You are here: home   Issues   Accidental refuge: Should we save the Salton Sea?   Weeds don't need cows to spread

Weeds don't need cows to spread

Document Actions
Dear HCN,

Thank you for the thoughtful coverage dealing with weeds across the West, and especially the discussion of the cheatgrass/fire cycle problem. A quick point of clarification, though. Your articles seemed to return to a theme of grazing as a central cause. In my experience, grazing may not be necessary for land to experience replacement of native shrubs and grasses by cheatgrass and its close relative red chess.

A good example is the Nevada Test Site, where grazing has not been permitted by federal order for over 50 years. During this time, red chess and cheatgrass have invaded and begun to replace the native shrub cover. They do that by germinating months earlier and at seedling densities exceeding 10,000 per square meter: native species just cannot compete and their recruitment becomes a rare event.

So, although livestock and fire may have assisted the invasion and dominance of cheatgrass and red chess in many locations, I suspect that these and other weeds (examples include white top and Russian knapweed) may not need any type of disturbance for them to establish and replace native species within suitable climatic zones. This is a truly scary situation, potentially affecting tens of millions of acres across the west.

David Groeneveld
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Email Newsletter

The West in your Inbox

Follow Us

Follow us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter! Follow our RSS feeds!
  1. Idaho’s sewer system is the Snake River | As Big Ag flourishes, this massive waterway suffer...
  2. The Latest: Wild Mexican wolf pups born in Sierra Madre | The species still struggles on both sides of the b...
  3. Closure of federal sheep facility would be a victory for grizzlies |
  4. Summer swimming in a Washington lake | A writer takes the plunge in frigid water.
  5. Colorado water users gird for first statewide plan |
  1. The death of backpacking? | Younger people don’t seem interested in this out...
  2. Idaho’s sewer system is the Snake River | As Big Ag flourishes, this massive waterway suffer...
  3. A graceful gazelle becomes a pest | Inrroducing an African gazelle called the oryx for...
  4. Illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans | A native-born New Mexico Hispanic points out that ...
  5. Plains sense | Ten years after Frank and Deborah Popper first pro...
HCN Classifieds
Subscriber Alert
© 2014 High Country News, all rights reserved. | privacy policy | terms of use | powered by Plone