Topic 4 Systems Invaded by Annual Grasses: Case Studies


There are several case studies that address the invasion of annual grasses. Explore each Bureau of Land Management project below.

Idaho, Idaho Falls District, Big Desert Roads Fuel Breaks

(an example of landscape-level compartmentalization)

BLM’s Idaho Falls District is implementing the Big Desert Roads Fuel Breaks project, which is a multi-phased series of linear roadside treatments aimed at reducing fire size and improving initial attack effectiveness.

These treatments, which include mowing, seeding, herbicide, and mechanical removal of conifers, create a network of fuel breaks in a series of compartments or blocks.

The objectives for the fuel breaks include moderating fire behavior (flame length, flame height, fire intensity, fire duration) while complimenting fire suppression safety and effectiveness. Though not fully completed, this project has already allowed fire managers to successfully limit the spread of wildfires and contain them at smaller sizes.

Some specific techniques used in the Big Desert Roads Fuel Breaks project include:

  • Greenstrips were planted with crested wheatgrass.
  • Herbicides used were glyphosate, Spike ®, and Plateau ®.
  • Roads were improved by improving the road prism and shoulders and surfacing the roads; this creates improved access into remote areas with a corresponding quicker response time.


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Click on map for a printable PDF version.


BLM’s Boise District began implementation on the Paradigm Fuel Break Project in 2016, following the signing of the Record of Decision in April, 2015. Over the next six to ten years, the Boise District will establish a 356-mile network of fuel breaks in the Paradigm Project area, which encompasses approximately 293,891 acres of federal, state, and private lands.

Once developed, the proposed self-sustaining, low maintenance fuel breaks would accomplish the following objectives:

  • Enhance firefighter and public safety by reducing the amount of fires that ignite and burn near roadways;
  • Provide additional and improved points for fire suppression tactics;
  • Reduce the size of fires that burn across the project area by compartmentalizing the project area into more defensible sections;

  • Reduce the number of roadside fires that burn into the adjacent rangelands;
  • Facilitate protection of remaining intact big sagebrush communities, including slickspot peppergrass (a plant proposed for listing under the Endangered Species Act) and greater-sage grouse habitat; and
  • Protection of future habitat rehabilitation and restoration treatments.

Click on map for a printable PDF version.

Seeding prostrate kochia will be the primary method for creating fuel breaks on approximately 274 miles (9,854 acres). In slickspot peppergrass habitat, short statured perennial plants would be used in place of kochia. These other species include: Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda), bottlebrush squirreltail (Elymus elymoides), Russian wildrye (Psathyrostachys junceus), dryland alfalfa (Medicago sativa), and dwarf green rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus). This and other methods will be used to develop non-kochia fuel breaks on an additional 82 miles (3,024 acres). Treatments include mowing and disking for seed bed preparation, seeding, mechanical thinning and mowing, targeted grazing on a limited basis, and herbicide.

Prostrate kochia is a semi-evergreen sub-shrub originating from central Eurasia that effectively competes with invasive annual grasses and forbs (St. John and Ogle 2009). It has been shown to effectively reduce flame lengths and slow the spread of fires even in windy conditions (Harrison et al. 2002, Monsen and Memmott 1999, Monsen 1994), which improves the opportunity for firefighters to more safely engage in effective suppression actions.

Literature Cited

  • Harrison, R.D., B.L. Waldron, K.B. Jensen, R.J. Page, T.A. Monaco, W.H. Horton, and A.J. Palazzo. 2002. Forage kochia helps fight range fires. Rangelands 24:3-7.

  • Monsen, S.B. 1994. Selection of plants for fire suppression on semiarid sites. Pp. 363-373 in: Proceedings of Symposium on Ecology, Management, and Restoration of Intermountain Annual Rangelands, Boise, ID.
  • Monsen, S.B., and K.L. Memmott. 1999. Comparison of burning reliance of forage kochia, crested wheatgrass, bluebunch wheatgrass, small burnet, and western yarrow in simulated burned greenstrips. Pp. 113-122 in: Cooperative research studies 1989-1998. USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Shrub Sciences Lab., Provo, UT.
  • St. John, L., and D. Ogle. 2009. Green strips or vegetative fuel breaks. Technical Note 16. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Boise, ID.


To learn more about Systems Invaded by Annual Grasses, click Resources to view key and supplemental literature.