Casual Legal: Pretty plants or pesky weeds?

By Zoë E. Beckett  
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider

Summer is the right time to review a landowner’s requirements under the Weed Control Act. The Act sets out the duties of individuals, as well as municipalities, relating to the prevention, control and destruction of weeds, which have been classified into two categories.

The Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation designates which weeds are deemed as noxious weeds or prohibited noxious weeds in Alberta. These are set out in Alberta’s Weed Control Regulation. A municipality may, with ministerial approval, pass a bylaw to designate a plant as a noxious weed or a prohibited noxious weed within the municipality. This may include a municipality seeking to increase a designation of a provincial noxious weed to be a prohibited noxious weed within the municipality.

The Act states that a landowner is required to destroy prohibited noxious weeds and control noxious weeds on the land they own, even if it is private property. The destruction of a weed means ‘to render its reproductive mechanisms non-viable’, while to control a weed requires a landowner ‘to inhibit its growth or spread’.

A municipality is responsible for appointing one or more inspectors to monitor and enforce compliance with the Weed Control Act in the municipality. If the municipality fails to designate an inspector, the Minister may do so on their behalf, at the expense of the municipality. This inspector may enter upon private property for the purposes of an inspection and issue notices to require the control or destruction of prohibited and noxious weeds.

If a landowner fails to comply with a notice, the municipality, subject to the appeal period set out in the regulation, may take the necessary action to comply with the notice at the expense of the landowner as well as impose a fine up to $5,000.

A municipal council may wish to conduct weed control programs for weeds that it thinks have significant ecological or economic impact on lands within their municipality. If those weeds are not listed in the Weed Control Regulation, council should seek legal advice on how it may implement and enforce such a program.

To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or send an casuallegal [at] (email) to reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please call 310-MUNI (6864) or send an riskcontrol [at] (email) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.

DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.