Launching an aerial assault on cheatgrass Cheatgrass Invasive species Buckrail - Jackson Hole, news

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – Teton County Weed and Pest will be conducting aerial weed spraying to mitigate the invasion of cheatgrass in a test area on East Gros Ventre Butte this fall, beginning as early as mid-September.

Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), also known as downy brome, threatens wildlife and native plants because of its ability to out-compete native vegetation. Originally from the Mediterranean region, the non-native and invasive cheatgrass takes its name from “cheating” native grasses and plants of their habitat. It has an aggressive, quick-growing life cycle that gives it a competitive advantage over other plants.

Cheatgrass has entrenched itself into nearly 10,000 acres in Teton County.

First recorded in Teton County in 1927, cheatgrass infests almost 10,000 acres in the county today. It significantly diminishes the quality of wildlife habitat, especially the critical mule deer winter range. It dries early in the summer, making it a serious fire risk much of the year potentially leading to more frequent and larger fires and further habitat loss.

Large infestations of cheatgrass are challenging to control. While several cheatgrass mitigation projects have been conducted via horseback in Teton County, the steep slope and rough terrain on East Gros Ventre Butte make it difficult to conduct ground mitigation. A limited herbicide application by helicopter will be tested in a trial area consisting of 360 acres on East Gros Ventre Butte.

“This is an important first step to protect critical habitat for mule deer and give native plants and all wildlife a fighting chance against this highly invasive plant,” said Mark Daluge, Teton County Weed and Pest assistant supervisor, invasive species. “Based on effective treatment in other test areas which resulted in no significant negative impact to native vegetation or wildlife, we anticipate the cheatgrass mitigation pilot project to be successful.”

Cheatgrass sticks to everything. Hikers help spread it around.

Only small amounts of Bayer Esplanade and/or BASF Plateau herbicide is required to gain an upper hand on cheatgrass. These two herbicides are certified to be non-toxic to a wide range of organisms, including mammals, birds, fish and insects. No effects to people, pets, non-target plants or wildlife are anticipated.

Applying the herbicide via low-flying helicopter eliminates “drift” by taking advantage of the helicopter’s rotor wash to effectively push the herbicide to the ground. The spraying will occur on a day with calm winds in early fall. Representatives will be present on site for public safety and information. Access to Gros Ventre Butte will be limited during active spraying operations, and drone aircrafts are strictly prohibited.

Funded by the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust and monitored according to guidelines developed by the University of Wyoming-Extension, the project has several partners and contributors that include Jackson Hole Weed Management Association, Town of Jackson, Jackson Hole Land Trust, and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS.