Western Wyoming ranchers continue discussions on managing cheatgrass
Marbleton – Cheatgrass has attained “star” status in the world of invasive plants, with numerous speakers at the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association (GRVCA) annual meeting talking about how to combat its spread in western Wyoming.
On March 2-3 at the Marbleton Town Hall, GRVCA hosted speakers from county, state and federal agencies whose missions in Sublette County, Bridger-Teton National Forest, University of Wyoming and the Bureau of Land Management include ways and means of battling cheatgrass.
University of Wyoming Extension Range Specialist Glenn Owings, who is based in Pinedale and covers five western counties as a range specialist, explained how each county has a plot where cheatgrass seeds’ viability is being researched. An April 3 workshop is planned at the Sublette County Weed and Pest Office to further explore research projects in depth.
Rangeland Specialist Karen Clause, addressed the group on behalf of the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). She used photos to illustrate how quickly invasive plants can take over a healthy pasture with “before and after” examples of leafy spurge’s bright yellow blossoms spreading over mountainsides.
“That’s why we need to act now,” Clause said of the current focus on cheatgrass. “In the 1960s, there was one spot of leafy spurge, and now, we’re just trying to hold on. It takes everything over.”
Along southern edges of the Wind River Range’s west flank in what they are calling the “Boulder Front,” county weed and pest and conservation district offices, NRCS, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming Game and Fish, private landowners and other agencies are joining forces to map cheatgrass-infested areas.
Clause pointed out that cheatgrass is being found along big-game migration corridors, including the Red Desert to Hoback mule deer migration route. She and NRCS Manager Jennifer Hayward can help landowners with particular problems along the route, she added.
They are also involved in supporting an upcoming Bridger-Teton National Forest invasive weeds environmental impact statement (EIS).
“There’s some pretty impressive work going on here,” Clause said.
The Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Big Piney Ranger District is putting this momentum into action with Chad Hayward, natural resources manager, taking the lead on the invasive weeds EIS.
“We’re going to analyze aerial application of herbicides,” Hayward told GRVCA members. “We’ve been doing little, if any, cheatgrass work because we have very few tools.”
Hayward said although the draft EIS “is in the infancy stage right now,” he expects a “pretty quick turnaround with a draft by late fall, a winter decision and potential startup in the fall of 2019.
“It’s a pretty aggressive schedule, but it has been done with other forests already,” Hayward explained.
Pinedale District Ranger Rob Hoelscher confirmed the BTNF’s desire to fight cheatgrass with aerial spraying, adding that using existing EISs in other Wyoming forests will make this environmental analysis process move ahead much more quickly.
Joy Ufford is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and a reporter at the Sublette Examiner and Pinedale Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.