Score one for the good guys in the battle against cheatgrass   Buckrail - Jackson Hole, news

JACKSON HOLE, WYO – In fall of 2017, the Jackson Hole Weed Management Association embarked on a pilot project to control cheatgrass via aerial application on East Gros Ventre Butte in the Town of Jackson, Wyoming.

This project was implemented due to the visible spread of cheatgrass on south facing slopes in Teton County. Cheatgrass in areas that were not treated can be easily visible this time of year on area slopes and buttes, displaying a bright red to purple color. At the time of the launch of the pilot program almost 10,000 acres in the county were infested with cheatgrass.

The project was made possible through grant funds from the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust.

Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is a highly invasive non-native annual grass that threatens wildlife and native plants with its aggressive growing cycle and ability to out-compete native vegetation for water and nutrients.

In addition to being the bane of most ranchers because of its little-to-no nutritional value for livestock, cheatgrass also dies early in the summer and dries out, creating ideal conditions for serious fire hazards.

Treatment and process

On September 28, 2017, the pilot program launched with the first-ever aerial spraying with herbicide to mitigate invasive species in Teton County. Application was performed by a low-flying helicopter eliminating the ‘drift’ by taking advantage of the helicopter’s rotor wash to effectively push the herbicide to the ground. Combined with support and excitement from Teton County residents, the Jackson Hole Weed Management Association looked forward to this spring to view the results of the treatment.

Both Bayer Esplanade and BASF Plateau herbicide were chosen for this project to combat cheatgrass.

“Based on effective treatment in other test areas which resulted in no signs of impact to native vegetation, wildlife, or people we anticipated the cheatgrass mitigation pilot project would be successful”, said Mark Daluge, Teton County Weed and Pest assistant supervisor.

Pilot program statistics

  • 128 acres were sprayed, with 13.3 being treated with Esplanade (Indazaflam), and 114.7 acres with Plateau (Imazapic).
  • A total of 23 staff hours and nearly $2,000 were spent by TCWP and the Jackson Hole Land Trust combined to map the current cheatgrass infestation, and to monitor the areas to be sprayed for native species composition.
  • The helicopter application cost $6,000 and was complete within 3 hours of spray time.

What’s next?

Utilizing the information from the pilot project, the JHWMA is planning to expand to similar treatments on the National Elk Refuge and the many hillsides currently infested by cheatgrass, hopefully within the next two years. JHWMA members will also continue to monitor test plots to determine the most effective herbicide for the project.