Environmental Management

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 400–417 | Cite as

Perceptions of Ranchers About Medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae (L.) Nevski) Management on Sagebrush Steppe Rangelands

  • Dustin D. JohnsonEmail author
  • Kirk W. Davies
  • Peter T. Schreder
  • Anna-Marie Chamberlain


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.


Exotic annual grasses Invasive plant management Rancher perceptions Sagebrush steppe Invasive species awareness 



The authors would like to thank Chad Boyd, Brenda Smith, and anonymous reviewers who provided useful reviews of this manuscript. The authors also thank Bruce Mackey (ARS Statistician) for his assistance with the statistical analyses. The authors wish to acknowledge that funding was generously provided by the Oregon State University Extension Service, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, and the Harney County, Lake County, and Malheur County Cooperative Weed Management Areas.


  1. American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) (2000) Standard definitions: final dispositions of case codes and outcome rates for surveys. AAPOR, LenexaGoogle Scholar
  2. Andreu J, Vilà M, Hulme PE (2009) An assessment of stakeholder perceptions and management of noxious alien plants in Spain. Environmental Management 43:1244–1255CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bardsley D, Edward-Jones (2007) Invasive species policy and climate change: social perceptions of environmental change in the Mediterranean. Environmental Science and Policy 10:230–242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Belton LR, Jackson-Smith DB, Messmer TA (2009) Assessing the needs of sage-grouse local working groups: final technical report. Unpublished report prepared for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. Institute for Social Science Research on Natural Resources, Utah State University, LoganGoogle Scholar
  5. Connelly NA, Brown TL, Decker DJ (2003) Factors affecting response rates to natural resource-focused mail surveys: empirical evidence of declining rates over time. Society and Natural Resources 16:541–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cronk CB, Fuller JL (1995) Plant invaders: the threat to natural ecosystems. Chapman and Hall, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Dahl BE, Tisdale EW (1975) Environmental factors relating to medusahead distribution. Journal of Range Management 28:463–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies KW (2011) Plant community diversity and native plant abundance decline with increasing abundance of an exotic annual grass. Oecologia. doi: 10.1007/s00442-011-1992-2
  9. Davies KW, Johnson DD (2008) Managing medusahead in the Intermountain West is at a critical threshold. Rangelands 30:13–15CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davies KW, Sheley RL (2007) A conceptual framework for preventing the spatial dispersal of invasive plants. Weed Science 55:178–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Davies KW, Svejcar TJ (2008) Comparison of medusahead invaded and non-invaded Wyoming big sagebrush steppe in southeastern Oregon. Rangeland Ecology and Management 61:623–629CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dillman DA (2000) Mail and internet surveys: the tailored design method. Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  13. DiTomaso JM (2000) Invasive weeds in rangelands: species, impacts, and management. Weed Science 48:255–265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Epanchin-Niell RS, Hufford MB, Aslan CE, Sexton JP, Port JD, Waring TM (2010) Controlling invasive species in complex social landscapes. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 8:210–216CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Evans RA, Young JA (1970) Plant litter and establishment of alien weed species in rangeland communities. Weed Science 18:697–703Google Scholar
  16. Finoff D, Shogren JF, Leung B, Lodge D (2005) The importance of bioeconomic feedback in invasive species management. Ecological Economics 52:367–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fraser A (2006) Public attitudes to pest control: a literature review. Department of Conservation, WellingtonGoogle Scholar
  18. Frederiksen S (1986) Revision of Taeniatherum (Poaceae). Nordic Journal of Botany 6:389–397CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frederiksen S, von Bothmer R (1986) Relationships in Taeniatherum (Poaceae). Canadian Journal of Botany 64:2343–2347CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. García-Llorente M, Martín-López B, González JA, Alcorlo P, Montes C (2008) Social perceptions of the impacts and benefits of invasive alien species: implications for management. Biological Conservation 141:2969–2983CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. George MR (1992) Ecology and management of medusahead. University of California Range Science Report 23:1–3Google Scholar
  22. Grosholz E (2002) Ecological and evolutionary consequences of coastal invasions. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 17:22–27CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hironaka M (1961) The relative rate of root development of cheatgrass and medusahead. Journal of Range Management 14:263–267CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jepson C, Asch DA, Hershey JC, Ubel PA (2004) In a mailed physician survey, questionnaire length had a threshold effect on response rate. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology 58:103–105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miller HC, Clausnitzer D, Borman MM (1999) Medusahead. In: Sheley RL, Petroff JK (eds) Biology and management of noxious weeds. Oregon State University Press, Corvallis, pp 271–281Google Scholar
  26. Monaco TA, Osmond TM, Dewey SA (2005) Medusahead control with fall- and spring-applied herbicides in northern Utah foothills. Weed Technology 19:653–658CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Novak SJ (2004) Genetic analysis of downy brome (Bromus tectorum) and medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae): management implications. Weed Technology 18:1417–1421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Oregon Agricultural Information Network (2011) 2010 Oregon county and state agricultural estimates. Oregon State University Extension Service Special Report 790, CorvallisGoogle Scholar
  29. Oregon Blue Book (2011) About counties. Accessed 24 Apr 2011)
  30. Perrins J, Williamson M, Fitter A (1992) A survey of differing views of weed classification: implications for regulation of introductions. Biological Conservation 60:47–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Reaser JK (2001) Invasive alien species prevention and control: the art and science of managing people. In: McNeely JA (ed) The great reshuffling: human dimensions of invasive alien species. IUCN, Gland, pp 89–104Google Scholar
  32. Sharp LA, Hironaka M, Tisdale EW (1957) Viability of medusahead seed collected in Idaho. Journal of Range Management 10:123–126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sheley RL, Manoukian M, Marks G (1996) Preventing noxious weed invasion. Rangelands 18:100–101Google Scholar
  34. Taylor GH, Hannan C (1999) The climate of Oregon. Oregon State University Press, CorvallisGoogle Scholar
  35. Torell PJ, Erickson LC, Haas RH (1961) The medusahead problem in Idaho. Weeds 9:124–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Westman WE (1990) Park management of exotic plant species: problems and issues. Conservation Biology 4:251–260CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Winward AH (1980) Taxonomy and ecology of sagebrush in Oregon. Bull. 642. Oregon State University, Oregon Agricultural Experiment Station, CorvallisGoogle Scholar
  38. Young JA (1992) Ecology and management of medusahead (Taeniatherum caput-medusae ssp. asperum [SIMK.] Melderis). Great Basin Naturalist 52:245–252Google Scholar
  39. Young JA, Clements CD, Nader G (1999) Medusahead and clay: the rarity of perennial seedling establishment. Rangelands 21:19–23Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dustin D. Johnson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kirk W. Davies
    • 2
  • Peter T. Schreder
    • 3
  • Anna-Marie Chamberlain
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Rangeland Ecology and ManagementOregon State UniversityBurnsUSA
  2. 2.Agricultural Research ServiceUnited States Department of AgricultureBurnsUSA
  3. 3.Department of Rangeland Ecology and ManagementOregon State UniversityBurnsUSA
  4. 4.Department of Animal ScienceOregon State UniversityOntarioUSA

Personalised recommendations