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U.S. Forest Service funds projects to battle invasive species in Mountain West

A hand holding a bunch of tan-colored grass. In the background, out of focus, is a brush-covered landscape with mountains.
Courtesy of U.S. Forest Service
Cheatgrass is a non-native and highly flammable invasive species that is prominent throughout the Mountain West.

The U.S. Forest Service is spending nearly $19 million to fight invasive species threatening the nation’s forests, including several in the Mountain West.

The money, which comes from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will go toward more than 60 projects across the country.

Over $1 million will be invested in more than a dozen national forests in the Mountain West. They include forests in Nevada (Humboldt-Toiyabe); Idaho (Salmon-Challis, Caribou-Targhee, Sawtooth); Colorado (White River, Grand Mesa, San Juan, Arapaho/Roosevelt, Uncompahgre and Gunnison); Wyoming (Bridger-Teton, Caribou-Targhee, Ashley); New Mexico (Gila, Sante Fe, Carson, Coronado); and Utah (Uinta-Wasatch-Cache, Dixie, Fishlake, Ashley).

The projects will focus on detecting, preventing and treating invasive species. Non-native organisms and plants – such as bark beetles, invasive trout and cheatgrass – can destroy habitats, degrade water quality and raise wildfire risk.

Lois Shoemaker, the Forest Service’s deputy director for natural resources in the Intermountain Region, said climate change is compounding the problem.

“Warming air temperatures and waterways can open new areas to infestation that maybe were previously too cool for some of those invasive species,” Shoemaker said. Those conditions can make it harder for native ecosystems to fend off the invasives and be restored.

Shoemaker added that if invasives damage forests and streams, it can limit access to trails and recreation – an important partof local economies across the Mountain West.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.
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