Big Victory for Slickspot Peppergrass!

Rare plant will receive protection across its entire range.

WESTERN WATERSHEDS PROJECT NEWS RELEASE

Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) © Ken Cole

Slickspot Peppergrass (Lepidium papilliferum) © Ken Cole

October 1, 2009

Contact:

Todd Tucci, Advocates for the West (208) 342-7024
Jon Marvel, Western Watersheds Project (208) 788-2290
Katie Fite, Western Watersheds Project (208) 429-1679

SCIENCE FINALLY TRUMPS POLITICS IN PROTECTING RARE DESERT FLOWER

Boise, Idaho – Conservation groups applauded the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Secretary Salazar for living up to their promise to let science – and not politics – determine whether Slickspot peppergrass warrants protection under the Endangered Species Act, when the Service announced its intention to protect Slickspot peppergrass as a threatened species.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cheatgrass to expand its range northward with climate change

Yellow star thistle, knapweed to do likewise-

On the plus side, it will get too hot for cheatgrass in some places, but it may be replaced by another invasive — red brome.

Cheatgrass will migrate with climate change. LA Times.

Are the ways forest fires are fought and prevented wise?

As summer advances, debate over the handling of forest fires, is one again on the front burner.

Are the ways forest fires are being fought and prevent “firewise?By Heath Druzin and Rocky Barker. Idaho Statesman. “We spend billions attacking almost every wildfire, but scientists say that’s bad for the forest, can put firefighters in unnecessary danger and doesn’t protect communities as well- or as cheaply – as we now know how to do.”

Reporters Druzin and Barker cite USDA’s inspector general who concludes that too many Americans who live to areas prone to forest fires do not join with their neighbors and/or accept personal responsibility to construct and landscape their homes in a way to reduce the danger of being burned in a wildfire. This is due in considerable measure to the federal effort to put out every fire and throw billions into wildfire suppression with no constraints.

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I believe their has been a decline in personal responsibility, but then I might be criticized as sounding cranky.

Note: please read the sidebar on rangefires. They are quite different the forest fires, and there are far too many of them. The result and the cause is mostly the spread of the flammable exotic cheatgrass.

Idaho’s Governor Otter, other governors declare war on cheatgrass

Otter, other governors declare war on cheatgrass. They want 500 volunteers to help collect native seeds, so threatened areas can be replanted. Idaho Statesman. By Rocky Barker.

Controlling cheatgrass is absolutely critical. If they don’t have enough native seed, they need to encourage the production of native grass and forbs for seed as an agricultural crop. This could be a new agricultural activity for these states and one relatively benign.

The dangers are that the cheatgrass fire cycle is already too advanced, and, probably more likely, is that the objectives will always be in danger for being changed into cow welfare rather than wildfire reduction — planting the wrong species (including exotics and cultivars), grazing the new growth too early, keeping cattle on areas that will always be unsuitable for cattle grazing, building fences that hinder or stop wildlife migration.

Cattle grazing could disappear on much of this cheatgrass country with no macroeconomic impact. In fact, it is already much reduced because of the unsuitability of cheatgrass as forage except for the short period before it starts to develop seeds.

Photo: cheatgrass monoculture

Next year’s cheatgrass is growing rapidly right now

It seems that this year produced a growing agreement on most sides of the issue that cheatgrass is just plain awful and is responsible in part for the range fires, small and large, that swept Idaho, Utah and Nevada beginning in late May.

Some ranchers and too many politicians have pushed, and are still pushing the notion that putting in cows early to eat the cheatgrass while it is still green and lacks the sharp seed heads, is much of the solution.

I took the photo below on Oct. 20 on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in SE Idaho, but it could have been taken anywhere in perhaps a hundred million acres of the Western United States.

cheatgrass-fall-grow-sm.jpg
Dry and new green cheatgrass near Pauline, Idaho. Oct. 20,2007. Copyright © Ralph Maughan

As you can see, this pure stand of cheatgrass did not burn, but green cheatgrass from the seeds dropped in June and July are already sprouted and growing rapidly. They will continue to grow for a few more weeks, lie semi-dormant during the winter, and begin to grow rapidly again about March 1. After mid-April, it will be difficult for cattle to eat it because the sharp seeds form. Read the rest of this entry »

Climate Change Likely to Increase Fires from Invasive Weeds

Yesterday begreen made a detailed post here about the U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on wildfires in Las Vegas.

Here is the first article I found about the testimony.

Climate Change Likely to Increase Fires from Invasive weeds. Associated Press. By Kathleen Hennessey.

Related story. Sagebrush recovery efforts under way. By Emily Simnitt. Idaho Statesman.

wildrye-and-cheatgrass.jpg
Cheatgrass and one bunch of a native grass (Great Basin Wild Rye). Photo copyright Ralph Maughan

Senate Subcommittee considers Great Basin management

The Senate Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee is holding a hearing in Las Vegas today ~ Thursday, October 11 ~ to discuss threats to the Great Basin. From what I gather, fire and cheatgrass will be highlighted on the agenda. Subscription only article from E & E :

The Senate Public Lands and Forests Subcommittee looks at environmental threats facing rangelands and forests in the Great Basin at a field hearing Thursday in Las Vegas.

The Great Basin includes much of Nevada, western Utah, the lower third of Idaho, the southeastern corner of Oregon and a narrow strip of eastern California. It has been under assault recently by a combination of invasive species, wildfire, drought and climate change.

The hearing has the potential to alter the current momentum of the debate over how best to manage habitat in the West that continues to diminish ~ habitat that is critical to the almost listed pygmy rabbit, sage grouse, and a host of other species including pronghorn, a variety of beautiful birds, fish, and other wonderous plants and animals.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Climate change, invasive species, Las Vegas, public lands, public lands management, wildfire, Wildlife Habitat. Tags: . Comments Off on Senate Subcommittee considers Great Basin management