Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 15, 2007
Publication Date: December 15, 2007
Citation: Young, J.A., Clements, C.D. 2007. Cheatgrass and Grazing Rangelands. Rangelands. 29(6):15-20. Interpretive Summary: The grazing of the exotic, self-invasive annual plant known as cheatgrass is the most controversial topic in range management in the vast Intermountain Area. It is of immediate practical significance to the range livestock industry and to wildfire suppression on rangelands. Cheatgrass fueled wildfires endanger human life and property as well as devastate wildlife populations through the loss of critical habitats that are burned and converted to cheatgrass dominance. Suppression of wildfires fueled by cheatgrass cost local, state and the federal governments millions of dollars annually. This most appropriate and timely topic goes much deeper than current newspaper headlines. Dealing with cheatgrass on rangelands requires questioning and adapting the most basic concepts of range plant community ecology.
Technical Abstract: Charles Elliot Fleming was one of the first scientists to work on the western range. In 1946 he published a series of questions concerning grazing of the exotic annual cheatgrass (Bromus tectorm), which had invaded millions of acres of the western rangelands. The introduction and subsequent invasion of cheatgrass on millions of acres of western rangelands has resulted in millions of acres of formerly big sagebrush/bunchgrass communities to be burned and converted to cheatgrass dominance. This increase in danger and frequency of wildfires threatens human life and property as well as significantly affecting wildlife species such as sage grouse and mule deer. We used Fleming’s questions to provide a perspective on the current debate on the relation between cheatgrass grazing and wildfires. This paper has been highly praised by knowledgeable reviewers, but it will be highly controversial.