CRAIG'S JUICY NATIVE GRASS GOSSIP & Research

No. 6 - Summer, 1998; updated April, 2007

"WEEDS & PERSISTENT EXOTICS on Public Lands".

Edited and published by Craig Dremann of The Reveg Edge (sm).
P.O. Box 609, Redwood City, Cal. 94064. Phone (650) 325-7333 e-mail
The URL of this issue is: http://www.ecoseeds.com/juicy.gossip.six.html

If you would like to read the previous and more recent issues about native grasses : Index at http://www.ecoseeds.com/juicy.html


IN THIS ISSUE:

"WEEDS & PERSISTENT EXOTICS on Public Lands".
NOXIOUS WEEDS.
PERSISTENT EXOTICS, the Ecosystem Busters.
---Persistent vs. Invasive.
---Where do the Ecosystem-Busters come from?
---USDA introductions of persistent exotics.
---Where are the future weeds coming from?
---What persistent exotics are being grown for use on USA public wildlands?
---Umm...Do I really have to write environmental documents for these exotics?
---What are the West's Worst Intentionally-sown Persistent Plants?
---MAPS OF THE WEST'S TOP 10 WORST Persistent exotics.
---1998 vote on the top 10 persistent exotics.
---Control of "weeds" on public lands starts by not planting persistent exotics!
---Exotics are the ice cream plants for the environment.
RESTORATION OF NATIVE ECOSYSTEM FUNCTIONS.
SEVEN EASY STEPS TOWARD THE USE OF NATIVES.


WEEDS & PERSISTENT EXOTICS on public lands.
Copyright © 1998, 2002, updated April 2007, by Craig C. Dremann, all rights reserved.

EXOTIC INVASIVE PLANTS. Public land agencies, for the past fifteen years, have been moving toward a concept called "ecosystem management", which includes a concern about exotic plants that interfere with ecosystem function. The spread of exotic invasive plants is the principle focus of this concern, with plans developing for control and eradication. Exotic plants impact natural ecosystems, and have the possibility of spreading off the public land onto private property. Billions of dollars will be needed to get the exotic invasive plants on public lands (including highway right-of-ways) under control within the next few decades. However, there is another class of plants, other than exotic invasives, which disrupt ecosystem function and need to be looked at: the persistent exotics.

PERSISTENT EXOTICS, the Ecosystem-Busters. Any plant which can maintain itself on uncultivated land and is not native to that area is a persistent exotic. These plants may have value in an irrigated pasture or on cultivated land, but when sown on public lands, they permanently disrupt and degrade the natural ecosystem. These ecosystem-busters have been intentionally sown for decades on public lands, by the tens of millions of pounds of seed.

PERSISTENT VS INVASIVE. There's a discussion that persistent exotics aren't as bad as invasive exotics; but wherever persistent exotics are sown, they will disrupt that area's ecosystems for decades to centuries, creating breaks in the ecosystem's continuity.

WHERE DO THE ECOSYSTEM-BUSTERS COME FROM? Paradoxically, government agencies responsible for the protection of native ecosystems are the same agencies who develop, introduce, and recommend the use of persistent exotics on public lands. Over 40 persistent exotic grasses have been developed, introduced, and recommended for use on wildlands as "conservation plant materials" by the USDA, the NRCS and the ARS.

USDA's INTRODUCTION OF PERSISTENT EXOTIC GRASSES, as "Improved Conservation Plant Materials", and the varieties and year(s) they were released:

Alpine bluegrass ......."Greuning".....1990
Annual ryegrass ........"Wimmera 62"...1962
Atherstone lovegrass...."Cochise"......1979
Barley.................."Seco".........1987
Beach wildrye .........."Reeve"........1991
Bermudagrass...........(various vars.).1967-92
Blue Panicum............"A-130"........1950
Boer lovegrass..........(various vars).1950-69
Brunswickgrass.........."Doncorae".....1993
Buffelgrass.............(various vars).1977
Bulbous bluegrass(!)...."P-4874".......1956
Creeping Foxtail........"Garrison".....1959
Crested wheatgrass......(various vars).1953-84
Intermediate wheatgrass.(various vars).1945-94
Kentucky bluegrass......(various vars).1958-65
Kleingrass..............(various vars).1969-81
Koleagrass ............."Perla"........1970
Lehmann lovegrass.......(various vars).1950-76
Limpograss..............(various vars).1978
Mammoth wildrye........."Volga"........1949
Meadowbrome............."Regar"........1966
Orchardgrass............(various vars).1953-83
Paspalum (Brazil)......."Tropic Lalo"..1984
Perennial veltgrass....."Mission"......1962
Proso millet............"Dove".........1972
Pubescent wheatgrass....(various vars).1953-92
Rat-tail fescue ........"Zorro"........1977
Red brome..............."Panoche"......1985(!)
Reed canarygrass........"Ioreed".......1946
Rescuegrass............."Prairie"......1946
RS wheatgrass..........."Newhy"........1989
Russian wildrye.........(various vars).1984-91
Sheep fescue............"Covar"........1977
Siberian wheatgrass....."P-27".........1953
Smooth Brome............(various vars).1943-54
Soft chess.............."Blando".......1954
Tall fescue............."Georgia 5"....1992
Tall wheatgrass.........(various vars).1951-65
Turkish bluestem........(various vars).1979-87
Upland bluegrass(Turkey)"Draylar"......1951
Wilman lovegrass........"Palar"........1972

...Which of these are bad weeds in your area?

WHERE ARE THE FUTURE WEEDS COMING FROM? Probably from the same source as before: the government agencies. The California Agriculture article (May-June 1998, #52 :37-40, "Legumes show success on Central Coast rangeland"), reports that the UC Cooperative Extension has developed and is recommending sowing California wildlands with 14 new annual exotic legumes: 12 Medicago species and two Trifoliums.

According to the article, these legumes have "abundant seed production and the presence of a high percentage of hard seeds, which remain dormant for one or more years before germinating...[the] seed reserve in the soil was sampled and estimated to be 500 pounds per acre..." Below is the photograph of future, weedy persistant exotics:


Photo: California Agriculture.

...Does the above description sound like all the dozens of persistent annual exotics that have already been introduced to California and now blankets the state, disrupting our natural ecosystems?

A BAD EXAMPLE FROM BLM IN THE GREAT BASIN in 2002
The FY 2002 Fall Seed Buy for the BLM offices in Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Oregon and Colorado (Sol. No NAR020155, P.O. Box 25047, Denver, CO. 80225-0047) issued 8/27/2002 lists the following staggering amounts of exotics:

Crested Wheatgrass.......Total bulk pounds......28,200
Siberian wheatgrass......Total bulk pounds......29,200
Intermediate wheatgrass..Total bulk pounds...... 5,500
Pubescent wheatgrass.....Total bulk pounds......66,100
Russian Wildrye..........Total bulk pounds......70,000
Smooth Brome.............Total bulk pounds...... 4,300
Orchardgrass.............Total bulk pounds...... 4,400
Annual ryegrass..........Total bulk pounds......16,500
Triticale................Total bulk pounds......12,500
Alfalfa..................Total bulk pounds......47,200
Yellow sweetclover.......Total bulk pounds...... 7,100
Sainfoin.................Total bulk pounds......11,100
Small burnet.............Total bulk pounds.....128,300
Forage Kochia............Total bulk pounds......23,200
=============================================================
Persistent exotics being sown on BLM land......453,600


...
That means sown at 10 pounds to the acre, then in the year 2002, another 70 square miles of BLM public lands will be permanently lost to persistent exotics forever, because it is well-known that the local native plant never grow back wherever you sow these exotics!

UMM..DO I REALLY HAVE TO WRITE ENVIRONMENTAL DOCUMENTS FOR THESE EXOTICS--were you serious about that!? Sowing seeds after fires, especially persistent exotics that would permanently convert Endangered, Threatened and sensitive species habitat to exotic plants that only domesticated grazing animals can utilize, and would permanently interfere with native ecosystem functions, would be defined as a "project" under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA"). BLM has violated NEPA, by failing to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement ("EIS") for the Great Basin seeding projects.

The law requires that the BLM examine and assess the significant environmental impacts which the seeding projects will have, individually and cumulatively. NEPA requires that federal agencies conduct a complete and objective evaluation of beneficial and adverse environmental impacts resulting from a proposed action, and all reasonable alternatives. Of course, the reasonable alternative to the use of exotics, or even cultivars of native plants, is to only use local native seeds.

Additionally, BLM's implementation of the seeding projects will violate the mandate of the Federal Land Policy and Management Act ("FLPMA") that BLM must manage the affected lands for multiple use and sustained yield, and will further violate the applicable land use plans for the affected BLM lands.

It has been argued in another court case, that the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 5 U.S.C. ß 701 et seq. allows plaintiffs to seek judicial relief, reversing and remanding BLM's approval for this type of project. In addition, because BLM intends to imminently proceed with the seeding projects, causing irreparable ecological and other harms to plaintiffs and the public, plaintiffs could seek immediate injunctive relief preventing implementation of the projects until the Court has ruled on the merits of these claims.

WHAT PERSISTENT EXOTIC SEEDS ARE BEING PRODUCED FOR USE ON USA WILDLANDS? A survey of Canadian certified seed production shows that the demand for persistent exotics is still high. A list of the estimated pounds annually produced is listed below:
1.) Timothy................ 55 million pounds.
2.) Red fescue............. 28 million pounds.
3.) Smooth Brome............ 9 million pounds.
4.) Crested wheatgrass...... 6 million pounds.
5.) Turkish meadowbrome..... 6 million pounds.
5.) Kentucky bluegrass...... 3 million pounds.
6.) Meadow fescue........... 3 million pounds.
7.) Yellow sweetclover...... 2 million pounds.
9.) Intermediate wheatgrass. 1 million pounds
8.) Orchardgrass............ 0.5 million pounds.

...Have you seen any of the above on USA public lands?

WHAT ARE THE WEST'S WORST INTENTIONALLY SOWN PERSISTENT PLANTS?...was asked in a survey of thirteen USFS botany and range ecologists from five western states. Responses came from the following states and numbers of individuals: CA=3, CO=1, MT=2, OR=5, and WA=2.
Maps: TOP 10 WORST !

These persistent species are usually sown in the National Forests or on BLM land for fire rehab., along roadsides, or used in type-conversions. The responses are rated by the number of times they appeared on the lists, plus the ranking they were given by the respondents:
____________________________________________________________________________
Species.........................rank / species.........................rank
____________________________________________________________________________
Orchardgrass ................... 1.| Rose & Subterranean clovers........ 17.
Timothy......................... 2.| Colonial bentgrass (Agrostis)...... 18.
Smooth brome.................... 3.| Slender wheatgrass (non-local)..... 19.
Intermediate wheatgrass......... 4.| Harding grass (Phalaris)........... 20.
Hard or Sheep fescue............ 5.| Crimson clover..................... 21.
Crested wheatgrass.............. 6.| Vetch, spring...................... 22.
Ryegrass, annual and per........ 7.| Redtop (Agrostis).................. 23.
Sweetclovers, yellow & white.... 8.| Dryland alfalfa.................... 24.
Pubescent wheatgrass............ 9.| Meadow fescue...................... 25.
Tall fescue "Alta"............. 10.| Cereal barley...................... 26.
Kentucky bluegrass............. 11.| Bluegrasses........................ 27.
Meadow foxtail................. 12.| Cereal rye......................... 28.
Mtn. Brome (non-local)......... 13.| Bluebunch wheatgrass (non-local)... 29.
Dutch clover (T. repens)....... 14.| Reed canary grass.................. 30.
Bird'sfoot trefoil............. 15.| Tall oatgrass...................... 31.
Creeping & Red fescue.......... 16.| Great Basin wildrye (non-local).... 32.

____________________________________________________________________________

As you can see, some of the respondents even listed natives plants! --- Mountain Brome, Slender wheatgrass, Bluebunch wheatgrass, and Great Basin wildrye are all native grasses, but , if the seed is not from a local source, it could be considered a persistent exotic!
Thanks for survey replies from: Allison Sanger (Modoc NF, CA.), Caitlin Cray (Hood River NF, OR.), "Darol" William Cox (Rio Grande NF, CO.), David Isle (Mendocino NF, CA.), Heather Laub (Hood River NF, OR.), Jodi Engle (Wenatchee NF, WA.), Linda Pietarinen (Bitterroot NF, MT.), Lisa Wolf (Umpqua NF, OR.), Marla Knight (Klamath NF, CA.), Nancy Berlier (Umatilla NF, WA.), Paula Brooks (Wallow-Whitman NF. OR.), Susan Nugent (Hood River NF, OR.), Wayne Phillips (Lewis & Clark NF, MT.)

CONTROL OF WEEDS ON PUBLIC LAND STARTS by not planting persistent exotics! Botanists, ecologists, range ecologists, and other public land managers agree that local native plants and seeds should be used to maintain ecosystem integrity. Sometimes some land managers may not be familiar with natives, and the old persistent exotics are like old friends, and are still used, even though it is now well-known that they permanently impact native ecosystems.

EXOTICS ARE LIKE ICE CREAM. When you are a child or teenager, you can't seem to get enough ice cream; but that ice cream diet can take its toll fifty years later in heart disease. That's the same for successful exotics: they grow successfully in the environment, and the seed is cheap, but 50 years later, I predict we will all decide that they are all terribly damaging to the environment. We have come to that conclusion already with the USDA's introduction of Kudzu vine in the South, Harding Grass along California's coast, Bulbous bluegrass (Poa bulbosa) in the West, Crested Wheatgrass in the Great Basin, and Smooth Brome in the Rockies and eastward. We need to get off the introduced ice cream diet, and plant something more substantial and in tune with the environment, with seeds from this continent.

RESTORATION OF NATIVE ECOSYSTEM FUNCTION is the only permanent answer to the weed problems we face on public lands. Eradication of weeds only temporarily eliminates the individual problem species; instead we need to strengthen the ecosystem's ability to resist weeds. Otherwise, when we eradicate a weed, we will only be leaving a vacancy that can be filled by yet another weed! What do we want to take the place of the weeds? A functioning ecosystem, of course!

SEVEN EASY STEPS TOWARDS THE USE OF NATIVES:
The Exotics-to-Local-Natives Program.
A common statement heard from public land managers is that "local native seeds are not commercially available." The lack of local material is easily and inexpensively resolved by taking seven simple steps:

1.) MAKE A POLICY that when any soil is disturbed within your land management area, you desire that local natives be used for ecological restoration.

2.) MAKE AN EFFORT TO HAVE RESISTANCE TO THE PERSISTENT exotics.

3.) TEST NON-PERSISTENT EXOTICS that could be useful for erosion control while you are bulking up your local native seed stockpiles. Weed-free horse-feed oats is one option that has been successful in many forests. It provides cover and then fades out the second year, because it doesn't reproduce.

4.) ESTABLISH A RESTORATION COORDINATOR to be the liaison between the various shops who would normally use revegetation seeding in their projects, like engineers, wildlife, recreation, fire rehab., etc.

5.) COORDINATE WITH YOUR PARTNER'S PROJECTS! If you have highway widening, new ski lifts being built, pipeline right-of-ways, etc., utilize those projects to get your native program started. Learn together with your partners how to use natives.

6.) CONSERVE GOOD EXAMPLES OF NATURAL ECOSYSTEMS as future seed sources for your revegetation projects, and as models or patterns to use to reconstruct ecosystems.

7.) USE A STEP-BY-STEP APPROACH, utilizing licensed technologies for success. Read about it in the Juicy Gossip No. 7


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s.c./ updated April 11, 2007