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Gunnison Valley pulls together to help eradicate cheatgrass

Weather? What weather

By Sam Liebl

Despite cold, snowy weather Saturday morning, about 50 Cheat Pull Day volunteers packed the Legion Park pavilion to hear a pep talk by Gunnison mayor Jim Gelwicks before taking to the streets to yank up the noxious weed cheatgrass.

Gelwicks proclaimed May 18 “Eradicate Cheatgrass Day” in the city of Gunnison, and the volunteers worked for several hours to make that eradication happen. They returned from heavily infested areas such as the Van Tuyl subdivision, the north side of Tomichi Avenue, the former City Market parking lot, and the Gunnison Recreation Center with approximately 1,000 pounds of the non-native grass in garbage bags.

“We had no idea how the event would turn out given our less-than-lovely spring weather, but it was more successful than we could have hoped for,” said Cassidy Cichowicz, an environmental management graduate-level student at Western Colorado University and one of the event organizers.

Cheat Pull Day served as a launch event for the Center for Public Lands, a new policy think tank at Western, and was also a Colorado Public Lands Day celebration for High Country Conservation Advocates (HCCA).

Support for the event came from a $5,000 grant awarded to the Gunnison Conservation District by the Colorado Department of Agriculture. Local public land managers, including staff from the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service, Colorado Parks and Wildlife and the National Park Service donated time, equipment and brought their families to the event to pull cheatgrass.

Gunnison Valley non-profits pitched in to make the day a success, too. Along with the Center for Public Lands and HCCA, the Gunnison Wildlife Association, Coldharbour Institute and Gunnison Public Lands Initiative brought volunteers and supplied educational materials for the event.

“We’re ahead of the curve. We have a chance to actually do something about cheatgrass, whereas a lot of the rest of the Western U.S. already has severe infestations,” Tom Grant of the Upper Gunnison River Water Conservancy District told volunteers. “Picking it out of your alley, out of your backyard, by the side of the road—-it’s all really important.”

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