Wildlife Refuge, Park Look to Eradicate Foreign Plant to Prevent Fires
NEAR ALAMO – What’s left of a fire at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge is creating a new problem for the people in charge.
Crews at the refuge say they’re working to prevent a future fire by controlling guinea grass, a foreign invasive type of grass.
Yet, in the Rio Grande Valley, especially at the wildlife refuge, the guinea grass spreads quickly.
Four weeks ago, a fire burned more than 300 acres of native brush and guinea grass at the refuge.
“It’ll sprout very quickly. It’ll seed very quickly,” says Plant Ecologist Kimberly Wahl. “If we allow these areas that the fire burnt through the native vegetation, and we leave it bare soil, the guinea grass will be the first to come back.”
She says if the rain slows down, the grass will turn slender, crunchy and dry.
Wahl calls it fine fuel.
“When talking about fires, is this is very prone to catching fire, and to moving a fire through while it gets into some of the more dense fuels,” she explains.
She says the native brush that burned last month was habitat for insects, birds, rabbits, lizards and more.
Wahl says the charred ground contains what’s called a seed bank. She says they’re living guinea grass seeds inside the ground that are just waiting for the next rain so that they can sprout.
Wahl says the problem for the Valley is guinea grass shoots up everywhere, in gardens and across ranches.
Naturalist and volunteer at Hugh Ramsey Nature Park in Harlingen, Linda Butcher, says she’s put hours of work to till and dig.
“I just see a terrible foe because I’ve been waging war on it for 10 years on this guinea grass,” she tells us.
She says signs mark native species that were specifically planted to attract critters at the park. But she worries about the dry looking grass, too.
“I worry about people maybe throwing a cigarette out and catching the park on fire,” she says.
We learned when it’s really hydrated, it grows like a weed.
Butcher says the fight continues to eradicate an invasive foreign plant and protect the park.
“It’s never a losing battle. You can’t ever give up,” she says.
If you’re having trouble with this type of grass in your yard, there are several ways to fight it.
A U.S. Fish and Wildlife expert says you can spray it with an herbicide grass killer.
Another option is to dig it out by the roots, but make sure you go as far down as possible. You can also cut it down several times with a weed eater.
However, these methods must be repeated in order to fight any new sprouts that pop up.