Dozens of square miles of the Bridger-Teton National Forest infested with invasive cheatgrass will soon be sprayed from the air.
Forest officials announced on Friday that they had signed off on a draft decision that will prioritize dousing cheatgrass with herbicides on crucial big game winter range, within fuels reduction and logging projects, and along roads, trails and power lines.
“My decision authorizes annual treatment of approximately 20,000 acres,” Bridger-Teton National Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Connor wrote in her decision document. “This includes an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 acres that could be treated using aerial application of herbicides.”
Cheatgrass is a fast-spreading exotic grass which is native to Eurasia and northern Africa. It cures early in the summer and can increase the risk of wildfire.
For years, other national forests in the American West that are overrun by cheatgrass have used aerial spraying. The Bridger-Teton never sought the authorization, partly because early U.S. Forest Service botanists doubted the species could proliferate in high, snowy northwestern Wyoming forests.
Cheatgrass has since proved otherwise, spreading to many corners of the Bridger-Teton and especially the outskirts of the Wind River Range.
O’Connor’s decision still must navigate the objection process. Concerned citizens have until Nov. 12 to send in their comments. Objections can be emailed to regional forester Nora Rasure at email@example.com.