April 27, 2022
By Mark Kayser
Hunters may have responsibilities, and you can add another to the list. Be responsible in the prevention of spreading invasive vegetation while off-roading and hiking.
Some invasive plant species made it across the oceans by hitching rides in ship cargo mixed with other seeds. In the 19th and 20th centuries, land managers even thought they were forward thinking by bringing select species to America for purposes of cover crops and ornamental flora. Some were successful, but most backfired and spread regionally, with a few leapfrogging across North America. Whether introduced here purposefully or accidentally, recreationists are helping spread unwelcome plant guests.
Culprits include Kudzu, English ivy, purple loosestrife and the scourge of the West, cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum), to list a few. Cheatgrass is a good example. It hid itself in shipments of European wheat in the late 1800s. Farmers and others unknowingly spread the seed, and today it has taken over more than 100 million acres of wildlife habitat. It springs to life early, dries quickly, becomes a fire hazard throughout the summer and is unpalatable to wildlife much of the year.
Government agencies are stressing the importance, now more than ever, of being conscientious of avoiding further spread of invasive species. A prime example is occurring with the spread of Ventenata (Ventenata dubia), a non-native invasive grass species making a move from the Northwest further into the Great Plains. Wyoming’s Bighorn National Forest, home to elk, mule deer and the adaptable whitetail, is ground zero for local land managers.
Do Your Part
To aid in thwarting the spread of this species, forest managers have closed a specific region to off-road travel, according to acting Powder River district ranger, Silas Davidson.
“Forest managers recognize that these vehicles and people could be collecting seed inadvertently in their tires, undercarriage of vehicles, their shoes and clothing, and in pet’s hair,” Davidson explains. “These seeds could be transported to other locations where this invasive species does not exist.”
Understanding what invasive species exist in your hunting area, plus the rules and suggested mitigation practices, can aid in slowing the spread of unhelpful vegetation.
For information and identification, reach out to your local Natural Resources Conservation Services office.