Cheatgrass is a noxious weed that absorbs much of the water and nutrients during the spring growing season, “cheating” native plants for limited resources, converting native plant communities to monocultures, and depriving wildlife of diverse, nutritious forage. “Cheat” dries out much earlier than native vegetation, significantly lengthening the fire season. Cheatgrass plants grow very close together, creating a continuous fuel base. It ignites easily and causes fire to spread rapidly.
The Pinedale Anticline Data Management system (PADMS) was created to track disturbance and reclamation activities associated with natural gas operations on the Pinedale Anticline Gas Field. A 2019 review of the PADMS reveals that 1,173 sites harbor cheatgrass. This is an increase from 2017, when only 604 sites on the Anticline harbored cheatgrass.
The Jonah Infill Data Management System (JIDMS) was also created to track disturbance and reclamation activities associated with natural gas operations on the Jonah Field. A 2019 review of the JIDMS reveals that 724 sites harbor cheatgrass. This is an increase from 2017, when 678 sites in the Jonah Field harbored cheatgrass.
The WGFD and BLM have just begun to address this habitat emergency, and between 2014 and 2018 treated 35,675 acres of cheatgrass, spreading along roads that service the La Barge and Riley Ridge gas fields.
Oil and gas operators are failing to control the spread of this invasive weed, despite reclamation requirements, and BLM is failing to enforce its EISs. The cheatgrass infestation is increasing at an alarming rate in fossil gas fields on lands managed by BLM.