The noxious weed problem in the western United States has been described as “a biological forest fire racing beyond control because no one wants to be fire boss.” Indeed, when small weed infestations are left unchecked, they can grow exponentially and spread across the land much like a slow moving biological wildfire. However, land consumed by fire usually recovers and is often more productive than before the fire occurred. On the other hand, land consumed by noxious weeds may be irreversibly changed and never again reach its full biological potential.
There are currently many small noxious weed infestations in Arizona that most people probably do not even recognize as a problem. However, the risk of ignoring these small infestations is great. Many weed scientists compare small infestations to biological time bombs, primed to explode when the right combination of environmental conditions come along. Indeed, over the past decade, many smaller infestations in Arizona have increased dramatically, expanding their range into previously uninfested areas (i.e., Sahara mustard and yellow starthistle. If we continue to allow this to happen, noxious weeds will cause widespread, irreparable economic and ecologic damage in Arizona just as they have in neighboring states (i.e., Utah, Colorado, California).