This is a scientific and historical account of the cheatgrass invasion. Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) is an exotic species that appeared in North America in the late nineteenth century and has since become a dominant plant in the arid and semiarid rangelands between the Sierra Nevada, Cascades, and Rocky Mountains. It is the first grass to appear after the region's long, cold winters and thus has become an important forage plant for livestock and wildlife. Cheatgrass is also a major environmental hazard in the sagebrush plant communities where it has established itself, providing highly combustible fuel for the wildfires that have ravaged so much of the Great Basin since the mid-twentieth century. Cheatgrass is the first comprehensive study of this highly invasive plant that has changed the ecology of millions of acres of western rangeland. Authors Young and Clements have researched the biology and impact of cheatgrass for four decades. Their book addresses the subject from several perspectives: the history of the invasion; the origins and biology of cheatgrass; its genetic variations, breeding system, and patterns of distribution; its impact on grazing management; and the role it plays, both positive and negative, in the lives of high desert wildlife.
The authors combine more than 50 years of experience as scientists conducting research on the biology and management of Purshia plant communities. They walked the mountain ranges and deserts of the Great Basin in search of keys to the sustainable management of this valuable resource. James A. Young is senior research scientist for the USDA Agriculture Research Service, exotic and invasive weeds research unit. Charlie D. Clements is range scientist for the USDA Agriculture Research Service, exotic and invasive weeds research unit.