Date of Award:

12-2008

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Arts (MA)

Department:

History

Advisor/Chair:

Chris Conte

Abstract

Crested wheatgrass arrived in North America at the turn of the twentieth century through the foreign plant exploration missions sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture. During the first two decades of the new century, scientists tested the grass at agricultural experiment stations. They determined it was useful for grazing and particularly valuable because it could grow in drought conditions with little or no care and would continue to produce high quality feed even after several years of heavy use. Beginning in the 1930s federally sponsored land utilization and agricultural adjustment programs sponsored the use of crested wheatgrass for soil conservation and weed control. The grass protected the soil on the land that had been entered into the acreage reserves and the conservation reserves programs of the federal soil bank. Also in the late 1930s and through the 1960s, rangeland managers used crested wheatgrass to improve forage productivity on public lands that were used for grazing. By the 1970s somewhere between 12 and 20 million acres of crested wheatgrass grew in North America in eleven western states, and in Saskatchewan and Alberta. By 1980 attitudes about agriculture and wilderness had changed in the United States and land management was focused on multiple uses and on protecting ecosystems and native species. Attitudes about grazing and agricultural landscapes had changed and many preferred nonagricultural landscapes and land uses. As a result, crested wheatgrass went from being considered one of the most valuable plants in North America to being considered an invasive weed, in some quarters. Debates in the last 25 years have tried to determine if, where, and how crested wheatgrass belongs in North America. This thesis explains the discourses, or interest groups, that are participating in the current conversation. One impulse is to use empirical evidence to determine whether or not introduced plants like crested wheatgrass belong, but the main contention of this thesis is that empirical studies alone will always be insufficient measures because belonging is also a subjective and experientially or emotionally derived measure.

Comments

This work was revised and made publicly available electronically on July 19, 2011

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