit.