The cheatgrass interferes with forage for important species like pronghorn and sage grouse and dries out quickly, stoking the threat for greater incidence of large fires.
Lewis said cheatgrass is the state's Public Enemy No. 1 in its "War on Weeds." The department announced Wednesday that $1 million is available in grants for its noxious weed control problem. The funding represents the second consecutive year that Utah lawmakers have ponied up that money dollars to combat the problem.
Robert Hougaard, the department's plant industry director, said non-native plants consume landscapes much like wildfires.
"Invasive, non-native weeds are similar to a slow-burning biological wildfire that is spreading out of control through areas of Utah," Hougaard said. Agricultural officials estimate that nationwide, the problem causes crop losses and weed-control costs that are in excess of $5 billion.
The report lists a number of steps that should be taken to combat the threat to wildlife and communities.
“We know what’s causing the climate changes Americans are seeing in their own backyards and we have the solutions to secure our climate and safeguard our wildlife for future generations,” said Larry Schweiger, president and chief executive officer of the federation.
“What we need is the political leadership to make smart energy choices and wise investments in protecting our natural resources. We can’t leave this problem for our children and grandchildren to fix — they’ll judge us based on what we do now.”
Among those recommendations are cutting carbon pollution 50 percent by 2030, transitioning to cleaner energy like renewable energy and implementing climate-smart approaches to conservation.