University of Wyoming Extension News

Small-acreage UW workshop examines sand dunes, prairie dogs, cheatgrass

Sand dunes, prairie dogs and cheatgrass (downy brome) will be examined during a small-acreage workshop Wednesday, April 11, in Casper.

The event is 6-9 p.m. at the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service’s (UW CES) Agricultural Resource and Learning Center, 2011 Fairgrounds Road, in Casper. No preregistration is required. Registration begins at the door at 6 p.m., and classes commence at 6:30 p.m.

How sand dunes are formed, moved and deposited will be discussed by Jerry Nelson, instructor of geology and geography at Casper College. Nelson will examine the geography and history of stabilized dunes in Wyoming, and the implications on building construction and agriculture will be examined.

“There are abundant locations in Natrona and Converse counties that have people developing properties on sand dunes. This causes some unique issues – tremendous erosion and drifting of sand,” said Tom Heald, UW CES educator for Converse, Natrona and Niobrara counties. “Ancient sand dunes have native grasses to stabilize that. When you build a home and disturb the soil, that destroys the stabilization. It’s not much different than watching sand dunes blow across Saudi Arabia.”

Brian Connely, education coordinator for the Natrona County Weed and Pest Control District, will discuss prairie dog biology, ecology and control.

Prairie dogs are an essential part of sage brush and grassland ecology, but their ‘towns’ can interfere with human land management, said Heald.

“Extension service advisory boards across the state have indicated that prairie dog populations are exploding, and that there are some real problems associated with prairie dogs, such as bare ground, erosion and no forage,” he said. “Whether a large operator or if you own just an acre, prairie dogs can influence what happens on your land.”

Connely will present the latest prairie dog controls and strategies.

Control of cheatgrass and how to replace it with desirable plants will be discussed by Doug Haller, representative of BASF Corp. He will review the impacts cheatgrass has on wildlife, the native plant communities, agriculture and wildlife.

Cheatgrass is the most invasive grass in Wyoming, said Heald. “It has often out competed desirable native perennial grasses. How do we control this annual and promote our perennial grasses?”

For more information, contact Heald at (307) 235-9400 or

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