Weeds and Other Nuisance Vegetation
This page provides an overview of local weed control and vegetation regulations in Washington State, including sample ordinances and related resources.
It is part of MRSC's series on Nuisances: Regulation and Abatement.
The need to regulate the growth of uncontrolled weeds and other vegetation includes: the prevention of serious fire hazards, the removal of obstructions that interfere with streets and sidewalks, the prevention of noxious weed infestation, and neighborhood preservation. Weeds tend to overgrow or choke out more desirable plants, such as desired crops, flower gardens and groundcover, and may become detrimental to public health.
Regulation of unkempt lots and property containing overgrown weeds, debris, and litter is generally accomplished through enforcement of nuisance ordinances. Cities and towns have general authority to address vegetation issues through general nuisance statutes and specific statutes. Counties have specific statutes authorizing weed control districts.
There are statutory provisions in RCW 35.21.310 for any city or town to enact a general ordinance requiring the owner of a property to remove or destroy grass, weed, shrubs, bushes, or trees which are growing or have died and are a fire hazard or a menace to public health, safety, or welfare. Noxious weeds are addressed in Ch. 17.10 RCW and defined as a plant that when established is highly destructive, competitive, or difficult to control by cultural or chemical practices. A Washington state noxious weed list appears in Ch. 16-750 WAC and is maintained by the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board (WSNWCB). An additional reference source is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Noxious Weeds Program.
Some local jurisdictions have broadened the definition of weed to include both the state list of noxious weeds and other weeds that are commonly considered a nuisance. See examples of definitions in the selected ordinances on this page.
- RCW 35.21.310 — Any city or town may create an ordinance requiring property owners to remove overhanging or obstructive vegetation.
- Ch. 17.04 RCW — Authorizes creation of county weed districts and outlines regulations relating to such districts. Most weed districts have been replaced by county noxious weed control boards.
- Ch. 17.06 RCW — Authorizes creation of inter-county weed districts.
- Ch. 17.10 RCW — Authorizes creation of noxious weed control boards and outlines regulations relating to such districts.
- Ch. 16-750 WAC — Establishes the state noxious weed list and schedule of monetary penalties.
- Deer Park Municipal Code Sec. 8.04.020(H)(2)(r-s) — Defines all noxious weeds upon public or private property, and all unmaintained grass, weeds, and/or similar vegetation growth in excess of 12 inches high as nuisances.
- Ellensburg Municipal Code Ch. 5.40.080(C) — Declares overgrown or unkempt vegetation a nuisance and details maintenance requirements.
- SeaTac Municipal Code Sec. 7.15.020(H-J) — Requires removal of dead, decayed, diseased ,or hazardous trees and overgrown, uncultivated, unkempt, or potentially hazardous vegetation; Also addresses inappropriate disposal or accumulation of vegetation waste.
- Union Gap Municipal Code Sec. 8.20.010(b)(19) — Includes weedy lots in nuisance provisions. Owner, occupant, or person having control of property is responsible for destroying, removing, or trimming overgrown uncultivated vegetation, and for removing and properly disposing of cut weeds, brush, vegetation, or dead weeds.
- Edmonds Municipal Code Ch. 6.30 — Noxious Weeds
- Goldendale Municipal Code Ch. 8.12 — Weeds
- Kent Municipal Code Ch. 8.07 — Weeds and Vegetation
- Redmond Municipal Code Ch. 6.12 — Noxious Weed Control and Tree Regulations
Weed Control/Nuisance Abatement Bids and Contracts
- La Center Landscape Maintenance Request For Bids and Contract (2011) — Seeks nuisance abatement services for approximately five properties in violation of the city nuisance code due to tall grass, weeds, and other vegetation; Includes a sample contract.
The WSNWCB maintains a list of county-based noxious weed control boards. Below are some sample weed control programs and associated materials and/or projects.
- Asotin County
- Clallam County
- King County
- Klickitat County
- Lewis County
- Okanogan County
- Integrated Control — Encourages integrated strategies for weed control, such as revegetation, hand pulling, tilling, herbicides, and biocontrols.
- Skamania County
- Hegewald Center Demonstration Garden — Developed to show how to use native plants to build healthy habitats that suppress weeds, increase pollinator foraging opportunities, and shelter wildlife.
- Stevens County
- Whatcom County
- Whatcom County Code Ch. 2.27 — Establishes the county's Noxious Weed Control Board.
Below are documents associated with the control and management of aquatic weeds, including sample local government management plans and general resources
- Bremerton: Kitsap Lake Algae Control and Aquatic Vegetation Management
- King County: Guide to Aquatic Weeds (2017)
- Mason County: Integrated Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan for Spencer Lake (2018)
- MRSC: Lake and Beach Management Districts — Provides a general overview of lake and beach management districts in Washington State, including relevant statutes, formation procedures, and examples of local provisions.
- Okanogan County: Integrated Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan
- Snohomish County: Integrated Aquatic Vegetation Management Plan for Lake Roesiger (2021)
- Washington State Department of Ecology
- Aquatic Weed Control Technical Assistance — Offers advice on identifying, monitoring, and managing invasive freshwater aquatic plants.
- Aquatic Noxious Weed Control General Permit — Controls freshwater and marine noxious weeds; covers the indirect discharge of herbicides, adjuvants, and marker dyes into estuaries, marine areas, wetlands, along lake shorelines, rivers, streams, and other wet areas.
- Washington State Department of Agriculture: Aquatic Noxious Weed Control NPDES Permits — Allows users to obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) general permits for use of herbicides to control some aquatic noxious weeds.
Below are sample codes regulating the removal or destruction of excessive or dead and dry vegetation to reduce fire hazards.
- Asotin Municipal Code Ch. 8.08 — Makes it a civil infraction for a person, firm, or corporation to allow any grass or weeds in excess of six inches to remain on a property if it becomes dry, inflammable, or combustible.
- Chelan Municipal Code Sec. 8.15.020(B-C) — Make the landowner responsible for removing or destroying vegetation and debris that constitutes a fire hazard.
- DuPont Municipal Code Sec. 14.04.080 — Requires landowners to remove fire hazards, including overgrown or dead grass, weeds, shrubs, bushes, trees, or vegetation.
- Ellensburg Municipal Code Ch. 5.40.080(C)(1) — Requires landowners to remove overgrown or dead vegetation that poses a fire hazard.
- Everett Municipal Code Sec. 8.08.030 — Requires landowners to remove overgrown or dead vegetation that poses a fire hazard.
Below are resources related to natural weed control.
- Washington State University Extension: Combating Weeds with Integrative Controls
- King County: Noxious Weeds Biological Control
- Washington State Department of Transportation: Vegetation Management
Natural Vegetation Management - Grazing
Below are some resources, including code provisions, related to the use of grazing for weed management.
- East Wenatchee Municipal Code Ch. 17.72.200(J) — Allows for the temporary and periodic use of goats for weed control within all zoning districts.
- Maple Valley: Goats to Mow City Stormwater Ponds (2012)
- Mukilteo Municipal Code Sec. 6.18.010(A)(2) — Provides for temporary harboring of goats and sheep for vegetation control.
- Thurston Stream Team Newsletter: Goats, Sheep and Pigs…Oh, My!! (Summer 2012) — Offers an overview of hiring and using goats and other animals for clearing land.
Below are code provisions regulating vegetation as a form of nuisance control.
Interference with Public Right-of-Way (ROW)
- Bellevue Municipal Code Ch. 14.06 — Addresses trees, weeds, and vegetation affecting the ROW.
- Colville Municipal Code Ch. 12.16 — Includes provisions against planting trees in public ROW and requiring property owner trim overhanging trees.
- Edmonds Municipal Code Sec. 9.25.010(A-B) — Includes prohibitions and removal requirements for vegetation obstructing visibility, encroaching, or damaging the ROW.
- Kent Municipal Code Sec. 7.04.200 — Prohibits planting of certain trees and shrubbery (public and private sewer obstruction).
- Sequim Municipal Code Sec. 8.04.030(A)(1) — Prohibits the growing or trimming of any vegetation such that it overhangs, encroaches, or obstructs the public ROW.
- Walla Walla Municipal Code Ch. 12.44 — Includes provisions regarding removal of overhanging vegetation in public ROW.
- Auburn Municipal Code Sec. 8.20.010(C) — Requires grasses (lawn) of residential properties be maintained at a height of six inches or less and grasses, groundcover, and/or vines on vacant lots within/adjacent to developed areas be maintained at a height of 12 inches or less; vegetation above these limits is considered a nuisance.
- Longview Municipal Code Sec. 16.30.140 — Requires weeds, grass, or vegetation be maintained at a height of 12 inches or less, subject to applicable zoning requirements.
- Mountlake Terrace Municipal Code Sec. 8.15.040(A) — Prohibits vegetation exceeding 12 inches in height (exclusive of plants and flowers within a flower bed or container, shrubbery, or trees).
- Pasco Municipal Code Sec. 12.12.110(2) — Requires weeds, brush, or uncultivated vegetation be maintained at a height of 12 inches or less.
- Richland Municipal Code Sec. 10.04.040(P) — Requires grasses, weeds, or other vegetation not exceed six inches in height except under enumerated situations.
Trees as Nuisances
See also section above Interference with Public Right-of-Way.
- Burlington Municipal Code Sec. 8.12.020(D) — Requires city supervisor approval for the planting or placement of any tree in a public place; lists specific trees prohibited in public parking strips.
- Mercer Island Municipal Code Sec. 8.24.020(B) — Identifies dead, diseased, infested, or dying trees as a public nuisance.
- Puyallup Municipal Code Sec. 6.08.210 — Declares a nuisance any trees obstructing the clear view of traffic.
- Redmond Municipal Code Sec. 6.12.070 — Requires property owners to prune trees and shrubs so that they do not cause an obstruction, block light from street lights, or interfere with the passage of vehicles or pedestrians.
- North American Invasive Species Management Association — Network of professionals who implement management programs to prevent the detrimental impacts of invasive species to North America’s lands and waters.
- Northwest Center for Alternatives to Pesticides — Promotes safe pest and weed eradication alternatives for Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
- Pacific Northwest Pest Management Handbooks: Weed Management Handbook — A reference guide for weed control practices and herbicides used in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.
- USDA: National Invasive Species Information Center — Serves as an “all-taxa” portal for invasive species information and an educational gateway to information, organizations, and services about invasive species.