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Kansas considers quarantine for invasive bluestem grass

Posted at 7:08 AM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 08:08:25-04

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas agricultural officials are considering a quarantine to slow the spread of an invasive plant that's threatening the state's native grasses.

The Kansas Department of Agriculture recently sought public input on a plan to quarantine invasive yellow and Caucasian bluestem grasses, the Topeka Capital-Journal reported . The varieties have invaded all but three counties in Kansas.

Declaring the quarantine would prohibit the movement of all seeds, plants or parts of bluestem grasses within Kansas or across the border into the state.

The move could affect some ranchers who rely on the species when cutting hay to feed livestock.

Ron Klataske, executive director of environmental nonprofit Audubon of Kansas, expressed support for the proposal, saying bluestems are both difficult and expensive to eradicate.

"It has a dramatic detrimental impact," Klataske said. "It basically destroys all native plants."

He said bluestems are inferior to native grasses in terms of livestock forage, erosion control and wildlife habitat.

Kansas Livestock Association Attorney Aaron Popelka acknowledged that bluestem grasses pose a threat to the state's biodiversity. But Popelka said the livestock group opposes the plan because it could economically hurt producers.

He said the quarantine would prevent hauling hay containing the invasive bluestems, affecting farmers and ranchers in areas where the grasses aren't posing a big challenge.

Popelka said most of the bluestem grasses "came from the (state) Department of Transportation allowing it to be seeded along roadways."

He said producers shouldn't be forced to deal with a problem largely manufactured by the government.

Popelka instead suggested that the state blocks the sale and planting of bluestem seeds in Kansas. He also said the state could list bluestems as a noxious weed. The label would allow the plant to be managed on a county-by-county basis.

The Department of Agriculture doesn't have a timeline to decide on the quarantine, according to officials.