Defending the core and growing the core is a goal widely adopted by those working in sagebrush country. By targeting resources towards the treatment and management of core habitat, partners can protect the best of the best rangelands from non-native annual grass invasion while getting the biggest return on investment of both time and money.
To effectively treat cheatgrass across an entire landscape, partners must be able to work across property lines. This is where groups like the Mule Deer Foundation lean in and provide much needed capacity to get projects done in creative ways. By aggressively treating the seed source on private and state lands, core habitat that isn’t accessible to land management agencies like the Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service, time and money can be saved down the road by ensuring that small pockets of cheatgrass don’t remain after larger-scale treatments on public land.
“I like to think of it as removing the donut holes that have the potential to spread and put surrounding intact habitat at risk,” said Jessie Shallow, a partner biologist with the Mule Deer Foundation.
Shallow is currently leading efforts to survey and treat cheatgrass in several priority areas in Lemhi County. On a bright autumn morning she pulled a handful of stakes and a mallet from the bed of an Idaho Department of Fish and Game pickup truck and strode into the sagebrush on a section of state land.
“Things look really good, but I remember there being a small patch of cheatgrass out here. That’s what I’m looking for right now,” she said.