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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Cheatgrass

Authors
item Young, James
item Clements, Darin

Submitted to: The Progressive Rancher
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: April 26, 2007
Publication Date: September 15, 2007
Citation: Young, J.A., Clements, D.D. 2007. Cheatgrass. The Progressive Rancher. 17(9):31-32.

Interpretive Summary: Charles Elliot Fleming was one of the first scientists to work on the western range. In 1946 he published a series of questions concerning the 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. 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. Suppression of wildfires fueled by cheatgrass cost local, state and the federal government millions of dollars annually. Dealing with cheatgrass on rangelands requires questioning and adapting the most basic concepts of range plant community ecology.

Technical Abstract: Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorm) was first introduced into the Intermountain west in the early 1900's. Cheatgrass truncates secondary succession by out competing native perennial grass seedlings for limited resources and then providing an early maturing, fine textured fuel that increases the chance, rate and spread of wildfires. Habitats that historically burned every 80-110 years are now burning every 5-10 years because of the fuel that cheatgrass provides. 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. This paper points out truisms and folk stories concerning livestock grazing and cheatgrass management.

Last Modified: 8/29/2014
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