As part of their National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative, The Western Governors' Association (WGA) hosted a webinar on Rangeland Management Strategies. Featured speakers Chad Boyd (Rangeland Specialist with USDA ARS in Burns, OR), Brian Mealor (Director of University of Wyoming Sheridan Research and Extension Center, Department of Plant Sciences in Sheridan, WY), and Jay Kerby, Southeast Oregon Project Manager with The Nature Conservancy in Burns, OR) collectively advocated for rangeland management as a means to promote and create resiliency in native grass ecosystems. The discussion focused on the management of perennial grasses as a means of fire resiliency throughout the American West. 

As part of the presentation, the speakers dug into some of the challenges and opportunities with reseeding.

There are a number of barriers, which vary across time and space, to native seedling survival. If soil freezes for even a 24-48 hr period, up to 90% of the germinated seeds can die. Alternatively, a couple of warm days in December can cause seeds to germinate. Precision restoration is key to perennial grass reseeding.

The speakers also offered up innovative ideas for seeding, including:

  • Utilizing extruded sagebrush pellets;
  • Bundling seeds together, which increases living seedlings by 4x; and, 
  • Disrupting and delaying germination to trick the seeds into not germinating prematurely.

One of the other challenges to native reseeding is that, generally speaking, native plants are more expensive and less reliable than non-native plants. Resilience and resistance are sometimes achieved more quickly with exotics. That being said, native grasses are typically most resistant and resilient to various disturbances that adversely affect the rangelands.

Weeds, primarily cheat grass, also threaten the success of perennial grass reseeding. Cheat grass is known for being easy to kill, but hard to get rid of. 

When it comes to weeds, remember:

  • every tool has its limitations;
  • leverage (small effort, large results) is important
    • choose a leverage point driven by ecological understanding; and,
  • each tool used to combat weeds has unintended consequences.

To learn more and get more involved in this topic, follow the WGA webinar series.