Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Importance of Monitoring and Mitigating Cheatgrass

Hello everyone, I’m Roger Espinoza and for my internship, I’m doing and learning an array of different things. I’m working at the BLM and I’m employed as a Vegetation Management Technician. The main component of this internship is monitoring, managing, and mitigating noxious and invasive plant species, but we haven’t been able to work on that as much due to the current status of an environmental impact statement concerning the Gunnison Sage Grouse here in the Gunnison Valley. This internship is primarily focused here in Gunnison County with the exception of a few projects in other areas. I’ve been working for a few weeks now.
            First, I’m going to talk about the first couple of weeks in which I learned about the importance of mitigating noxious and invasive plant species. We are focused mostly on cheatgrass, Canadian and russion thistle, and knapweed. I never really thought that a plant could do so much damage until I started surveying for these plants here at the BLM. The overtaking of cheatgrass is our biggest problem.

The reasons why are because:
11.   It chokes out native plant species and becomes a monoculture of cheatgrass.
22.   Cheatgrass is not very nutritious and it’s only nutritious while it’s still green (about 1-2 months). After it dries up, it contains almost no nutrition what so ever.
33.   The fact that it is not nutritious is a big problem because once it exists as a monoculture, wildlife will have a lot of troubles finding sources of food. That will then trigger a tragic domino effect in the food chain.
44.   The other big problem cheatgrass presents is the probability of more wildfires. When cheatgrass takes over an area, it almost always comes at a 100% vegetation coverage. This is bad because if a fire comes through, cheatgrass will burn in a wave like form instead of a mosaic like pattern. Also, as it moves through an area, it will have enough energy to easily light up nearby shrubs and trees.
55.   Then, once the fire moves through, cheatgrass will be the first to come back and it will out compete many native plant species.

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