Cheatgrass – how can the management of such a simple plant be so challenging? As a species, it displays a lot of flexibility in where it can grow, how it is affected by extreme weather conditions such as drought, and how it responds to different management tactics. Sometimes it serves as a good source of forage, and other times it is avoided by grazing animals. Just because cheatgrass is present does not necessarily mean it is causing significant ecological or economic impacts. However, it can become the dominant plant over large acreages, thereby reducing forage quality, negatively impacting wildlife habitat and increasing probability of wildfires. These characteristics and impacts are just part of why cheatgrass is so difficult to manage, but a cooperative team of faculty and students from University of Wyoming and Colorado State University have developed a handbook to assist land managers in building a cheatgrass management strategy based on their specific situation.
Along with a clear description of the biology and impacts of cheatgrass, the Cheatgrass Management Handbook presents readers with a series of steps to manage the weed within a systems-based approach. The handbook addresses practical questions such as: Do I have a cheatgrass problem? How do I control it? Is my treatment working? How can I work together with neighbors to better address the issue? and others. In addition to descriptions of different control methods, the handbook discusses various strategies – based on land-use goals, level of cheatgrass impact, and recovery potential, which may be considered by managers. Multiple scenarios, based on real data, are used to illustrate the types of results that have been documented in various settings from Wyoming and Colorado.
Unfortunately, this publication, which is a product of the Rocky Mountain Cheatgrass Management Project (http://wp.natsci.colostate.edu/rmcmp/), does not offer the ‘silver bullet’ for eradicating cheatgrass from our region. Such a thing does not exist at this point in time. What the handbook does provide to readers is a compilation of years of research from across the western U.S., ideas for working collaboratively with multiple stakeholders, clear descriptions of vegetation monitoring methods to assess impacts, recovery potential and management effectiveness (along with field data sheets), a discussion of available management tactics, and a framework within which to plan a project – all in one source.
The Cheatgrass Management Handbook can be downloaded free online, or a hard copy ordered at http://www.wyomingextension.org/publications/Search_Details.asp?pubid=1837.
Cheatgrass Management Decision Framework. This series of steps describes an iterative process to strategically manage cheatgrass in pastures, wildlands and rangelands. Beginning at the initial question – Do I have cheatgrass? – this decision-support tool walks a manager through the steps described in the Cheatgrass Management Handbook. Long-term commitment to vegetation monitoring is a cornerstone, so managers can adequately determine progress toward stated vegetation-management goals.