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Areas of the Bridger-Teton National Forest are being sprayed for cheatgrass this month 

Cheatgrass is an invasive plant spreading across the West.
Jennifer Strickland
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Cheatgrass is an invasive plant spreading across the West.

Have you ever been hiking and your socks and shoes get covered with pokey, light brown little daggers? Or those daggers sink into your dog’s coat? That is cheatgrass, and it is invasive.

The Bridger-Teton National Forest Service (BTNF) is trying to stop cheatgrass from expanding in western Wyoming by spraying the invasive grass, which is a concern for native wildlife and their habitat.

Chad Hayward, range program manager for the BTNF, said they use five ounces per acre of an herbicide called indaziflam, which at low quantities supposedly stunts cheatgrass and does not affect other plants or creatures. They spray using a low-flying helicopter.

“It's by far the best tool for us for cheatgrass, because the calibration of the helicopter application is so specific,” Hayward said. “And it allows us to access some very rugged landscape where we can't get motorized vehicles and equipment ground based to the sites.”

Cheatgrass is known for outcompeting other native plants and taking over landscapes – especially in other western states. Hayward said they first noticed it in the BTNF in the 90s.

“The thought was that we were too high elevation for it to become established,” he said. “But obviously we were wrong.”

Hayward said some sagebrush slopes are now covered in cheatgrass, adding that that is a problem.

“We've got mule deer, sage grouse, brewer’s sparrow, pygmy rabbit – they require sagebrush in their diet as part of their existence and without sagebrush, they will not exist on our landscape,” Hayward said.

He added that cheatgrass is highly flammable and can contribute to wildfires. So, over the last five years, the BTNF has sprayed parts of the forest.

“It allows the perennial grasses and the perennial forbs, and vegetation to really have those nutrients that the cheatgrass would rob them of if it's allowed to grow,” he said. “After those treatments, we are seeing baby sagebrush coming in on those sites.”

They will be spraying different areas of the BTNF throughout this month for cheatgrass. As spray dates and areas become available one can find more information here.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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