Fuels Reduction and Fire Restoration

The U.S. Forest Service, Nevada Department of Agriculture and Washoe County Regional Parks and Open Space Team Up for Fuels Reduction and Fire Restoration

The ARRA projects created 54 jobs, helped 14 contractors survive the economic downturn, and resulted in the development of effective integrated weed management approaches that can be applied to other burned areas in the future.

Medusahead infestation on Arrowcreek project site in 2011.
Medusahead infestation on Arrowcreek project site in 2011.

Washoe County Department of Regional Parks and open space is in the final phase of hazardous fuels reduction and fire ecosystem restoration projects funded by a $3.8 million award from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In some areas, repeated fires have devastated not only plant communities, but also resulted in loss of life and property. The increased incidence of fire is largely due to the loss of native vegetation, and the invasion of exotic annual grasses such as cheatgrass and medusahead.

The best chance for success in these burned areas relies on developing new and effective methods that control the weeds and help to reestablish native perennial grasses and shrubs. Washoe County and their contractors worked on an integrated weed management approach for treatment that included the use of herbicides, seeding and shrub planting.

After herbicide trials, Washoe County found that one particular herbicide, called MatrixÒ (rimsulfuron) was effective in controlling both medusahead and cheatgrass while safeguarding both the desirable grasses and shrubs. A site inspection and evaluation with the Nevada Agricultural Research Service, University of Nevada Cooperative Extension, Nevada Department of Agriculture and Washoe County noted nearly complete control of both medusahead and cheatgrass , with the resulting release of a lush stand of native grasses and shrubs (see below).

During the winter of 2011, a new fire occurred that burned through hundreds of untreated acres of medusahead and cheatgrass, but stopped at the area that had been treated with MatrixÒ the previous year.

There’s more work to be done to monitor the site for long-term success, but the results of the projects so far created 54 jobs, helped 14 contractors survive the economic downturn, and resulted in the development of effective integrated weed management approaches that can be applied to other burned areas in the future.

Control of cheatgrass and medusahead (left) resulting in release of native grass and shrub species (right).
Control of cheatgrass and medusahead (left) resulting in release of native grass and shrub species (right).

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