Wyoming Restoration Challenge – Part 1

We have been discussing strategy for a few weeks now, but today was the day: the official start of the Wyoming Reclamation Challenge! Two of our Wyoming Weed Science Control Freaks team members, Carl Coburn and me, visited the site for the first time and received our plot assignment for the competition. This was our first opportunity to see what we’re up against in this competition.

Plot 12

The Wyoming Weed Science Control Freaks challenge

If you have been following this blog for a while now, you probably have heard about our three-year competition intended to bring together land managers and their best ideas about how to tackle this nasty annual grass. Participants include representatives from the University of Wyoming, Eastern Wyoming College, Wyoming Weed and Pest, federal agencies, an FFA chapter, a ranch, and even a team from Nebraska. Each team’s plot is just under a quarter of an acre and is dominated by cheatgrass, although some have higher proportions of desirable perennial grasses. In mid-summer 2017, teams will be judged based on site improvement as measured by productivity, diversity, scalability, longevity, costs versus benefits, and an educational component.

For me, the day kicked off with the two-hour drive from Laramie to Lingle, Wyoming, with my advisor and another graduate student, who is on the Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center team. After picking up drinks and ordering lunch for the group along the way, we arrived just in time to add tread-in fenceposts to the corner of each plot (for increased visibility) and set up the meeting room for our initial pow-wow. (All this is part of being an extension educator’s graduate student.)

After the group discussed a few of the facets of the competition, a representative from each team drew a number for one of thirteen plots and the whole group trooped out to the plots to see what those numbers actually meant. There were some murmurs of satisfaction, a few sighs of dismay (one of the plots also has some Russian knapweed encroachment and I sincerely wish that team the best of luck). The Control Freaks drew plot #12, which contains a lot of cheatgrass, a fair amount of kochia, and a few perennial grasses around the plot edge. Although the scarcity of perennial grasses may limit our site’s recovery potential, we think it also increases our options, and we are excited to initiate treatment. After all, the cheatgrass is already greening up!

Plot 12

Throughout the course of the summer, we will be uploading photos and videos to the Facebook page and perhaps even writing a few blog posts about our progress in this challenge. On behalf of the Wyoming Weed Science Control Freaks team, I hope you will follow along, cheer for our team, and of course feel free to share your thoughts about our control tactics!