In Idaho, a partnership of public and private agencies and organizations has undertaken an effort dubbed “The Cheatgrass Challenge.” The Challenge will start this summer with six projects in “core areas” where invasive annuals encroachment is low to moderate. The Challenge’s initial focus will be to protect currently healthy rangeland habitat and, secondly, to restore moderately infested habitat to its native perennial state where it is most cost effective and easiest to maintain. The Challenge strategy ultimately plans to build on those projects, pushing into moderately to highly infested areas of invasive grasses to “grow the core areas.”
Although several invasive annual grasses (including cheatgrass, ventenata and medusa head) are a threat to Idaho rangelands, cheatgrass in particular is a two-pronged economic threat. First, it has only minimal forage value and only for a short period, yet it outcompetes the native perennial grasses needed by livestock and wildlife. Second, it creates a vicious fire cycle: more cheatgrass promotes more wildfire, more wildfire promotes more cheatgrass. Cheatgrass doubles the risk of wildfire on a piece of land. Economically, Idaho cannot afford to ignore the challenge posed by invasive annual grasses.