The Utah Department of Agriculture and Food has awarded $1.3 million in grants to fight the spread of invasive weed species in an effort to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires.
“We are pleased to continue funding several projects started last year that have shown a high degree of success,” said Rich Riding, weed specialist with the Agriculture Department. “This year’s new projects will focus on additional geographic areas.”
One continuing project is along Utah Lake, where the water-loving weed phragmites has taken over much of the shoreline. The weed chokes off native vegetation, which impacts wildlife and recreation.
Last year, helicopter spraying and mechanical removal of the invasive weed at the Lindon boat harbor led to native species’ return. “The long-term goal is to return all the beaches to a healthy, usable condition,” said Aaron Eager, Utah County weed supervisor.
Counties receiving grant funds are Cache, Box Elder, Morgan, Salt Lake, Tooele, Wasatch, Weber, Duchesne, Uintah, Utah, Emery, Garfield, Grand, Wayne, Sevier, Sanpete, Juab, Beaver, Millard, Iron, Washington, San Juan, Kane, Daggett and Rich.
The Utah State Legislature made $1 million available for the fight of invasive species, which is an extension of the war on cheatgrass initiated by Agricultural Commissioner Leonard Blackham after the Milford Flat fire in 2007. The blaze, which blackened 363,000 acres, was fueled largely by cheatgrass.