Successful management of downy brome (also known as cheatgrass) requires understanding land managers' perceptions and decisions about whether to invest in its control. We investigated ranchers' and natural resource professionals' (NRPs) perceptions and knowledge about downy brome ecology and its impacts, their current downy brome management practices and satisfaction with those practices, and their information and technical needs using focus groups and a mail survey of ranchers and NRPs in Colorado and Wyoming. Both groups thought downy brome was a problem, and perception of the severity of downy brome corresponded to the level of infestation in the respondent's region. NRPs identified downy brome as a bigger problem than did ranchers from the same area in all but one region. Ranchers were most likely to use early spring grazing to control downy brome, and NRPs were most likely to use seeding, imazapic herbicide, or a combination of methods. Both groups reported that the primary constraint to controlling downy brome was that other weeds were a higher priority. Ranchers and NRPs wanted more information about the control methods they were already likely to use as well as other downy brome control methods. Our findings suggest that (1) listing a species as a noxious weed may provide an important incentive to control it, but trade-offs among control efforts for different species must be carefully considered; (2) managers need to know more about low-cost, low-labor strategies for managing downy brome; and (3) some managers need to be informed about how to identify downy brome, its potential negative effects, and how to prevent its spread. Better quantification of the economic and ecological impacts of downy brome in the Central Rocky Mountains, continued development of effective and economically viable management methods, and improvement in the dissemination of that information to land managers are necessary for successful control of downy brome.
Nomenclature: Imazapic, downy brome, Bromus tectorum L. BROTE.
Management Implications: Where downy brome is common, ranchers and natural resource professionals (NRPs) were likely to know and be concerned about it. However, other weeds, especially those officially designated as noxious weeds, may be a higher priority for control, and that could limit land manager motivation and resources available to manage downy brome. NRPs were usually more concerned about downy brome than ranchers, which may reflect the value downy brome has as early season livestock forage. Land managers favored using control methods that were readily available to them. Ranchers preferred using grazing as a tool for controlling downy brome, whereas NRPs preferred using herbicides and combining multiple methods in their approaches. Both groups reported using and being satisfied with seeding. Constraints to managing downy brome included the need to allocate scarce financial resources to control of higher priority species and labor limitations. Although ranchers and NRPs wanted information about how to use their preferred management methods most effectively, both manager groups wanted to learn about different control options and effective use of livestock grazing for control. Our study highlights several important considerations when working to improve education and coordinated management of downy brome. (1) Cost is a major constraint to control of downy brome. When land managers evaluate the trade-offs in allocating control efforts for different species, listing of a species as a noxious weed influences that calculation. (2) In designing a downy brome management plan, it is important to consider the compatibility of proposed control methods with a land manager's existing operation, management tools, and labor availability and to recognize potentially differing perceptions of effective management approaches between ranchers and NRPs. (3