DUFFY CREEK - Crested Wheatgrass Conversion to Sage-Grouse Habitat

Duffy Creek is located in southwest Douglas County, Washington, on land owned and managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The area receives approximately 10-12 inches of annual precipitation, and the elevation ranges from 3,100 to 3,300 feet. Soils at the Duffy Creek restoration site are deep, silt loams formerly planted to dryland wheat, and prior to restoration, dominated by crested wheatgrass.

Figure 1. Pre-treatment

In 2001, the BLM funded a program to convert fields of crested wheatgrass in the Duffy Creek area to native vegetation, with Greater Sage-Grouse habitat as the primary focus. BFI Native Seeds, in conjunction with BLM Botany and Wildlife staff, developed a preliminary restoration plan and commenced wild collection in the area to develop locally native biotypes. Agronomic production of the Duffy Creek biotypes began on BFI’s Warden, Washington farm in 2002.

The site preparation process began in fall 2003, when each field was mowed with a large rotary mower. The following spring, the site was then sprayed with a moderate dose of glyphosate (Round-Up). By mid-summer, it was evident that the application rate was inadequate to completely control crested wheatgrass, and a sweep-chisel plow was used to complete this process. Following plowing, the site was harrowed to break up clumps and smooth the seed bed in preparation for fall planting.

By the summer of 2004, BFI had harvested enough seed from the Duffy Creek production plots to plant the project area (approx 100 acres). In November of 2004, seed was drilled into the prepped seedbed using a TruAx Flex II rangeland drill. The following grass species were planted: Bluebunch Wheatgrass, Idaho Fescue, Sandberg Bluegrass and Cusick’s Bluegrass. In the spring of 2005, there was good emergence of the seeded grasses, along with a flush of undesirable annual broadleaf weeds. The project area was subsequently sprayed with a mixture of MCPA and bromoxynil.

Through a combination of good growing conditions in the winter of 2004-05 and proactive weed management, a well-established stand of native grasses was present by the spring of 2006. In the fall of 2006 we inter-seeded native forb seeds that had been wild-collected from the area, using a broadcast seeder and culti-packer. Forb species planted included western yarrow, parsnipleaf buckwheat, longleaf phox, silky lupine, and big sagebrush.

Evaluation transects were established in 2006 and have been monitored annually. A small number of crested wheatgrass plants remain, but with the vigor of the native plantings, crested wheatgrass is expected to be completely displaced over time. The ultimate sign of success by the fall of 2008, signs of sage-grouse activity on the newly planted site were readily observable.

Figure 8. June 2013– Native bunchgrass-dominated stand.

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DUFFY CREEK - Crested Wheatgrass Conversion to Sage-Grouse Habitat
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BFI Native Seeds - Moses Lake, WA - 509.765.6348
Jerry Benson | Matthew Benson
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