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Cheat Grass Connection To More Western Wildfires

NPS Photo by Jim Pisarowicz

Cheat grass is a common invasive plant in the western U.S., but its presence has grown significantly over the last decade. So much so, that researchers believe it may be a main culprit in the increase in western wildfires.

Jennifer Balch, of Penn State University, says cheat grass now covers some 25 thousand square miles in the west.

“And what we found in our work is that 13 percent of that area burned during the 2000s and that’s more than twice as much that burned compared to any other vegetation type including sage brush, pinon, juniper, or salt desert shrub.”

Balch says cheat grass is an annual plant and cures faster than other invasive plants which speeds up both its rate of production and its contribution as a fire load, and in addition to that, it’s very difficult to get rid of.

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