Finally, Wyoming has a State Grass
by Governor Freudenthal's office
March 10, 2007
For years, Wyoming has had a state tree, a state flower, a state bird, a state animal, and even a state soil. Now, through the efforts of Senator Gerald Geis and Representative Debbie Hammons, Wyoming now has a state grass. Debate in the legislature surrounded which species of grass best represented our state. Primary choices that came to the top were western wheatgrass and blue grama grass. Both grasses have merit, but western wheatgrass won the debate, as it is naturally present in every county in the state.
Frank Maurer, a biologist in California who is concerned with “where the planet is going and what we can do about it”, traveled to Wyoming for the first time in 2005. Maurer fell in love with the state’s beautiful vistas populated with a large diversity of wildlife and became a Wyoming landowner with property near Medicine Bow. He noticed that there was no official state grass of Wyoming, so he set out to work for this as he had done for California. Mauer visited with wildlife biologists and ranchers and found out that most people thought that western wheatgrass should be the state grass. Mr. Maurer contacted Jim Schwartz, then deputy director for the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, to develop a strategy to get a state grass. Maurer made numerous contacts to gain major support for this effort.
Maurer “is delighted” with the results. Senate File 106 has been signed into law by Governor Freudenthal. Maurer explains, “I commit my time because by having a state grass, it elevates its importance so that teachers will pass along to students the importance of this grass species to the ecology of the state.” Maurer indicated that Wyoming is the sixteenth state to designate an official state grass. He would like to help other states with the same effort. He feels by having a state grass there will be additional education for young and old alike about the crucial role that such grasses play in the natural world.
Monte Bush, President of the Wyoming Section of the Society for Range Management, is excited that the state legislature has designated western wheatgrass as the state grass. Bush said, “Western wheatgrass has excellent production and is an excellent quality grass for wildlife and livestock.”
Quentin Skinner, University of Wyoming professor, said, “Western wheatgrass was designated as the “state grass” in the early 1950’s, only by resolution of the legislature. Now, it is in statute and is officially the Wyoming State Grass.” Skinner continued, “I have been teaching my students for over 30 years that western wheatgrass is the state grass, and with this legislation, it is official!”