State Invests $1 Million to Fight Fire-Prone Weeds
Date: July 11, 2012
(Salt Lake City) - The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF) has awarded $1,000,000 in grants to fight the spread of invasive weed species throughout Utah. Controlling the spread of invasive weeds is one means to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires.
A total of 31 projects (from 71 requests totaling $2.1 million ) were chosen for funding this year. Those projects will target weed species that are highly invasive and greatly increase the risk of wildfires. Cheatgrass (June grass), medusahead, squarrose knapweed, and rush skeletonweed are targeted species that out compete native species, dry out earlier in the summer, and increase the intensity and spread of wildfires. To this point, the targeted weeds are concentrated in certain geographic areas. Aggressive control efforts are designed to stop their spread statewide.
"This is an extremely wise use of taxpayer dollars in the sense that every dollar we spend eliminating a fuel source, we can save at least 10-times that amount in the cost of fighting fires and losing structures," said Rich Riding, Plant Industry weed specialist.
Counties receiving grant funds to fight invasive weeds are: Cache, Box Elder, Salt Lake, Tooele, Wasatch,Duchesne, Utah, Carbon, Emery, Garfield, Wayne, Sevier, Sanpete, Juab, Beaver, Millard, Iron, Washington, San Juan, Kane, Daggett, and Rich.
Squarrose knapweed is an example of a non-native weed that started in one specific area and has now affected multiple counties. Weed experts have pinpointed the origin of Squarrose knapweed in Utah to a grain silo near the town of Eureka, in Juab County. It has now spread to large areas of the surrounding counties. The Squarrose Knapweed Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) was formed to combat the further spread of this weed.
Tooele County weed supervisor, Jerry Caldwell, said "the new grant fund will allow us to conduct larger, more effective projects than in the past."
In recent years the UDAF has awarded approximately $150,000 - $200,000 annually to counties and other interested parties to control the spread of invasive weeds at the local level. This year, the Utah State Legislature made $1 million available for the fight of invasive species, through Senate Bill 61, sponsored by Ralph Okerlund, (R) Monroe, Utah. These funds are an extension of the "war on cheatgrass," initiated by UDAF Commissioner Leonard Blackham, following the Milford Flat fire (2007). The Milford Flat fire, Utah's largest wildfire to date (363,052 acres), was fueled largely by cheatgrass.
"With the additional funding we hope to focus on more watershed scale projects this year," added Riding.
The criteria for project selection included the probability of measurable success within the first three years, and a high degree of cooperation between government agencies, local workgroups and private landowners.
Grant funding decisions were made and approved by the Utah Conservation Commission on June 26, 2012. Funds will be available by the end of July.
For more information contact:
Rich Riding UDAF - 801-5387186
Posted: July 11, 2012