The overgrowth of invasive weeds in Utah is in part to blame for out-of-control fires in the state according to Larry Lewis of the Utah Department of Agriculture. Lewis says the department is working with Utah State University Extension experts and local weed control experts to eradicate weeds and encourage the regrowth of native grasses.
According to Lewis, wildfires burning in rural communities where invasive weeds are found can force smoke to filter throughout the state, impacting air quality in all areas of the state.
Utah lawmakers have committed $1 million to fund a "War on Weeds." On Thursday, June 14, state senators, local lawmakers and USU Extension experts met in Juab County where the growth of squarrose knapweed and other invasive weeds resulted in lost forage, reduced wildlife populations, and increased fire suppression costs.
Lewis tells the story of a large pasture area that was all but destroyed by knapweed. The weed was removed using chemical treatments and biological treatments, including the use of insects that help break down the plant's properties. The project was a success. Lewis says, "The knapweed is gone and there are native and introduced species of grasses there that are growing successfully and helping this livestock operator put cattle back on that pasture and graze his animals on his own property."
The Utah Department of Agriculture will use state money to implement weed suppression programs in Cache and Box Elder Counties and help win the War on Weeds.