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USFS pivots away from aerial herbicides for invasive plant, sagebrush treatment in the Bighorns

GILLETTE, Wyo. – Forest officials won’t sanction spraying aerial herbicides to reduce sagebrush habitat in the Bighorn National Forest as a part of an ongoing plant management project, yet. 

During an objection resolution meeting regarding the forest service’s Invasive and Other Select Plant Management project earlier this month, forest officials pulled the treatment of native plant species–including mountain big sagebrush and duncecap larkspur– from their final decision, according to a Nov. 9 release. 

Aerial herbicides, according to the forest service, were the common point of objection.

“There is still a need to achieve a desired mix of structural stages for sagebrush,” the forest service says, adding that an associated Final Environmental Impact Statement currently allows a variety of treatment options on roughly 42% of the sagebrush habitat in the Bighorn National Forest. 

Spraying aerial herbicides, however, was not an option included in the FEIS, per the release, which says forest officials agree that more work is needed to analyze the associated portion of the proposal, per the U.S. Forest Service. 

Forest officials may pursue this option in another project, the release states, but are currently planning to implement portions of an alternative treatment option that proposes treating non-native invasive plant species through a condition-based and integrated invasive plant treatment strategy. 

A Final Record of Decision is expected in the next few months that will clarify what specific treatment options will be used during the project, according to the forest service.