The Northwest has had above-average snowpack and rain in many areas this winter. That’s good -- it’s wiped out drought. But all that water has wildland fire managers concerned about the terrain’s greening cheatgrass.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

At first glance, cheatgrass looks innocuous. A dry, golden-white grass, its seeds hang down from bent stalks – seeds with sharp barbs known to harm pets. The invasive weed isn’t just a threat to cats and dogs: Cheatgrass is taking over rangelands across the West, covering vast swathes of land in dense, dry vegetation.

Ann Kennedy / USDA

Federal officials from Washington D.C. and state leaders from around the Northwest have traveled to Boise, Idaho for a unique kind of meeting this week. Scientists and policymakers will try to get to the root of (quite literally) one of the greatest challenges the West faces.