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The Prairie. What is the Prairie?. Grassland Usually temperate climate. Usually intercontinental. Relatively flat. Prairie. The word prairie is derived from the French word “prataria”, or meadow, which probably originated with the Latin word “pratum”.

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what is the prairie
What is the Prairie?
  • Grassland
    • Usually temperate climate.
    • Usually intercontinental.
    • Relatively flat.
  • The word prairie is derived from the French word “prataria”, or meadow, which probably originated with the Latin word “pratum”.
  • It was coined by the French explorers and trappers moving into Western Canada and south into the US, during the late 18th century, to describe the “sea of grass”.
grasslands of the world
Grasslands of the World
  • Central Africa - savanna
  • Southern Africa - veldt
  • Eurasia - steppe
  • Australia - lowlands
  • South America - pampas
  • South America - llanos
how was the prairie created
How Was the Prairie Created?
  • Mountain development to the west created a rain shadow, which favored the establishment of grasslands over forests.
  • Drought tolerant plants persisted or immigrated from nearby.
  • Grasses thrived, creating a fuel load that could carry fire, trees, and shrubs were not able to recover as quickly.
the prairie was further developed by
The Prairie Was Further Developed By:
  • Fire - short fire return interval.
the prairie was further developed by8
The Prairie Was Further Developed By:
  • Presence of large herbivores.

During the Great Ice Age (Pleistocene Age) the ice sheets lapped onto the Northern Plains, but the Great Plains was the largely unglaciated region that extends from the Gulf Coastal Plain in Texas northward into Canada between the Central Lowland and the foot of the Rocky Mountains.

the prairie was further developed by10
The Prairie Was Further Developed By:
  • Extended periods of drought.
  • Relatively short growing season.
types of prairies
Types of Prairies

The simplest division: by height

  • Tall grass
  • Mixed or mid-grass
  • Short grass

By soil type:

  • Sandhills of Nebraska
  • Blackland Prairie of east Texas
laramie county
Laramie County
  • Some mixed grass prairie in the western part of the county.
  • Mostly short grass prairie throughout the rest of the county.
  • Some tall grass prairie grasses in wetter areas.
short grass prairie
Short Grass Prairie
  • Two major components:
    • Bluegrama (Bouteloua gracilis).
    • Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides).
mixed grass prairie
Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Grasses
    • Needle & thread (Stipa comata)
    • Western wheatgrass (Agropyron smithii)
    • Sandberg bluegrass (Poa secunda)
    • Needleleaf sedge (Carex eleocharis)
    • Junegrass (Koeleria cristata)
    • Indian ricegrass (Orzyopsis hymenoides)









mixed grass prairie24
Mixed Grass Prairie
  • Forbs:
    • Pricklypear cactus (Opuntia polyacantha)
    • Scarlet globemallow (Sphaeralcea coccinea)
    • Fringed sage (Artemisia frigida)
    • Hooded phlox (Phlox hoodii)
grasses in general
Grasses in General
  • Sod formers versus bunch grasses:
    • Sod formers make a mat and spread by rhizomes (above or underground stems).
    • Bunch grasses grow in small clumps.
  • Cool season versus warm season:
    • C3 grasses are active when it’s cool and dormant in heat (less drought tolerant).
    • C4 grasses are actively growing in the hot summer and dormant in the winter (very drought tolerant).
    • A true photosynthetic pathway difference.
how are grasses adapted to the prairie environment
How are Grasses Adapted to the Prairie Environment?
  • Mostly herbaceous plant tissue:
    • Cheaper for the plant to manufacture every year.
  • Meristematic tissue (growth buds) are very close to the soil surface:
    • Well protected during fire, soil temperatures during a grass fire remain relatively low.
    • Difficult to graze the meristematic tissue.
more adaptations
More Adaptations
  • Regrowth of leaves and/or stems from intercalary tissue = new leaf tissue can be produced from the leaf itself, no buds involved.
  • Carbohydrates from photosynthesis are translocated to protected area beneath the soil surface in roots, rhizomes, bulbs, etc.
  • About 75% of the grassland biomass occurs below the soil surface = a large amount of stored energy.
  • Wind pollinated.
drought adaptations of prairie grasses
Drought Adaptations of Prairie Grasses
  • Leaves – small and narrow (reduces area exposed for transpiration and heat absorption.
  • Leaves - often with pubescence (slows rate of transpiration and reflects solar radiation).
  • Leaves - deciduous .
  • Early growth period when moisture is available (Junegrass).
  • Very deeply rooted.
what is the status of the prairie
What is the Status of the Prairie?
  • Less than 1% of the tall grass prairie remains, most has been turned into cropland, or drastically changed by haying or grazing.
  • About 24% of the mixed grass prairie is intact, most has been converted to cropland or seeded to non-native forage species.
  • About 18% of the short grass prairie is intact, it has also been heavily impacted by grazing of domestic livestock.
types of property available in laramie county
Types of Property Available in Laramie County
  • Rangeland
  • CRP - Conservation Reserve Program
  • Farmed or fallowed ground
  • Average rangeland will have about 50%.
  • Basal cover.
  • Diverse species composition.
  • Adequate seed bank.
  • Soil structure.
  • 20 - 25% basal cover.
  • High percentage of smooth brome (lower production, introduced species).
  • Less diverse plant community.
  • Easily eroded.
farmed or fallow ground
Farmed or Fallow Ground
  • 10% basal cover or less.
  • Highly erodible by wind or water.
  • Weed invasion if not planted by next.
  • Growing season.
wy fencing statutes
WY Fencing Statutes

11‑28‑101.  Who considered owner.

  • Any person occupying, using, enjoying, maintaining or having the charge of any enclosure shall be considered the owner thereof, in any action commenced under the provisions of W.S. 11‑28‑101 through 11‑28‑108.
minimum construction standards
Minimum Construction Standards
  • 11‑28‑102.  Lawful fences generally.
    • (a)  The following are lawful fences in this state:
  • (i)  A fence made of steel, concrete or sound wooden posts and three (3) spans of barbed wire not more than fifteen (15) inches or less than ten (10) inches apart, or two (2) spans of barbed wire with a wooden rail on top. Wooden posts shall be at least four (4) inches in diameter. Posts shall be set firmly in the ground at least twenty (20) inches deep, at no greater distance apart than twenty‑two (22) feet between the posts or thirty‑three (33) feet with at least two (2) iron or wooden stays between the posts. Stays shall be placed equal distance apart from themselves and the post on either side;
  • 11‑28‑106.  Construction and maintenance of partition fences.
  • The owner of any lawful fence which is or becomes a partition fence separating the owner's land from that belonging to some other person may require the person to pay for one‑half (1/2) of what it would or does actually cost to construct the partition fence. In case of refusal, the owner may maintain a civil action against the person refusing and is entitled to recover one‑half (1/2) of what it would or did actually cost to construct that portion of the partition fence used by the person and costs of suit. The joint users of a partition fence shall contribute to the cost of maintenance in proportion to their respective interests and if either refuses to pay his share of the cost of maintenance, the other may recover maintenance costs in the manner provided for recovering the cost of construction.
wy dog statutes
WY Dog Statutes



  • 11‑31‑301.  Public nuisance; notice; penalties; rules and regulations; animal control districts and officers.
    • (d)  A dog injuring or killing livestock may be killed by the owner of the livestock or his agent or any peace officer.
consequences of overgrazing
Consequences of Overgrazing
  • Loss of desirable species.
  • Loss of soil due to wind and water erosion.
  • Invasion of weeds.

Take Half and

Leave Half

Adapted from NRCS, Bozeman, MT

how do weeds ensure their success
How do Weeds Ensure Their Success?
  • They take advantage of the characteristics of sites, including:
    • exposed or disturbed soil (grading road shoulders).
    • turfgrass, range, pasture or groundcover that is weakened by disease, pests, or poor management.
    • places where a desired species is not well-adapted to its environment.
how do weeds ensure their success58
How do Weeds Ensure Their Success?
  • They are very competitive:
    • grow well in spite of interference from other plants.
  • They are persistent:
    • will return year after year.
    • reproduce vigorously.
    • spread seeds effectively.
how do weeds ensure their success59
How do Weeds Ensure Their Success?
  • They are harmful.
    • can alter the site they grow in by accumulating salts, changing water table depths, increasing erosion, increasing wildfire frequency, etc.
how do weeds spread
How do Weeds Spread?
  • Natural means:
    • wind
    • water
    • animals

how do weeds spread61
How do Weeds Spread?
  • Mechanical means:
    • Irrigation
    • Roadside shoulder work
    • Construction/fill dirt
    • Vehicles
    • Tillage
    • Contaminated seed or feed
    • Livestock management

UNCE, Reno, NV

downy brome bromus tectorum l
Downy Brome (Bromus tectorum L.)

Winter annual.

Smooth erect stem; visible ligule with frayed margin.

Reproduces by seed (up to one billion/acre).

Grass family (Poaceae).

Seeds are long and flat with an awn as long as the seed.

Mature plants turn purple to brown as they dry.

Increases fire frequency.

field bindweed convolvulus arvensis
Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis)

Morningglory family (Convolvulaceae).


Alternate, arrowhead-shaped leaves on climbing stems.

Flowers are trumpet-shaped and white to pinkish.

Reproduces by seeds which remain viable for up to 50 years and rootstocks.

russian thistle salsola iberica
Russian Thistle (Salsola iberica)

Goosefoot family (Chenopodiaceae).


Bushy, ½ foot to 3 feet tall, with many branches, red on stems.

Red or green flowers.

Reproduces by seed: seed spreads as plants break off and tumble, hence name “tumbleweed”.

now what
Now what?
  • Go home and inventory the weeds on your property.
  • Have the weeds identified.
  • Why do you have a weed problem? What can you change about the way you manage your property that will decrease the weed population?
  • Develop and implement a plan.
successful weed management requires constant vigilance and care on the part of the land manager

Successful weed management requires constant vigilance and care on the part of the land manager.


  • Terminology:
    • Windbreak can be 1 row or multiple rows, can be manmade, or natural.
    • Shelterbelt is a type of windbreak with multiple rows of trees and shrubs.
    • Living snowfence is another term for a living windbreak.
  • Increase the value of your property.
  • Decrease heating bills.
  • Capture snow:
    • Reduce drifting on roads.
    • Increase soil moisture.
  • Provide wildlife habitat.
create a windbreak
Create a Windbreak
  • Manmade windbreak:
    • a quick fix that can help establish the living windbreak.
  • Living Windbreak:
    • a great long term solution.
choosing a site
Choosing a Site
  • Usually on the north and west property lines to block prevailing winter winds.
  • Usually straight lines.
  • 40 feet from a county or state road.
general layout
General Layout
  • Usually at least 3 rows .
  • One species per row.
  • Usually a deciduous shrub as the outside row.

Theory: they will grow more quickly and begin acting as a windbreak for the evergreens.

  • One or two rows of evergreens.
  • Another row of deciduous shrubs if there is space.
species selection
Species Selection
  • Well adapted to wind, extremes in temperature, and drought.
  • Well documented.
  • Native or non-native.
  • Wildlife habitat.
species information
Species Information
  • Laramie County Conservation District has a lot of information, even if you don’t buy plants from them.
  • Internet: Nebraska, North Dakota, and Canada research sites.
  • “Growing Trees on the Great Plains”.
  • Conservation District:
    • Wide species variety.
    • Very little size selection.
  • Green Acres in LaGrange (Steve Williams).
    • More selection (size & species) if

you order early.

  • Fort Collins Nurseries:
      • Fossil Creek.
other considerations
Other Considerations
  • Drip irrigation.
  • Weed barrier.
  • Till the soil or leave the soil intact and dig holes.
  • Mulch, and if so, with what?
planting day
Planting Day
  • Call Before You Dig 800-849-2476.
  • Plant as soon as possible, store cool and damp until planting.
  • Do not expose to sunlight or wind.
  • Stretch a line to keep the row straight.
  • Dig a $5.00 hole for a $0.50 tree.
  • Water well.
drip irrigation for windbreaks
Drip Irrigation for Windbreaks
  • Buy a soil moisture meter.
  • Keep a written schedule.
  • Run multiple lines for multiple rows of trees and shrubs.
  • Check emitters – make sure every plant is getting water.
  • Water frequently the first year.
more on mulch
More on Mulch
  • Necessary to suppress the grass.
  • Mulch can eliminate the need for weed barrier.
  • Rock or gravel is fine, until you have to mow.
  • Alfalfa hay is good, but not grass hay.
  • Sawdust or shavings create a mat, not enough air or water gets through, burns up available nitrogen.
  • Bark or wood chips are very good.
care and feeding of your windbreak
Care and Feeding of Your Windbreak
  • Replace dead trees and shrubs within 1 year:
    • Expect about 30% death loss.
    • Want an even age windbreak.
  • Mow between trees and between rows until well established.
  • Discourage ground varmints.
  • Water in the winter.
  • Consider using an anti transpirant in the winter.
small mammal and rodent damage
Small Mammal and Rodent Damage
  • Rabbits & hares.
  • Prairie dogs.
  • Pocket gophers.
  • Ground squirrels.
  • Mice.
  • True rabbits include :
  • Mountain Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttalli)
  • Desert cottontail

(Sylvilagug audubonii),

  • Pygmy rabbit

(Sylvilagus idahoensis)

about rabbits

About Rabbits

Paired tracks commonly indicate cottontails

or jackrabbits.

Prefer lots of cover.

Cottontails leave pea-sized droppings.

Damage is recognized by a sharp 45

degree cut on small twigs from a few

inches to 20 inches above ground.

Common foods are garden vegetables,

flowers, and shrubs.


Hind Feet

Front Feet

controls for rabbits
Controls for Rabbits
  • An 18-inch high fence can exclude cottontails from small areas.
  • On individual plants, use 1 square inch or less of mesh.
  • Remove brushy and weedy habitat.
  • Most domestic dogs can discourage rabbits.
  • Whitetail and blacktail "jackrabbits" (Lepus townsendii and L. californicus) actually are hares. Our only other hare is the snowshoe hare (L. americanus), which lives in mountains except the very driest areas.
about hares

About Hares

Do not hibernate.

Prefer open range.

Also have paired tracks.

Droppings are small marble size.

Nests are small depressions.

Young are born with fur.

controls for hares

Controls for Hares

24-inch high fence will exclude them from small areas or individual plants.

Domestic dogs can discourage them.

Do not mow, let pasture grasses be tall.

about prairie dogs

About Prairie Dogs

Don’t hibernate.

Are diurnal.

Exist in dense colonies, create 30 to 50

6-inch burrows and mounds per acre.

Bean-sized cylindrical droppings .

Grasses and broad-leaved plants clipped at one-inch height.

Occasional bark stripping occurs on shrubs.

Black widow spiders and rattlesnakes are associated with colonies.

controls for prairie dogs
Controls for Prairie Dogs
  • Some minor effects have been shown by placing poles and other perch sites for large hawks and barrier fences, hay bales and other obstacles that prey upon prairie dogs.
  • Proper grazing use--rotate livestock through pasture systems, avoid season-long grazing but graze early spring, place salt and water for livestock away from prairie dog towns; exclude livestock for several seasons post control of prairie dogs.
about pocket gophers
About Pocket Gophers
  • Don’t hibernate.
  • Nocturnal and diurnal.
  • Dinner plate-sized mounds with no entrance.
  • Tracks and animal are almost never seen above ground.
  • Pocket gophers girdle growing trees and shrubs at or near ground level. Trees up to several inches in trunk diameter can be killed.
  • A gopher can move up to two tons of soil each year.
controls for pocket gophers
Controls for Pocket Gophers
  • Area flooding
  • Domestic cats
  • Owls
  • Humans may take occasional gophers during evening and night forays
  • Fence buried at least 18 inches below the soil surface.
about ground squirrels
About Ground Squirrels
  • Do Hibernate.
  • Aer Diurnal.
  • Show no excavated earth around opening.
controls for ground squirrels
Controls for Ground Squirrels
  • Exclude from small areas, encourage tall vegetation (13-lined ground squirrel).
  • Don't mow tall grasses, reduce seedbearing weedy plants. Moist soils/overhead irrigation during day. Prevent digging in seedling gardens by planting cold-tolerant varieties before ground squirrel emergence in early spring.
  • 18-inch high 1/4 to 1/2-inch mesh hardware cloth (hail screen)buried 6 inches below ground.
about mice
About Mice
  • Don;t hibernate.
  • Mostly nocturnal with some daytime activity.
  • Mice may dig and feed on newly planted crops.
  • Occasionally and particularly during late winter, mice gnaw or girdle small, woody stems.
  • Damage can be above or at ground level.
controls for mice
Controls for Mice
  • Remove or mow weeds and vegetation.
  • Sanitation through clean-up of grains or other attractants.
  • Restrict water access.
water law in wyoming
Water Law in Wyoming
  • Prior Appropriations Doctrine - First in time (if permitted) is first in right - Allows for regulation of water by setting up seniority of rights system.
  • Water rights that date to territorial time (pre-Statehood).
  • All water owned by State, use must be permitted.
surface water
Surface Water
  • Most old water rights are surface water - surface water is easy to develop and easy to administer?
  • “Source” can be many miles from the area where water is used - water crossing your land is not free for your use, more than likely it is already appropriated?
  • Approximately 80 “hydrographers” administer surface water rights in Wyoming. One individual covers most of Laramie County.
ground water
Ground Water
  • Domestic and stock wells limited to 25 gallons per minute by law.
  • Domestic use is defined as water for household use for 3 or less single family dwellings and non commercial garden. Landscape water of no more than 1 acre.
  • Commercial uses (including greenhouses or businesses growing for market) have additional permitting requirements.
ground water122
Ground Water
  • Three ground water control areas have been setup where use equals or exceeds the ground water resource - currently deals with high production wells, stock and domestic; exempt from control area advisory board review.
  • Laramie County, Platte County, Prairie Center Control Areas due to high water use by agriculture.
ground water123
Ground Water
  • Domestic and stock watering are preferred uses under State Statute, but not in State Constitution. This gray area will have to be decided by the courts when conflict between users escalates.
  • No mandatory well driller licensing program, voluntary program adopted by legislature in 2004.
your water well
Your Water Well
  • Minimum well construction guidelines
    • November 2004 State Engineer’s Office
      • working on update to 1974 minimum construction standards that are currently in place
      • 20 feet from property line
      • 100 feet from leach field
      • must have surface seal to prevent contamination - 10 ft. require by standards, few actually have seal installed.
    • Proper Construction can be important in quality and quantity of water produced (sand content, water quality, longevity of well and pump equipment).
more on your well
More On Your Well
  • You are not guaranteed a static water level or artesian pressure.
  • Obtaining a Ground Water Permit does not guarantee that you will be able to construct a “good” water well. Geology dictates what is or is not available.
  • Having the oldest house on the block does not mean you have senior right. If you have a well, you should verify the status of your water right, especially if you plan to complain about your neighbors.

For Additional Information Related to Water, Water Rights, or Water Wells contact:

Wyoming State Engineer’s Office

General 307 777-7354

Ground Water 307 777-7730 or 6688

or visit

For basic water well information for well owners see: National Ground Water Association (NGWA) visit

water testing
Water Testing
  • Bacterial (Coliform)
    • City County Health Department
      • Free
      • Twice a year
  • Water Quality
    • Wyoming Department of Agriculture