Print Page

BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 537

Weed crew beats back invasive cheatgrass at Fort Ord

The Fort Ord National Monument weed crew sprang into action this spring to beat back an invasive pest that has taken over miles of rangeland in the West.

As the weed crew returned from the Memorial Day holiday they learned that a grass which had been collected the week before had been positively identified as Bromus tectorum also known as cheat grass or downy brome, said Supervisory Biological Science Technician Susan Hubbard.

After surveying the site, they found patches of cheat grass within a 5-acre area on a former firing range that had undergone a prescribed burn followed by ordnance removal.  

Most of the cheat grass was already forming seeds and the plants had turned brown so applying herbicide was not an option. In addition, there were two species of federal protected plants growing in and around the cheat grass. Due to the possibility of unexploded ordnance, the plants couldn’t be dug out.

That meant that the grass had to be hand pulled or the seed heads needed to be cut off.   Over the next week and half, the five members of the weed crew (Hubbard and biological science technicians Kelly Bougher, Sarah Chmielewski, Ryan Colley and Nathanial Wigington) put in around 150 hours removing the plant. (text continues below)

a man pulls weeds to put into a plastic bucket
Ryan Colley pulls cheatgrass at Fort Ord.

By the time the project was complete many bags of plant material were removed from the site and the ability of a crop of seeds to spread into new locations was greatly diminished.  More work will be necessary in future years but there is now time to come up with a plan to treat it before next year’s growing season. 

The Fort Ord Weed Crew controls a variety of invasive plant species on the newly created Fort Ord National Monument. They also work in partnership with the U.S. Army to control invasive plants on Army property which is scheduled to be transferred to BLM.

Cheat grass is a major problem in many areas administered by BLM. In many of these areas, where rainfall is low, the natural vegetation consists of shrubs spaced apart from one other. Cheat grass grows between these shrubs and can carry a fire from one shrub to the next. These shrubs are not adapted to being burned but the cheat grass does very well following a fire. This can lead to repeated fires over a short period of time, which will convert a habitat dominated by shrubs to one covered with cheat grass.

This is not likely to be the case at Fort Ord, which is naturally more vegetated. However, the invasive plant still could take over much more habitat, including the 2,500 acres of grasslands within the Fort Ord National Monument. This was a chance to practice early detection/rapid response.

people look for invasive weeds among native grasses 
Sarah Chmielewski (left) and Kelly Bougher scout for and remove cheatgrass.

weed crew members pose for a group photo
The weed crew (from left to right): Ryan Colley, Nathanial Wigington, Susan Hubbard,  Sarah Chmielewski and Kelly Bougher

- Sue Hubbard, Biological Science Technician, Fort Ord Project Office/BLM Hollister Field Office (June 2012)

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 537 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.

Last updated: 07-02-2012