Reducing risk of train wheel sparks igniting a wildfire within Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon Railway to Apply Herbicide within Grand Canyon National Park

Applying herbicide along railroad tracks within Grand Canyon National Park
Applying herbicide along railroad tracks within Grand Canyon National Park

Xanterra

Grand Canyon, Ariz. – On March 16th or 17th, 2016, Grand Canyon Railway, in consultation with the National Park Service (NPS), will apply herbicide along their railroad tracks including those within Grand Canyon National Park. The purpose of this application is to inhibit the growth of vegetation adjacent to the railroad tracks, lowering the risk of train wheel sparks igniting a fire. Once the treatment is completed, this area will also act as a fire break for any fires originating elsewhere in the park.

In addition to reducing fire hazards, this herbicide application will aid in the battle against invasive plant species in the park. The railroad tracks create an environment of disturbance that encourages the spread of invasive plants. Currently, more than 30 non-native species are found in close proximity to the railroad tracks. This treatment will not only help reduce the number of invasive plants found in the area, but will also help reduce the transportation of seeds and plant parts that spread these species.

The herbicides being used for this project are ThrottleTM and Landmark®, which are broad spectrum herbicides. These herbicides works through inhibiting plant specific enzymes necessary for healthy plant growth. These herbicides will kill live vegetation, will break down quickly once applied, and will provide pre-emergence control.  ThrottleTM and Landmark® are rated low in toxicity.

Weather permitting, the railroad tracks within the park will be treated on either March 16th or 17th using a 16-foot boom sprayer. The project will be paid for and implemented by Grand Canyon Railway. Pedestrian areas near the tracks will be appropriately signed to notify residents and visitors of the herbicide application.

In spring of 2009, an Environmental Assessment (EA) was prepared for implementation of the park's Exotic Plant Management Plan. A Finding of No Significant Impact was signed by the Regional Director in July of 2009. The EA identifies the need to use an integrated approach to exotic plant management, which includes the use of herbicides. It also stresses the necessity for collaboration such as this joint effort between the NPS and Grand Canyon Railway.

For more information, please contact Lori Makarick, Vegetation Program Manager, at 928-638-7455 or Ken Stephenson with Grand Canyon Railroad at 928-635-5359.