Perceptions of ranchers about medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski) management on sagebrush steppe rangelands.
Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski) is an exotic annual grass invading rangelands in the western United States. Medusahead is a serious management concern because it decreases biodiversity, reduces livestock forage production, and degrades the ecological function of rangelands. Despite the obvious importance of ranchers as partners in preventing and managing medusahead in rangelands, little is known about their perceptions and behaviors concerning medusahead management. We present the results of a survey of ranchers operating on sagebrush steppe rangeland in a three-county area in southeast Oregon encompassing over 7.2 million ha. The primary objective of this research was to determine if the presence of medusahead on a ranch influenced its operator's perceptions and behaviors concerning invasive plant control and prevention. Ranchers operating on medusahead-infested rangeland were more likely to indicate increased awareness and concern about medusahead and the potential for its continued expansion. Ranchers operating on rangeland invaded by medusahead were also more likely to indicate use of measures to prevent the spread of medusahead and other invasive plants on rangeland, interest in educational opportunities concerning invasive annual grass management, and plans for controlling invasive annual grasses in the future. This study revealed an alarming trend in which individuals are less likely to implement important prevention measures and participate in education opportunities to improve their knowledge of invasive plants until they directly experience the negative consequences of invasion. Information campaigns on invasive plants and their impacts may rectify this problem; however, appropriate delivery methods are critical for success. Web- or computer-based invasive plant information and tools were largely unpopular among ranchers, whereas traditional forms of information delivery including brochures/pamphlets and face-to-face interaction were preferred. However, in the future web- or computer-based information may become more popular as ranchers become more familiar with them.