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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.

Information on eradicating weeds can also be obtained from agricultural extension offices and/or county-based noxious weed control boards around the state.

Statutes and Regulations

  • 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.

Weed and Vegetation Control Provisions in General Nuisance Ordinances

  • 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.

Specific Weed Control Provisions

Weed Control/Nuisance Abatement Bids and Contracts

County Weed Control Programs

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. 

Aquatic Weed Control

Below are documents associated with the control and management of aquatic weeds, including sample local government management plans and general resources

Fire Season Weed Abatement

Below are sample codes regulating the removal or destruction of excessive or dead and dry vegetation to reduce fire hazards.

Integrated Weed and Vegetation Control

Below are resources related to natural weed control.

Natural Vegetation Management - Grazing

Below are some resources, including code provisions, related to the use of grazing for weed management.

Vegetation Nuisance Control

Below are code provisions regulating vegetation as a form of nuisance control. 

Interference with Public Right-of-Way (ROW)

Height Measures

  • 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.

Recommended Resources

Last Modified: August 16, 2023