Agricultural Encroachment

agricultural encroachment

By Harry Brook

Flagstaff County has a primary responsibility to provide road access and weed control along County roads. The job is not as easy as it sounds. One area of concern is the encroachment of agricultural cropping into the County road right-of way. No big deal you say?

I beg to differ! To clarify. Road allowances are 66 feet wide. They were surveyed in the 1880s to 1890s by the federal government eager to claim sovereign to the prairies. Whether or not there is a road on it, it is still County property. This column is concerned with the farming practices alongside our existing gravel roads.

There are several areas along existing roads where this is a concern. When cropping encroaches on the road allowance, when a fence is placed within the road allowance, close to the road, and cropping into the roadway once the County has removed trees for field access. The Agricultural Service Board has recommended and the County Council has approved the following guidelines:

  • The minimal acceptable standard allowed for cultivation and planting of annual and perennial crops adjacent to a developed road will be one meter set back from the “toe” of the slope of the developed road. This is done to preserve the integrity of the roadbed. Encroachment closer than the one meter can cause undermining of the roadbed and damage. We still need the roads to travel on.
  • Any landowner/tenant agriculturally encroaching upon a developed right-of-way will be notified to stay a minimum of one meter from the “toe” of the slope or further dependent upon circumstances.
  • In addition, any crops found within the right-of-way, as a result of non-compliance by the landowner/tenant, will be removed as part of the County’s regular vegetation control program.

A big part of our roadside weed control relies upon the establishment of perennial grasses on the road slopes and into the ditch to prevent any weeds from taking root. That expensive work is undone when a careless sprayer oversteps the edge of the field and sprays into the right-of-way. Spray drift is also a problem when producers spray in windy conditions, causing drift onto the allowance. This provides a perfect opportunity for those noxious weeds to gain a foothold. And from the ditch, it is only a short step into a cropped field. Do we really need to make more work and expense for everyone?

A little care and attention during spraying season can save everyone a lot of trouble and expense. Preserve the road and the road allowance by paying attention to the divide between your farmland and the County road allowance. It’s in everyone’s benefit.

Harry Brook is Flagstaff County’s Agricultural Fieldman. He can be reached via email at: or by phone at: 780-384-4138.