Cheatgrass

Boise Parks and Recreation Department

It’s been a year since last June’s Table Rock Fire in the Boise Foothills destroyed 2,500 acres of wildlife habitat. Sparked by illegal fireworks, the blaze burned and blackened the sagebrush-covered landscape. Over the last 12 months, a group of people and agencies have worked to restore the area.

Martha Brabec says she’s seeing progress when she travels through the burn area. As Boise Parks and Recreation’s Foothills Restoration Specialist, she’s on the front lines of the fire recovery effort.

Washington DNR

A proposed fuel break system in southwest Idaho, southeast Oregon and northern Nevada will limit the size of destructive rangeland wildfires and protect habitat for sage grouse, say officials with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

The agency on Tuesday released a plan called the Tri-State Fuel Break Project, which would create gaps in combustible vegetation along existing roads on public lands in the three states by reducing fuel next to the roads, using either machines or chemical treatments, and maintained with a long-term schedule.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Scientists in southwestern Idaho are experimenting to find out if bacteria can stop an invasive weed that is taking over the West.

Cheatgrass gets its name by sending out early roots and cheating other plants of water in the spring.

Then it dries out in the summer, becoming a powerful catalyst for wildfires that kill neighboring plants and destroy habitat needed by sage grouse and other wildlife.

The results are huge, cheatgrass-filled landscapes that cycle through frequent wildfires.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Public lands managers have released an outline for creating a decades-long strategy to combat wildfire-prone invasive weeds considered a main threat to Great Basin sagebrush ecosystems.

The report released Monday by the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies says piecemeal efforts must be replaced by landscape-wide strategies stretching across Western states.

Officials say without it there will be declines in sage grouse and other species possibly leading to regulatory actions limiting economic growth.

Curtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

Ann Kennedy’s bacterial compound is called ACK55, and it has been shown to cut the amount of cheatgrass in half in just a few years.

The Department of Agriculture soil scientist is getting closer to seeing her discovery registered with the EPA, and is giving state and federal land managers hope in the battle against the invasive weed. Once it gets approved, farmers can begin using it to treat cheatgrass on their land.

Courtesy of Ann Kennedy / USDA

It’s been called “marching grass” and “the scourge of the West,” but most people refer to it as cheatgrass. The honey-colored weed is named for its ability to “cheat” during the winter, getting ahead of crops and native perennial grasses by taking root while the others are still dormant.

Alan Krakauer / Flickr

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management as well as other federal and state agencies are starting a public information campaign intended to reduce human-caused fires in sagebrush steppe areas in Idaho.

The Idaho office of the BLM in a statement Thursday says efforts will include radio and television announcements, social media postings and a billboard on Interstate 84 between the Broadway and Gowen Field off-ramps in Boise.

The agency says fire helps invasive cheatgrass take over sagebrush steppe areas and eventually outcompetes native plants.

Study: Grazing Helps Invasive Cheatgrass To Flourish

May 13, 2013
PNNL - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory / Flickr Creative Commons

A new study out of Oregon State University suggests that overgrazing could be helping an invasive grass to flourish. That differs from previous studies that have found grazing can better manage that plant — cheatgrass — which threatens rangeland habitat.

Study: Cheatgrass Severity Affected By Grazing

May 13, 2013

A new study out of Oregon State University suggests that overgrazing could be helping an invasive grass to flourish. That differs from previous studies that have found grazing can better manage that plant -- cheatgrass -- which threatens rangeland habitat.

The invasive plant cheatgrass can increase the frequency and severity of rangeland fires.

How Cheatgrass Could Soon Be In Your Pint Glass

Sep 28, 2012
TurasPhoto / Flickr

Much of the acreage lost to wildfires in Idaho and the West this year means miles and miles of land opened up to cheatgrass.

For ranchers, this invasive species spreads quickly and requires time and resources to remove.

So what can ranchers do? How about making beer?  Home brewer Tye Morgan explains why cheatgrass is the perfect ingredient for beer.