2011 Annual Report
1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
1) Assess the extent and impacts of cheatgrass/medusahead and their management on ecosystems;.
2)Demonstrate state-of-the-art management strategies;.
3)Conduct research to overcome barriers to the project’s success, enhance the project, and fill information-gaps;.
4)Provide education and technology transfer to those managing land in the Great Basin; and.
5)Create decision-support products and tools that will have a sustained impact on managing cheatgrass/medusahead in the Great Basin and surrounding ecosystems into the future.
1b.Approach (from AD-416)
We will achieve this objective by combining the principles and concepts of Ecologically-Based Invasive Plant Management (EBIPM) with state-of-the-art site-specific management of cheatgrass and medusahead infested rangeland and apply these strategies in 2-3 key watersheds in California, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, and Utah.
Significant progress was made on all objectives of the Area-wide project for invasive plant management of annual grasses as the research, outreach, and education are in full swing throughout the region. This multi-agency, multi-state partnership has systematically facilitated the adoption of science-based methods for managing ecosystems invaded or threatened by invasive annual grasses throughout the western United States.
The Area-wide project has advanced the use of science-based decision making in range and wildland management by providing an ecologically-based decision support system for producers and managers. We are improving the knowledge base through extensive research and elucidating the ecological processes in disrepair in invasive annual grass infested acreages. It is estimated that a component of Ecologically-based Invasive Plant Management (EBIPM) has been implemented on over 500,000 acres of rangeland and this number is growing rapidly as the project is expanding.
Over 20 peer-reviewed manuscripts have been submitted in 2011 that are providing new principles on which management must be based bringing the total manuscripts since the project began to well over 35. These publications appear in either the ARS-Burns NP-304 Report of Progress or in reports from cooperating locations. Research topics are varied but all are aimed at improving rangelands through prevention and management of invasive annual grasses. Research focuses include mechanisms of plant community resistance to invasive species, land use legacies of dry farming on soils and rangeland seeding successes, weather-data and forecasting models, seedbed microclimate and seedbed treatment impacts, seedling establishment. Four theses were successfully defended in 2011 directly relating to Area-wide project research objectives and testing components of the EBIPM decision framework. Six specific cooperative agreements (SCAs) have been entered into and are helping create the widest possible dissemination of information to manage invasive annual grasses throughout the western states. The research focus of these SCA’s include, developing and quantifying the impact of weed prevention areas, developing university and land manager EBIPM curriculums, one pass system demonstration area for invasive annual grass management, economic impacts of invasive annual grasses, demonstration of cheatgrass and medusahead control , and restoration of invasive annual grass infested rangeland.
The EBIPM team has substantially advanced the adoption of EBIPM through targeted education and outreach programs. We estimate that we have directly impacted over 3000 producers and land managers through distribution of decision support guidelines that have been developed as part of the area-wide project. An additional 8,000 to 12,000 managers have been indirectly impacted through the EBIPM website, formal presentations at professional conferences and field tours and workshops.
Improved knowledge base by linking the rangeland health assessment procedures to EBIPM. The Rangeland Health Assessment is a procedure to evaluate ecosystem health that is being adopted for use by multiple agencies land managers across the western states. ARS scientists at the Range and Meadow Forage Management Unit in Burns, Oregon developed a method that allows land managers in addition to quantifying a point-in-time indication of rangeland health create a way to use this information to decide how various management options might influence ecological processes in need of repair to move plant community change in a favorable direction. The impact of this advancement is that it enhances the usefulness of both systems and provides synergistic value to the decision-making process in restoring degraded plant communities.
EBIPM adopted as part of the rangeland curriculum at multiple universities. Future land managers need a foundation in ecologically-based decision making as they begin careers as rangeland professionals. Researchers at Utah State University and ARS scientists at the Range and Meadow Forage Management unit in Burns, OR have devoted substantial effort in developing a university and land manager level curriculum. While the curriculum is still under development initial adoption has occurred. The impact of the Area-wide project has been secured well into the future because at least 8 universities have incorporated components of the EBIPM framework into current course offerings.
Circle bar ranch partnership offers landscape scale demonstration of EBIPM. In order for land managers to change management practices (even those that are not working) it is critical to be able to provide case studies and real life examples of EBIPM being implemented. Working in partnership with the owners of the Circle Bar Ranch in Mitchell, Oregon, ARS scientists at the Range and Meadow Forage Management Research Unit in Burns, Oregon have developed a ranch scale EBIPM program where producers have had multiple educational opportunities to see directly results of using EBIPM to manage medusahead. Ranch field tours and the development and distribution of a video about the ranch titled “A Working Ranch with an Effective Medusahead Management Program” have catalyzed producers into adopting EBIPM practices. As a result of the work at the Circle Bar ranch, we estimate over 150 land managers have adopted some aspects of the EBIPM program on their land.
Improvements in Animal Unit Months (AUM's) on rangeland under EBIPM management. Sagebrush steppe rangelands are the cornerstone to a $4.9 billion dollar livestock industry. However, invasive annual grasses alter fire cycles and pose a chronic threat to the integrity of these ecosystems. At stake is the permanent degradation of these rangelands from infestations of invasive annual grasses. Scientists at the ARS Range and Meadow Forage Management Research Unit in Burns, Oregon have developed a decision based framework that is rapidly being implemented by land managers facing the serious problem of invasive annual grass infestations. As a result of this framework and the efforts of these scientists, it is estimated the Area-wide project has directly impacted 3000 land managers since inception in 2008, with a direct impact on 500,000 acres to date. These positive impacts on western rangeland are the result of a well developed collaboration in research, demonstration and educational programs.
Education and outreach efforts to disseminate EBIPM are increasing the implementation rate across the region. Effective education results in land managers adopting and applying EBIPM for successful management of invasive annual grasses. ARS scientists in Burns, Oregon, Boise, Idaho and Logan, Utah along with university professors throughout the region have collaborated in developing interactive, hands-on learning events. The EBIPM Field School is held annual and is rotating among the Area-wide project demonstration sites. The EBIPM website is the clearing house for all this work and provides the critical internet presence to our stakeholders. The impact has been that over 1200 land managers have been introduced or trained in EBIPM techniques as a result of outreach events in FY2011.
Potentially prevented invasion on millions of acres as a result of weed prevention area implementation. Preventing infestations of invasive species is cited at the most beneficial use of resources because the cost of restoring degraded sites is expensive and success rates of restoration are low. Researchers as Utah State University working with ARS scientists in Range and Meadow Forage Management Research Unit Burns, Oregon established a model weed prevention area (WPA) to quantify the impacts of such a program on the spread of invasive species. A user support guideline “Starting a Weed Prevention Area” was completed in Jan. 2011. Initial impact has been that over 500 individuals have copies of this guide to begin implementing WPA’s in their communities.
Sheley, R.L., James, J.J., Smith, B.S., Vasquez, E.A. 2010. Applying ecologically-based invasive plant management. Rangeland Ecology and Management. 63:605-613.
Morris, L.R., Monaco, T.A., Call, C.A., Sheley, R.L., Ralphs, M.H. 2011. Implementing ecologically based invasive plant management: Lessons from a century of demonstration projects in Park Valley, Utah. Rangelands. 33(2):2-9.