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Study Reveals New Method for Managing Cheatgrass Fires;
Targeted Herbicides Cited as Solution for Reducing Future Damage

Tuesday February 25, 2003

CASPER, Wyo., Feb. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- Dr. Joe Vollmer, a senior market development specialist at BASF Corporation, today presented the results of a joint study completed by BASF and Synergy Resource Solutions Inc. identifying a new method for managing cheatgrass and reducing the severity of rangeland wildfires. Vollmer presented the findings at the Cheatgrass Awareness Conference sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management in Casper, Wyoming.

According to the study, the application of Plateau®, a targeted herbicide, to cheatgrass infested areas eliminates this fine fuel, effectively creating "fuel breaks," or buffer zones that help control wildfires. Incorporating the herbicide into a land management plan can decrease fuel loads, which can reduce the risk of loss of life, structures, and vegetation in areas of concern.

The results, conducted on test plots in Boise, Idaho, show a significant impact on fire intensity in areas where the herbicide was applied. Findings indicate flame height can be reduced by 68 percent to 88 percent and fire spread can be minimized by 78 percent to 95 percent. Reducing fires to this level allows for control with hand tools.

According to the Federal Interagency Committee for the Management of Noxious and Exotic Weeds (FICMNEW), cheatgrass is one of the most dominant invasive vegetation species, infesting more than 100 million acres of land in the Western United States alone and causing over $138 billion in damages from resulting wildfires. Cheatgrass has altered the frequency and occurrence of major wildfires from every 60 years to every three years. Cheatgrass is a recognized problem in the Great Basin states (Nevada, Utah, Idaho and Oregon) and is quickly becoming problematic in Wyoming and Colorado.

"Wildfire prevention and control was a key theme over the summer, as millions of acres were devastated by forest fires in the West and the Bush Administration called for action," says Vollmer. "Unfortunately, the role of cheatgrass as an ignition source and the need for control was left out of the dialogue -- immediate education and action in this area are crucial to reducing future catastrophic fires."

In addition to increasing and intensifying wildfires, cheatgrass inhibits the growth of indigenous plant life and threatens the overall health of grasslands, forests and animal life. Mechanical removal and prescribed burns have been used to control cheatgrass in the past; however, these methods are costly and generally not effective.

"Our past restoration efforts indicate that effective cheatgrass control is essential before these degraded areas can be successfully seeded back to diverse plant communities. Herbicides such as Plateau that target annual plants have proven to be a highly effective method for controlling cheatgrass," said Steve Jirik, fuels management specialist with the Bureau of Land Management, who worked with BASF in the Boise test plot study. "We hope the lessons from the Boise study can be applied to private and public lands in an effort to restore rangelands dominated by invasive grasses throughout the Western United States."

According to Vollmer, fall is the ideal season for preventive cheatgrass measures, as vegetation begins to emerge during this time and a pre-emergence application of Plateau herbicide is most effective.

BASF and Synergy plan to release additional research from test plots throughout the Western United States.