DWR, migratory bird refuge to take flight in fight against phragmites

The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge will close its popular auto tour Tuesday and Wednesday while it conducts invasive weed control operations by way of aerial spraying along with the Utah Division of Wildlife. Photo: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge/Facebook

BRIGHAM CITY, Utah, Aug. 1, 2022 (Gephardt Daily) — The Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge will close its popular auto tour route Tuesday and Wednesday as it fights one of the refuge’s top enemy invaders.

The 12-mile scenic loop is normally open “sunrise to sunset” at the refuge entrance just west of Brigham City. But it will close as the refuge and state Division of Wildlife Resources conduct a major aerial spraying campaign against the spread of invasive phragmites in the refuge.

The helicopter pesticide effort is just one of the tools the refuge has been mounting against the aggressive plant, which can grow to 15, even 20 feet tall, officials explain, as it takes over habitat and displaces wildlife.

One plant can take over a plot of land 30 feet in diameter in a year as root system “runners” above and below ground spread.

“Phrags” as they’re dubbed, are native to Utah but a new, more invasive variant from Europe took hold at the bird refuge after the receding ot the floods of the 1980s, which closed the refuge and killed much of the native habitat.

Officials by 2014 estimated phragmites had taken over 10 percent of the 80,000-acre bird refuge. Control efforts have included increased cattle grazing, the spraying, and burns of the worst stands, some as large as 600 acres where nothing but phragmites grow.

Deer can not negotiate their way through the thickest phragmite stands and officials have had to mount rescue efforts for duck hunters lost in the phragmites.


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