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Aerial Spraying for Cheatgrass at Four Natural Areas

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image for press release Aerial Spraying for Cheatgrass at Four Natural Areas The City of Fort Collins Natural Areas Department will be conducting aerial weed spraying at four natural areas this fall. Reservoir Ridge, Coyote Ridge, Bobcat Ridge and Soapstone Prairie natural areas have large infestations of cheatgrass, a non-native, highly invasive weed that is challenging to control. Steep slopes and rough terrain prohibit access by traditional equipment. The natural areas will closed for about four hours while spraying is underway. No effects to people, pets, non-target plants, or wildlife are anticipated. Closures will be posted at trailheads and at https://www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/status.php.

Cheatgrass can overtake native grasslands and significantly diminish the quality of wildlife habitat. The grass takes its’ name from “cheating” or denying other native grasses and plants of their habitat. In the fall, the “yellow-brown” tinge of foothills vegetation is mostly cheatgrass. Dry cheatgrass also poses a significant fire risk in the late summer and early fall.

Last November, the City’s Natural Areas Department conducted a limited herbicide application on a trial plot by helicopter on about 20-acres at Reservoir Ridge Natural Area. The aerial treatment was very effective and showed no signs of non-target impacts to native vegetation or wildlife. “We’re excited by the impressive control achieved in last year’s trial plots, said Rick Bachand, an Environmental Program Manager with the Natural Areas Department.

Only small amounts of imazapic herbicide is required to gain an upper hand on cheatgrass (5.5 ounces/acre, learn more at http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/NR/rdonlyres/67F89CB7-D919-47DD-890F-EBABBBD32E6E/0/Imazapic.pdf). Further, applying the herbicide via low-flying helicopter (25 feet off the ground) takes advantage of the helicopter’s rotor wash to effectively push the herbicide to the ground and eliminate “drift” away from the helicopter’s spray boom. The spraying will occur on days with calm winds between September 19 and the end of November. Spray zones are located well within the interior of each site, more than one-quarter mile from neighbors. The natural areas will closed for about four hours while spraying is underway. No effects to people, pets, non-target plants or wildife are anticipated. Closures will be posted at trailheads and at https://www.fcgov.com/naturalareas/status.php.