Science & Environment | Wildfire | Invasive Species | Southern Oregon | Central Oregon | Oregon

Science & Environment | Wildfire | Invasive Species | Southern Oregon | Central Oregon | Oregon

Cheatgrass pandemic: Funding drought hampered fire mitigation in Southern Oregon

Southern Oregon land managers lost momentum in the fight against invasive, fire-prone weeds during the pandemic. Now, the Bootleg Fire is at their doorstep.

7/25/2021 5:22:00 PM

The Bootleg Fire in Southern Oregon and others like it are being supercharged by quick-drying, invasive weeds like cheatgrass. Money to fight those weeds evaporated in the COVID-19 pandemic as state lottery sales tanked. OPB

Southern Oregon land managers lost momentum in the fight against invasive, fire-prone weeds during the pandemic. Now, the Bootleg Fire is at their doorstep.

The Oregon Lottery had to cut somewhere, andfunds for OWEB grants were on the chopping block.“We really had to scramble,” said Meta Loftsgaarden, OWEB’s executive director. “We knew a month or so ahead of time, as we watched those bars and restaurants close, that we were going to be in a pretty dire situation come May and June.”

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The lost funding, in addition to pandemic restrictions that moved a lot of work online, brought many landscaperestoration projects— not just weed treatment — to a standstill.The agency used what money it had on-hand to fulfill some grant applications, but paused funding additional projects until March.

Lottery revenue has since rebounded, and OWEB is fully funding grants again. The delay amounted to six months on the calendar, but for some projects the setback could be even longer.Autumn Muir outside Paisley, Ore., Monday, June 28, 2021.Bradley W. Parks / OPB

Muir said combating an invasive weed like cheatgrass is a momentum game. The plant waits for no pandemic.“You’re getting down from these larger patches to these smaller patches, down to like maybe even a single plant source,” Muir said. “And you miss a year of that, and you can imagine you’d just lose all that momentum.”

Cheatgrass spreads easily and can produce some 500 seeds per plant. It greens up earlier in the year, outcompeting native plants for nutrients and water. When it dries out, it becomes functionally inedible for cattle and wildlife, and stands ready to burn.

And when cheatgrass burns, the fire can gobble up anything else in its path — including perennial grasses, shrubs and forbs as well as larger trees. Read more: NPR »

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OPB Oh, it was long before COVID. I’m old enough to remember when Democrat lawmakers in those states defunded programs that provided summer jobs to college kids who went out in the woods & cut underbrush & made fire breaks. OPB Hmm maybe public services shouldn’t be funded by gambling money OPB What about all that weed money for those fires guys...come on

OPB No bull! Buffalo. OPB They need to burn the fuel in front of the fire!! Burn the next mountain!!! ( sorry for the extreme measures) But the fire is going to burn it tomorrow.. OPB Why isn't money set aside in the state budget for items such as this? More fires, floods, etc. will occur because of climate change. We need dependably consistent funding to prevent and/or mitigate their effects.

OPB Imagine if the rich, corporations just paid their taxes and people earned a living wage. We wouldn't have to rely on lotteries and charity for basic needs, environmental protection and infrastructure. OPB So nature had to take care of the weeds with fire. OPB Buy Goats 🐐Goats 🐐Goats 🐐

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