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"Ryan, why is there so much focus on the control of cheatgrass by wildlife and habitat managers?  "

Cheatgrass is an annual non-native grass that out-competes native, perennial vegetation for soil nutrients and moisture. Cheatgrass is easy to detect on the landscape. It is usually the earliest grass to green up in the spring, then turns a maroon to purple color by mid-June, finally bleaching out by late summer. It can be found on south facing slopes and shallow, rocky soils. While it does green up early in the spring, providing some short-term usefulness as forage for big game, it doesn’t feed or shelter wildlife the rest of the year. It also creates difficulties for habitat managers for habitat improvements.

Cheatgrass in mixed mountain shrub, sagebrush steppe, and grasslands can mean that prescribed fire may not be a viable treatment option. Fire can be the most effective and cost-efficient means of enhancing shrub habitats used by mule deer and other big game animals. While there are mechanical, chemical, and biological options that we routinely use to treat cheatgrass infestations they remain costly, may have negative impacts to non-targeted vegetation and, in most instances, require a long-term commitment to achieve desired results.  Therefore, the best approach is to maintain intact native plant communities and build resilience and resistance to naturally outcompete invasive cheatgrass.     

The Game and Fish and our valuable partners, including federal and state land management agencies and non-profit conservation groups, are working cooperatively throughout the state to address current cheatgrass infestations in important wildlife habitats.

 

Ryan Amundson
Statewide Habitat Biologist

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