Practitioner insights into weed management on California's rangelands and natural areas.
Working rangelands and natural areas span diverse ecosystems and face both ecological and economic threats from weed invasion. Restoration practitioners and land managers hold a voluminous cache of place-based weed management experience and knowledge that has largely been untapped by the research community. We surveyed 260 California rangeland managers and restoration practitioners to investigate invasive and weedy species of concern, land management goals, perceived effectiveness of existing practices (i.e., prescribed fire, grazing, herbicide use, and seeding), and barriers to practice implementation. Respondents identified 196 problematic plants, with yellow starthistle (Centaurea solstitialis L.) and medusahead (Elymus caput-medusae L.) most commonly listed. Reported adoption and effectiveness of weed management practices varied regionally, but the most highly rated practice in general was herbicide use; however, respondents identified considerable challenges including nontarget effects, cost, and public perception. Livestock forage production was the most commonly reported management goals (64% of respondents), and 25% of respondents were interested in additional information on using grazing to manage invasive and weedy species; however, 19% of respondents who had used grazing for weed management did not perceive it to be an effective tool. Across management practices, we also found common barriers to implementation, including operational barriers (e.g., permitting, water availability), potential adverse impacts, actual effectiveness, and public perception. Land manager and practitioner identified commonalities of primary weeds, management goals, perceived practice effectiveness, and implementation barriers across diverse bioregions highlight major needs that could be immediately addressed through management-science partnerships across the state's expansive rangelands and natural areas.