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Researchers, stakeholders, gather to tackle cheatgrass issue

January 7, 2010

[Source: Sarah Lupis, for ILE]

On a chilly day in early December, researchers from Colorado State University and the University of Wyoming met with stakeholders in Cheyenne, Wyoming, to discuss methods for improving the management and control of the invasive annual cheatgrass.

The Rocky Mountain Cheatgrass Management Project is an interdisciplinary research, outreach, and education effort to better understand the ecological dynamics of rangelands impacted by cheatgrass and to model potential outcomes of management scenarios, both ecologically and economically. In the end, the project will result in publication of a handbook that land managers and ranchers can use to inform their decision-making about how to combat cheatgrass in Wyoming and Colorado. The project team includes professors and graduate students from several CSU’s departments: BioAgriculture and Pest Management, Forest, Rangeland, and Watershed Stewardship, Agricultural and Resource Economics, and the Natural Resources Ecology Laboratory. University of Wyoming team members are from the Departments of Renewable Resources and Plant Sciences.

Last month’s workshop was an opportunity for the project team to share information with key stakeholders about the status and outcomes of their ongoing research and to receive input from stakeholders on how best to communicate key concepts and the results with other decision-makers trying to deal with cheatgrass risks. Over 25 stakeholders attended the meeting, representing private landowner/rancher interests, county weed and pest districts, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the energy development sector. Overall, participants agreed that cheatgrass in Colorado and Wyoming is becoming increasingly problematic and all are concerned that the situation will worsen in the future because of unintended consequences of current management actions and impacts due to climate change.

What’s next? Outcomes from the workshop in Cheyenne will be incorporated into the ecological and economic models and the decision support tool handbook.  The project team will continue field studies and model development over the next year and a half and additional workshops and demonstrations will be held in 2011. For more information about the Rocky Mountain Cheatgrass Management Project, please visit http://rmcmp.agsci.colostate.edu/.

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