The greater sage-grouse (hereafter GRSG) has been a focus of scientific investigation and management action for the past two decades.
RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS
In October 2017, after a review of the 2015 Federal plans relative to State sage-grouse plans, in accordance with Secretarial Order 3353, the BLM issued a notice of intent to consider whether to amend some, all, or none of the 2015 land use plans.
Over the past decade, the overarching American wildfire narrative has become fairly focused on three dynamics: fuels buildup due to suppression, climate change, and the expanding wildland-urban interface (WUI). But what are these narratives based on?
It’s not the way we fight wildfires in the West that’s the problem. The problem is the way we manage our fire-dependent forests.
This analysis relating climate variables to historical fire activity across the United States showed substantial variability in the importance of different seasonal temperature and precipitation variables and of climate overall in explaining fire activity.
Debate as to whether restoration is feasible is coupled to long-standing disputes regarding the definition of restoration, whether more-damaged lands are worthy of restoration efforts given limited financial resources, and ongoing conflicts as to whether the novel ecosystem concept is a help or a hindrance to restoration efforts.
This study informs researchers and practitioners seeking to optimize terrestrial laser scanning (TLS) sampling methods for vegetation monitoring in dryland ecosystems through three analyses.
This project inventoried 97 projects implemented by 32 organizations, most in the last 10 years. We found that beaver-related stream restoration projects undertaken mostly involved the relocation of nuisance beavers.
Using a wet thermal time model for germination prediction, this study estimated progress toward germination (PTG) of 31 seedlots (10 species) as a function of hourly seedbed temperature (> 0 °C) when soils were above a water potential of −1.5 MPa.
This study evaluated spatio-temporal patterns of fire in piñon and juniper land cover types from the National Gap Analysis Program using Monitoring Trends in Burn Severity (MTBS 2016) data (1984 through 2013) for Northern and Southern Intermountain and Central and Southern Rocky Mountain geographic regions.
The study's key findings:
- The use of airborne LiDAR in conjunction with our experimentally-derived understanding of the effects of wildland landscape conditions on travel efficiency stands to greatly improve the efficiency, consistency, and accuracy with which wildland firefighter escape routes can be designated on the ground
This study indicates that wildfire smoke leads to a 4 to 6 percent reduction in birthweight, and these effects are most pronounced among mothers exposed to smoke during the second or the third trimesters of pregnancy.
This study quantifies the effect of seasonal reburns on woody surface fuels, forest floor fuels, and understory tree regeneration abundance in six previously thinned ponderosa pine stands in the southern Blue Mountain Ecoregion of Oregon, USA.
Bureau of Land Management describes the challenge that its staff and a partnership of private landowners, state agencies, conservation groups and more took on when deciding to cooperatively manage a landscape for sage-grouse.
Spatial wildfire suppression costs regressions have been re-estimated at a more disaggregated level for the nine Geographic Area Coordination Center (GACC’s) regions using five years of data for fires involving National Forests.
This paper presents a case study to demonstrate the ability of the modeling framework to capture the onset and dynamics of a post-fire dust event and then use the modeling framework to estimate particulate matter (PM) emissions from burn scars left by wildfires in U.S. western sagebrush landscapes during 2012.
The daily probability of a male sage-grouse moving among leks ranged 0.003 in 2011 to 0.010 in 2013, indicating high daily lek ﬁdelity throughout the season, although there was a 5–42% chance annually a male would move at least once to another lek throughout the season.
This was a study of ranchers in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico using Q Methodology to understand their views and motivations about ranching, conservation, and the government.
Through one case study in Lake County, Oregon, we examined voluntary landowner conservation
as part of an Oregon-wide strategy to preclude listing of greater sage-grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
On a steep (30% ± 5%) slope that had been encroached by piñon and juniper trees, we evaluated the effectiveness of slash in reducing runoff and erosion using a portable rainfall simulator (100-yr return period events).
This study aimed to quantify a direct treatment to reduce or slow down woodland expansion in an experimental rangeland in central Oklahoma, United States under three treatments: 1) herbicide, 2) fire with herbicide, and 3) control (no fire, no herbicide) within areas classified as “open grassland” in 1979.
Smoke is challenging. It can be lofted high into the atmosphere to interact with cloud processes. It can smolder near the ground, depositing emissions. The combination of aerosols and trace gases create their own chemical mix, with reactions that are as yet unidentified.
This project quantifies the effects of fuel treatments and previously burned areas on daily fire
management costs, as well as summarizes recent encounter rates between fuel treatments and
wildland fires across the conterminous United States.
Models explained much of the variability between predictions and manual measurements, and yet it is expected that future applications could produce even better results by reducing some of the methodological sources of error that we encountered.
This study used a team with widely diverse expertise that gathered information from private, state, federal, and tribal landowners about their current forest and fire management practices and then built a computer model that can be used to facilitate collaborative decision making about forest. management in fire-prone environments.
This study compared resultant travel rates to LiDAR-derived estimates of slope, vegetation density and ground surface roughness using linear mixed effects modelling to quantify the relationships between these landscape conditions and travel rates.
In this paper, the authors describe an approach to facilitate development and implementation of climate change adaptation options in forest management which they applied to a case study area in southwestern Oregon, USA.
View the curriculum.
The Fire Science Core Curriculum - Promoting Awareness, Understanding, and Respect of Fire through Knowledge of the Science is designed to teach the basics of fire to non-fire-professionals.
This analysis found that season, plant composition, and ungulate assemblage may all influence dietary competition between wild horses and other large ungulate sharing western North American rangelands
Collectively, these results provide clear evidence that local sage-grouse distributions and demographic rates are influenced by pinyon-juniper, especially in habitats with higher primary productivity but relatively low and seemingly benign tree cover.
As part of an internal program assessment, this study evaluated the extent of fuel treatments and wildfire occurrence within lands managed by the National Forest System (NFS) between 2008 and 2012.
This study found that to retain the shrub, especially sagebrush, components on a site and increase ecosystem resilience and resistance through increases in tall grasses, treatment should occur at low to mid tree dominance index (TDI) using mechanical methods, such as cutting or mastication
Researchers found that while severity was reduced at all sites, the spatial distribution of fire severity within the treatment areas varied by treatment type and unit as well as which fire severity metric they were analyzing.
The fire characteristics chart is a graphical method of presenting U.S. National Fire Danger Rating System (NFDRS) indexes and components as well as primary surface or crown fire behavior characteristics. Computer software has been developed to produce fire characteristics charts for both fire danger and fire behavior in a format suitable for inclusion in reports and presentations.
The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) and the Great Basin Fire Science Exchange would like to hear from you!
This study estimates that fire has approximately twice the treatment life of cutting at time horizons approaching 100 yr, but, has high up-front conservation costs due to temporary loss of sagebrush.
In an experiment replicated at three burned sites in the northern Great Basin, this study compared Wyoming big sagebrush establishment across treatments differing by seed delivery technique, timing, and rate of seed application.
This study found while understory perennial herbaceous plant cover remained low 1 and 2 yr post treatment, it increased by > 700% in all fuel-reduction treatment plots six growing seasons post treatment.
This study examined multiple environmental factors related to climate change that affect cattle production on rangelands to identify sources of vulnerability among seven regions of the western United States.
On 12 September 2017, Tony Wasley, Co-Chairman of SageWest and Director of the Nevada Department of Wildlife, and Hannah Ryan, Sagebrush Communications Specialist for Intermountain West Joint Venture, present about SageWest to the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (AFWA) Sagebrush Executive Oversight Committee.
Fuel treatments decreased intrinsic water use efficiency relative to the control in Arizona
although the differences were not sufficiently large to reach the threshold of statistical
This paper defines the term ecological drought as an episodic deficit in water availability that drives ecosystems beyond thresholds of vulnerability, impacts ecosystem services, and triggers feedbacks in natural and/or human systems.
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This brief summarizes work by researchers who modeled exactly how problematic the grass-fire cycle could be for non-fire-adapted desert shrublands under three sets of climate conditions.
Study results from this project suggest that treatments over a 70-year period on public lands in the southwestern United States are shifting toward restoration practices that are increasingly large, expensive, and related to fire and invasive species control.
Skillful seasonal climate forecasts could greatly improve the cost efficiency of management treatments by limiting revegetation activities to time periods where forecasts suggest higher probabilities of successful seedling establishment
This study showed higher levels of resilience to fire than is typically discussed in the sagebrush steppe, in part because the studied ecosystems were in good condition before the fire, but also because the longer post-fire monitoring time (17 years) may be more appropriate to capture patterns of succession in these ecosystems.
This brief provides an overview of the JFSP's mission, values, science delivery focus, and unique role in the greater fire science community - including leveraging partnerships for the greater good.
Stephen Pyne is Regents Professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University. This is an abridged version of a piece that appeared on The Conversation; to read the entire piece, go to theconversation.com
This work combines a comprehensive literature review with extensive smoke exposure concentration data for wildland firefighters to estimate health risks specific to wildland fire smoke. First, we conducted a literature review to identify smoke components that present the highest health hazard potential, the mechanisms of their toxicity, and reviewed epidemiological studies to identify the current gaps in knowledge about the health impacts of wildland fire smoke exposure for firefighters and the public. Next, we examined wildland firefighter exposures, explored predictors of smoke exposures to determine factors influencing smoke exposure for wildland firefighters and estimated exposure to air pollutants using carbon monoxide (CO) as an indicator pollutant. Lastly, we estimated disease risk in wildland firefighters for exposure to particulate matter from smoke using firefighter specific breathing rates with existing exposure response relationship information for risk of lung cancer, ischemic heart disease and cardiovascular disease from cigarette smoking, which produces particulate matter with a similar size range.
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The Interagency Prescribed Fire Planning and Implementation Procedures Guide establishes national interagency standards for the planning and implementation of prescribed fire. These standards:
- Describe what is minimally acceptable for prescribed fire planning and implementation.
- Provide consistent interagency guidance, common terms and definitions, and standardized procedures.
- Make clear that firefighter and public safety is the first priority.
- Ensure that risk management is incorporated into all prescribed fire planning and implementation.
- Support safe, carefully planned, and cost-efficient prescribed fire operations.
- Support use of prescribed fire to reduce wildfire risk to communities, municipal watersheds and other values, and to benefit, protect, maintain, sustain, and enhance natural and cultural resources.
- Support use of prescribed fire to restore natural ecological processes and functions, and to achieve land-management objectives.
View the guide.
This guide establishes interagency prescribed fire complexity analysis standards. The analysis provides a focused, subjective assessment by qualified prescribed fire burn bosses that is evaluated and approved by Agency Administrators, and provides insight and improves understanding of the significant risks associated with prescribed fire. The analysis:
- Provides decision support that highlights the risk to values associated with prescribed fire implementation.
- Identifies the technical difficulty (complexity) of managing the risk to values.
- Informs the complexity rating determination of high, moderate, or low for a prescribed fire.
- Identifies prescribed fire plan elements that may pose special problems or concerns.
In this report, we review the ecohydrology of southwestern streams and share results from our study sites along the Middle Rio Grande to describe effects of hydrological changes, wildfire, and invasions on plant communities and riparian-nesting birds. We also examine climate change projections and output from population models to gauge the future of aridland riparian ecosystems in an increasingly arid Southwest.
In this report, literature-based information and expert elicitation are used to define (a) components of sensitivity and exposure to climate change and (b) the capacity of these ecosystems to adapt to expected changes. Aspen ecosystems benefit from fire and quickly reproduce. Yet, aspen trees are susceptible to drought and heat that is projected to become more frequent and intense in the future. Some aspen-associated plant and animal species may benefit from the expected changes in disturbance regimes and stand structure, while others may experience population reductions or stress as a result of drought and heat. Overall, vulnerability is defined as moderate because although persistence of aspen ecosystems is likely, a dynamic spatial and temporal response to climate change is expected.
For this mapping process across the entire mapping extent, four sets of products are available, including (1) a shapefile representing accuracy results linked to mapping subunits; (2) binary rasters representing conifer presence or absence at a 1 × 1 m resolution; (3) a 30 × 30 m resolution raster representing percentages of conifer canopy cover within each cell from 0 to 100; and (4) 1 × 1 m resolution canopy cover classification rasters derived from a 50-m-radius moving window analysis. The latter two products can be reclassified in a geographic information system (GIS) into user-specified bins to meet different objectives, which include approximations for phases of encroachment. These products complement, and in some cases improve upon, existing conifer maps in the Western United States, and will help facilitate sage-grouse habitat management and sagebrush ecosystem restoration.
This report evaluated the nesting and brood-rearing microhabitat factors that influence selection and survival patterns in the Great Basin using a large dataset of microhabitat characteristics from study areas spanning northern Nevada and a portion of northeastern California from 2009 to 2016. The spatial and temporal coverage of the dataset provided a powerful opportunity to evaluate microhabitat factors important to sage-grouse reproduction, while also considering habitat variation associated with different climatic conditions and areas affected by wildfire. The summary statistics for numerous microhabitat factors, and the strength of their association with sage-grouse habitat selection and survival, are provided in this report to support decisions by land managers, policy-makers, and others with the best-available science in a timely manner.
This report identified leks and larger scale populations in immediate need of management, based on the occurrence of two criteria: (1) crossing of a destabilizing threshold designed to identify significant rates of population decline at a particular nested scale; and (2) crossing of decoupling thresholds designed to identify rates of population decline at smaller scales that decouple from rates of population change at a larger spatial scale. This approach establishes how declines affected by local disturbances can be separated from those operating at larger scales (for example, broad-scale wildfire and region-wide drought). Given the threshold output from our analysis, this adaptive management framework can be implemented readily and annually to facilitate responsive and effective actions for sage-grouse populations in the Great Basin. The rules of the framework can also be modified to identify populations responding positively to management action or demonstrating strong resilience to disturbance. Similar hierarchical approaches might be beneficial for other species occupying landscapes with heterogeneous disturbance and climatic regimes.
In this paper, optimization models successfully identified areas with low conifer canopy cover, high resilience and resistance to wildfire and annual grass invasion, and high bird abundance to enhance sage-grouse habitat. The inclusion of mesic resources resulted in further prioritization of areas that were closer to such resources, but also identified potential pathways that connected breeding habitats to the late brood-rearing habitats associated with mesic areas. Areas identified by optimization models were largely consistent with and overlapped ongoing conifer removal efforts in the Warner Mountains of south-central Oregon. Land ownership of preferential areas selected by models varied with priority goals and followed general ownership patterns of the region, with public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and private lands being selected the most. The increased availability of landscape-level datasets and assessment tools in sagebrush ecosystems can reduce the time and cost of both planning and implementation of habitat projects involving conifer removal. Most importantly, incorporating these new datasets and tools can supplement expert-based knowledge to maximize benefits to sagebrush and sage-grouse conservation.
In North America, decisions about how and when to apply prescribed fire are typically based on the historical-fire-regime concept (HFRC), which holds that replicating the pattern of fires ignited by lightning or preindustrial humans best promotes native species in fire-prone regions. This study found that the practice of inferring historical fire regimes for entire regions or ecosystems often entails substantial uncertainty and can yield equivocal results; ecological outcomes of fire suppression are complex and may not equate to degradation, depending on the ecosystem and context; and habitat fragmentation, invasive species, and other modern factors can interact with fire to produce novel and in some cases negative ecological outcomes. Although the HFRC is a valuable starting point, it should not be viewed as the sole basis for developing prescribed fire programs. Rather, fire prescriptions should also account for other specific, measurable ecological parameters on a case-by-case basis.
In 2004, the Communities Committee of the Seventh American Forest Congress, Society of American Foresters, National Association of Counties, and the National Association of State Foresters sponsored and developed a handbook entitled Preparing a Community Wildfire Protection Plan. (Communities Committee of the Seventh American Forest Congress; Society of American Foresters; National Association of Counties; National Association of State Foresters, 2004) This guide is intended to supplement that handbook, with special considerations for local fire service leaders in communities identified as at-risk of wildfire. While adjacency to public lands (forests, brushlands and grasslands) can impact wildfire risk, there are ways to impact and reduce wildfire risk from within the community as well. This includes a focus on local codes and ordinances, home ignition zones, defensible space, ignition-resistant construction and design standards, as well as hazardous fuels reduction in parks, common-owned areas, and open spaces within the local jurisdiction.
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Fire is a strong driver of changes in montane forest structure in California’s Sierra Nevada and southern Cascade mountain ranges, which provide much of the snowpack and associated water storage for the state of California. A recent study by Stevens presented one of the first direct investigations in California of how fire can influence snowpack depth.
The significant variables for the fatal injury model were fire shelter use, slope steepness and flame height. The separation distances needed to ensure no more than a 1 or 5% probability of fatal injury, without the use of a fire shelter, for slopes less than 25% were 20 to 50 m for flame heights less than 10 m, and 1 to 4 times the flame height for flames taller than 10 m. The non-fatal injury model significant variables were fire shelter use, vehicle use and fuel type. At the 1 and 5% probability thresholds for a non-fatal injury, without the use of a fire shelter, the separation distances were 1 to 2, 6 to 7, and 12 to 16 times greater than the current safety zone guideline (i.e. 4 times the flame height) for timber, brush and grass fuel types respectively.
The burnout time for upstream shrubs increased with an increase in shrub separation distance for all shrub sizes and wind speeds considered. The burnout time for the downstream shrub was found to decrease with an increase in the separation distance, reach a minimum, and then increase with an increase in separation distance. The trends observed in burnout times for downstream shrub were attributed to the balance between heat feedback into the downstream shrub from the flames in upstream shrubs and availability of sufficient oxygen for combustion to take place.
This study found that:
- Few changes in most of the measured masticated fuel bed properties were detected over the 10 years represented in the sample. This indicates that in dry environments, it may take at least 10 years for ecological processes to change fuel characteristics enough for adverse fire effects to be mitigated.
- Burning masticated fuel beds in a laboratory revealed that there is a great deal of heat that is pulsed into the soil that could cause major mortality to belowground systems. This is especially true in high loading fuel beds with duff layers present.
- All masticated fuel beds dried to equilibrium in less than seven days, indication that these quickly drying fuels can be readily susceptible to smoldering combustion after 5-7 days of drying.
- Existing fuel models (including 11, SB1, SB2 and two existing custom fuel models) were good at representing fire behavior, indicating that there is no need to develop new, custom fuel models for masticated fuel beds.
View research brief.
This study examined bark beetle mortality for two-years after fuel reduction treatment in mid-elevation mixed conifer forests at the University of California Blodgett Research Forest. As part of the National Fire and Fire Surrogate Study, the experimental treatments included prescribed fire (fire), mastication, the combination of the two, and a control.
This study investigated the relative importance of site productivity and seasonal climate in explaining the variance in recovery time for 36 fires, comprising a fire chrono-sequence (from 1971 to 2007) for the Great Basin and Colorado Plateau. A. t. vaseyana recovery was positively related to precipitation in the cool season immediately following fire, likely because deep soil-water recharge that persists throughout the growing season enhances first-year seedling survival. Percentage sand fraction positively correlated with recovery rate yet negatively correlated with live cover in unburnt stands. Our data support the hypothesis that post-fire recovery rate of A. t. vaseyana depends on the climatically controlled ephemerality of the regeneration niche, as is likely true for many arid-land shrub species.
In this report, guidelines are presented for restoring whitebark pine under future climates using the rangewide restoration strategy structure. The information to create the guidelines came from two sources: (1) a comprehensive review of the literature and (2) a modeling experiment that simulated various climate change, management, and fire exclusion scenarios. The general guidelines presented here are to be used with the rangewide strategy to address climate change impacts for planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating fine-scale restoration activities for whitebark pine by public land management agencies.
Results show that loss of perennial herbaceous species, which can result from inappropriate livestock grazing, and loss of shrubs, which often results from fire, interact to affect key functional groups. The implications are that ecosystem resilience to disturbance in Cold Desert shrublands decreases when competition from perennial native grasses and forbs for available resources no longer prevents dominance by A. tridentata and other shrubs and/ or annual invasive grasses. Managing livestock grazing to maintain or increase perennial herbaceous species, especially deep-rooted grasses, which contribute to resilience along elevation gradients, can help prevent threshold crossings to undesirable states and retain critical ecosystem services following disturbances such as wildfire.
Among sites with low-to-moderate tree cover, burning largely eliminated differences in understory composition, suggesting that biotic legacies were sufficient to result in predictable trajectories. In contrast, sites with high pre-fire tree cover transitioned into an annual forb-dominated community with sparse vegetation cover, suggesting that the loss of the understory community initiated unpredictable and divergent post-fire trajectories. Because plant communities were still changing four years after fire, it is unclear whether the alternate trajectories in sites with high tree cover will result in the formation of alternate states, or whether community composition will eventually converge with other sites at the same elevation. Results indicate that careful evaluation of site characteristics can be used to predict treatment outcomes at the woodland-shrubland interface, and to guide the appropriate use of prescribed fire or other management practices.
The wide geographic distribution of several common haplotypes almost completely restricted to montane habitats suggests that dominant lineages in montane populations may possess adaptive syndromes that are preserved through reduced outcrossing rates or negative selection on outcrossed progeny. However, conclusive evidence of such local adaptation requires reciprocal seeding experiments and further characterization of adaptive traits and breeding system characteristics. Other lineages have likely risen to dominance in montane populations through selectively neutral processes.
A risk framework for adaptation could integrate key vulnerabilities, risk, and hazards, and facilitate development of adaptation actions that address the entire socio-ecological system. Adaptation plans will need to be developed and implemented with recognition of future uncertainty that necessitates an iterative implementation process as new experience and information accumulate. Developing the skills to manage with uncertainty may be a singularly important strategy that landowners, managers, and scientists require to develop adaptive capacity.
The following framework 1) advocates deepening democratic practices at the local and regional levels, 2) seeks to put forth the principles and practices defining this emergent field, and 3) outlines resources for community-based institutions implementing community-driven planning processes.
Wildfires across western North America have increased in number and size over the past three decades, and this trend will continue in response to further warming. As a consequence, the wildland–urban interface is projected to experience substantially higher risk of climate-driven fires in the coming decades. Key aspects of an adaptive resilience approach are (i) recognizing that fuels reduction cannot alter regional wildfire trends; (ii) targeting fuels reduction to increase adaptation by some ecosystems and residential communities to more frequent fire; (iii) actively managing more wild and prescribed fires with a range of severities; and (iv) incentivizing and planning residential development to withstand inevitable wildfire. These strategies represent a shift in policy and management from restoring ecosystems based on historical baselines to adapting to changing fire regimes and from unsustainable defense of the wildland–urban interface to developing fire-adapted communities.
Using unconventional means—and with partial funding by the Joint Fire Science Program—creative individuals have spawned some colorful and heartfelt messages that convey insightful information about wildland fire, climate, and other elements of nature to an increasingly receptive public. Recent narrative works by well-known authors, such as Stephen J. Pyne, and creative art pieces by well-established and emerging artists have helped depict fire in a new light to audiences that scientists may rarely reach. This issue of Fire Science Digest describes recent books funded by the Joint Fire Science Program and other sources that focus on fire’s ecological role in various regions of the U.S. and on associated fire management issues and events.
This paper presents a simple framework for relating fire danger indices to observed categorical wildland fire behaviour. Ordinal logistic regressions are used to model the probabilities of five distinct fire behaviour categories that are then combined with a safety-based weight function to calculate a Fire Behaviour Risk rating that can plotted over time and spatially mapped. Development and use across three adjacent US National Forests is demonstrated, and predicted fire behaviour risk ratings are compared with observed variations in satellite-measured fire radiative power. This approach transforms fire weather conditions into simple and actionable fire behaviour risk metrics that wildland firefighters can use to support decisions that meet required objectives and keep people safe.
The Interagency Fire Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operations Guide standardizes the processes and procedures for interagency use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), including pilot inspections and approvals. In support of fire management goals and objectives, the aviation community references these standards to utilize UAS in a safe, effective, and efficient manner. This guide further serves as a risk assessment for fire UAS operations and meets federal requirements for aviation safety and operational planning pertaining to recurring aviation missions. Agency level policy and guidance is provided through established federal or state plans and processes.
The LANDFIRE program provides a data safety net by producing biannually updated fuels products for all-lands in the United States. But even these data are two to three years old when they are delivered, and while they provide a good starting point, they are designed for national and regional level application. Local review and calibration is recommended to ensure that the data are suitable for smaller landscapes. An example from Idaho illustrates how adjusting LANDFIRE fuel data can ensure that current, accurate fuel information is ready to support fire and land management activities.
The goals of the National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative are to:
- Examine existing forest and rangeland management authorities and programs to determine their strengths and weaknesses;
- Perform a detailed investigation of the role of collaboratives in landscape restoration;
- Create a mechanism for states and land managers to share best practices, case studies and policy options for forest and rangeland management; and
- Recommend improved forest and rangeland management authorities and encourage more effective collaboration.
This report outlines the launch year of the Initiative and includes both administrative and legislative recommendations.
Access white papers.
The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA) developed many sage-grouse white papers in summer 2017. Topics include: captive breeding, hunting, predator control, and population and habitat management.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), through its Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), is there to empower ranchers to make well-balanced improvements on their ranching operations that are good for wildlife living in sagebrush country, as well as their business’s bottom line.
The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) Fire Science Exchange Network is a national collaboration of 15 regional fire science exchanges that provides the most relevant, current wildland fire science information to federal, state, local, tribal, and private stakeholders within ecologically similar regions. The network brings fire managers, practitioners, and scientists together to address regional fire management needs and challenges.
View report and highlights.
Conditions such as dense vegetation and drought have resulted in more severe wildland fires in recent years, and some communities are experiencing the devastating effects of these fires. Federal agencies can collaborate with nonfederal stakeholders to reduce the risk of wildland fires. This is a key aspect of the National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy. The Government Accountability Office recommends that federal agencies work with the Wildland Fire Leadership Council—which provides oversight and leadership for the strategy—to develop measures to assess progress toward achieving the strategy’s goals.
This report describes the role of forest and grassland ecosystems in the carbon cycle and provides information for considering carbon as one of many objectives for land management activities.
View fact sheet.
The CONSERVATION EFFORTS DATABASE (CED) was codeveloped by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), and the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GNLCC):
- USFWS provided a comprehensive ecological assessment separated by threats and efforts, and database structure based on user needs.
- USGS provided database and website design expertise building off of the Land Treatment Digital Library.
- GNLCC provided ecological, database, and GIS expertise, greatly enhancing CED capabilities.
Many state and federal partners provided input and feedback, ranging from design recommendations to policy sideboards, ensuring the CED has broad applicability and interoperability
Researchers developed landscape-directed dispersal simulations and tested a series of replicates that emulate independent empirical datasets for greater sage-grouse and eastern foxsnake. The study helps establish methods for using liner mixed models to identify the features underlying patterns of dispersal across a variety of landscapes.
Our results suggest that bird communities in piñon-juniper woodlands can be highly stable when management treatments are conducted in areas with more advanced woodland development and at the level of disturbance measured in our study.
This chapter reviews some of the conceptual and technological advancements and provide examples of how they have influenced rangeland monitoring. It then discuss implications of these developments for rangeland management and highlight what are seen as challenges and opportunities for implementing effective rangeland monitoring. It concludes with a vision for how monitoring can contribute to rangeland information needs in the future.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), through its Sage Grouse Initiative, works to empower ranchers to make well-balanced improvements on their ranching operations that are good for wildlife living in sagebrush country, as well as their business’ bottom line.
View article. In this study, we present a framework for forecasting large fire occurrence – an extreme value event – and evaluating measures of uncertainties that do not rely on distributional assumptions.
View article. Resource managers often need scientific information to match their decisions (typically short-term and local) to complex, long-term, large-scale challenges such as adaptation to climate change.
This study investigated the effects of mastication and hand-thinning treatments in piñon-juniper (PJ) woodlands on ecological processes including fire, and on a wide range of species, particularly vulnerable PJ obligate birds.
* Updated 2017 ** The Fire Behavior Field Reference Guide (FBFRG) was developed as a hands-on user tool for field going Fire Behavior Analysts (FBANs), Long Term Fire Analysts (LTANs), and other fire behavior operational personnel.
This brief highlights sustainable grazing practices and sagebrush treatments that enhanced herbaceous understory for sage grouse in years with average winters, but populations declined following severe winters.
This book adds to current knowledge about the regional status of the sagebrush ecosystem, the distribution of habitats, the threats to the ecosystem, and the influence of threats and habitat conditions on occurrence and abundance of sagebrush associated fauna and flora in the Wyoming Basins.
This report examines federal officials’ and stakeholders’ views on (1) factors that affect federal-nonfederal collaboration aimed at reducing wildland fire risk to communities and (2) actions that could improve their ability to reduce risk to communities.
This meta-analysis was conducted to determine if there were consistent responses of understory vegetation to fire and thinning treatments in North American forests that historically experienced frequent surface fire regimes
This study investigated effects of fall grazing, spring grazing and not grazing on fuel characteristics, fire ignition and initial spread during the wildfire season (July and August) at five shrub steppe sites in Oregon, USA.
This bulletin summarizes work by an interdisciplinary team of Pacific Northwest Research Station and Oregon State University scientists who created maps of the conterminous United States that indicate landscape exposure to concentrated wildfire potential, insects and disease risk, urban and exurban development, and climate change.
This guide, which includes the basic biology, life stages and habitat needs, habitat components, sagebrush monitoring, conservation planning in Wyoming, and predator impact, is intended to enhance understanding of sage-grouse conservation in Wyoming.
The Office of Sustainability and Climate hosted a webinar to explore current issues related to drought in rangelands; examples of drought- and climate-related impacts; and management options for increasing resilience. See the webinar recording and slides in pdf format for more information
The WUI Wildfire Mitigation Desk Reference Guide is designed to provide basic background information on relevant programs and terminology for those, whether community members or agency personnel, who are seeking to enhance their community’s wildfire mitigation efforts.
In this study, an interdisciplinary team of Pacific Northwest Research Station and Oregon State University scientists created maps of the conterminous United States that indicate landscape exposure to concentrated wildfire potential, insects and disease risk, urban and exurban development, and climate change.
This study was designed to quantify how the properties (size, shape, and fuel chemistry) of masticated fuels change with age and how these changes affect their burn characteristics (flame height, rate of spread, heat flux, and below fuel bed temperatures).
This study suggests that policy and management have focused primarily on specified resilience approaches aimed at resistance to wildfire and restoration of areas burned by wildfire through fire suppression and fuels management.
This project examines the weather and climate factors related to known megafires and very large
wildfires that have occurred across the contiguous United States and projects the likelihood of
megafires occurring during the 2046-2065 mid-century time period.
This study used the ecohydrological simulation model SOILWAT to disentangle the contributions of direct climate change effects and of additional indirect, climate change-induced changes in vegetation on soil water availability.
This study examines the drought ﬁre relationship, speciﬁcally the correlations between water balance deﬁcit and annual area burned, across the full gradient of deﬁcit in the western USA, from temperate rainforest to desert.
This study used public land records to characterize livestock grazing across Wyoming, USA, and we used greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as a model organism to evaluate responses to livestock management.
Recognizing the importance of mesic habitats in the desert, the NRCS-led Sage Grouse Initiative announces a new conservation strategy that empowers private ranchers and our partners to protect and enhance the wet, green places that sustain working lands and wildlife.
In this study, researchers examined nitrogen cycling rates in sagebrush and cheatgrass-invaded soils over a 100 mile range in the northern Great Basin, adding antibiotics to study the roles that soil fungi and bacteria play in nitrogen transformations.
This study used graph theory, representing priority areas as spatially distributed nodes interconnected by movement corridors, to understand the capacity of priority areas to function as connected networks in the Bi-State, Central, and Washington regions of the Greater Sage-Grouse range.
This study measured aboveground C pools and fluxes at leaf, soil, and ecosystem scales over a single growing season in plots that had 200 mm of supplemental precipitation added in either winter or summer for the past 21 years, in shrub- and exotic-bunchgrass-dominated garden plots.
This brief summarizes data and studies to determine whether the results of JFSP-funded projects are reaching potential users and informing management decisions and actions. Those studies have helped identify issues and influence changes within the program. While some studies showed that JFSP-funded research is being used for planning and for supporting treatment prescriptions, they also identified barriers that prevent greater use of fire science information by the broader fire management community. These outcomes studies are an important tool to help the JFSP address those barriers and continue to make program improvements.
This study adapted and applied four rangeland health indicators to data compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station’s Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) program for research locations on the Fishlake National Forest in central Utah.
This study used public land records to characterize livestock grazing across Wyoming, USA, and we used Greater Sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) as a model organism to evaluate responses to livestock management.
This study analyzed data sets from previous and ongoing studies across the Great Basin characterizing cover response of perennial and annual forbs that are consumed by sage grouse to mechanical, prescribed fire, and low-disturbance fuel reduction treatments.
This handbook walks managers and practitioners through a number of site-specific decisions managers face before selecting the appropriate type of restoration. This site-level decision tool for restoration of sagebrush steppe ecosystems is organized in nine steps.
This paper examines vulnerability in the context of affluence and privilege. It focuses on the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm in California, USA to examine long-term lived experiences of the disaster. Vulnerability is typically understood as a condition besetting poor and marginalized communities. Frequently ignored in these discussions are the experiences of those who live in more affluent areas.
Numerous agencies, organizations, and collaboratives conduct activities related to wildland fire. Understanding all of their different roles and objectives can be confusing. This fact sheet provides brief descriptions of some of the most common wildland fire initiatives, programs, networks, and other efforts taking place around the country.
This study found that insects generally reduced the severity of subsequent wildfires. Specific effects varied with insect type and timing, but both insects decreased the abundance of live vegetation susceptible to wildfire at multiple time lags.
This short synthesis highlights findings of the national Fire and Fire Surrogates Study, which conducted an integrated network of experiments at 13 sites across the United States, many of which took place on National Forest lands. Results suggest that more species increased in number than decreased. For example, researchers reported that populations of western bluebirds (Sialia mexicana) increased following prescribed fire; whereas mountain chickadees (Poecile gambeli) decreased in response to thinning treatments. The positive and negative responses of deer mice (Peromyscus maniculatus), gray-collared chipmunks (Tamias cinereicollis) and least chipmunks (T. minimus) varied among the sites; but the overall biomass of small mammals increased in response to the fire treatments. Researchers also found that small mammals’ responses were related to fire uniformity: the more heterogeneous the post-fire landscape, the greater the proportion of positive responses.
This brief was developed to help guide collaborative landscape planning efforts, through use of a framework of seven core principles and their implications for management of fire-prone interior forest landscapes.
Key findings included:
- Historically, forests were spatially heterogeneous at multiple scales as a result of interactions among succession, disturbance, and other processes.
- Planning and management are needed at fine to broad scales to restore the key characteristics of resilience.
- Landscapes must be viewed as socio-ecological systems that provide services to people within the limited capacities of ecosystems.
- Development of landscape-level prescriptions is the foundation of restoration planning.
This study found that prescribed fires conducted under favorable conditions (2011) induced potentially positive bighorn responses including high survival and increased use of treated areas. Fires during drought conditions were more widespread with little vegetative response (2012) and coincided with increased bighorn mortality in spring 2013.
This Association for Fire Ecology position paper is an organization-wide initiative with two objectives: to determine the prevalence of these two issues throughout the profession, including management, education, and research; and to provide a set of principles and actions that are strongly recommended for implementation in order to foster organizational cultures of respect, equity, and parity.
This KQED Science article indicates that since 1600, the way humans have used land in the Sierra has had more effect on fire behavior than climate change. Valerie Trouet, associate professor of dendrochronology at the University of Arizona and lead coauthor of a study about humans and fire, suggests that land managers and owners can affect fire behavior through activities that make forests more resilient.
Climate change is altering the frequency and severity of forest disturbances such as wildfires and bark beetle outbreaks, thereby increasing the potential for sequential disturbances to interact. Interactions can amplify or dampen disturbances, yet the direction and magnitude of future disturbance interactions are difficult to anticipate because underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. We tested how variability in postfire forest development affects future susceptibility to bark beetle outbreaks, focusing on mountain pine beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) and Douglas-fir beetle (Dendroctonus pseudotsugae) in forests regenerating from the large high-severity fires that affected Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming in 1988. We combined extensive field data on postfire tree regeneration with a well-tested simulation model to assess susceptibility to bark beetle outbreaks over 130 y of stand development. Despite originating from the same fire event, among-stand variation in forest structure was very high and remained considerable for over a century. Thus, simulated emergence of stands susceptible to bark beetles was not temporally synchronized but was protracted by several decades, compared with stand development from spatially homogeneous regeneration. Furthermore, because of fire-mediated variability in forest structure, the habitat connectivity required to support broad-scale outbreaks and amplifying cross-scale feedbacks did not develop until well into the second century after the initial burn.
This report makes the case that forest restoration should be at least equal to other land management priorities because large-scale restoration is necessary for the sake of forest ecosystem integrity now and into the future.
This report evaluated how changes in climate in the United States would lead to changes by the middle and the end of the current century in annual spending to suppress wildfires on USDA Forest Service (FS) and Department of the Interior (DOI) managed lands.
In this study, field sampling and analysis were conducted across environmental gradients following the 2007 Tongue-Crutcher Wildfire in southwestern Idaho to determine the conditions most influential in post-fire vegetation recovery patterns. Duff depth and fire severity were determined to be the most influential factors affecting post-fire vegetation response.
This study found that higher moss cover will be achieved quickly with the addition of organic matter and when moss fragments originate from sites with a climate that is similar to that of the restoration site.
Collectively, the data analyzed in this study demonstrate that good condition ungrazed Wyoming big sagebrush plant communities exhibited resilience following fire and maintained a native-dominated mosaic of shrubs, bunchgrasses, and forbs.
This synthesis examines the fundamental spatial and temporal disconnects between the specific policies that have been crafted to address our wildfire challenges and a reorientation of goals to focus on creating an anticipatory wildfire governance system focused on social and ecological resilience.
Findings of this study supports other studies reporting negative impacts of oil and gas development on sage-grouse populations and our modeling approach allowed us to make inference to a longer time scale and larger spatial extent than in previous studies.
This study found two levels of hierarchical genetic subpopulation structure. These subpopulations occupy significantly different elevations and are surrounded by divergent vegetative communities with different dominant subspecies of sagebrush, each with its own chemical defense against herbivory. We propose five management groups reflective of genetic subpopulation structure. These genetic groups are largely synonymous with existing priority areas for conservation. On average, 85.8 % of individuals within each conservation priority area assign to a distinct subpopulation. Our results largely support existing management decisions regarding subpopulation boundaries.
This report provides a strategic approach developed by a Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies interagency working group for conservation of sagebrush ecosystems, Greater sage-grouse, and Gunnison sage-grouse. It uses information on (1) factors that influence sagebrush ecosystem resilience to disturbance and resistance to nonnative invasive annual grasses and (2) distribution and relative abundance of sage-grouse populations to address persistent ecosystem threats, such as invasive annual grasses and wildfire, and land use and development threats, such as oil and gas development and cropland conversion, to develop effective management strategies. A sage-grouse habitat matrix links relative resilience and resistance of sagebrush ecosystems with modeled sage-grouse breeding habitat probabilities to help decisionmakers assess risks and determine appropriate management strategies at both landscape and site scales. Areas for targeted management are assessed by overlaying matrix components with Greater sage-grouse Priority Areas for Conservation and Gunnison sage-grouse critical habitat and linkages, breeding bird concentration areas, and specific habitat threats. Decision tools are discussed for determining the suitability of target areas for management and the most appropriate management actions. A similar approach was developed for the Great Basin that was incorporated into the Federal land use plan amendments and served as the basis of a Bureau of Land Management Fire and Invasives Assessment Tool, which was used to prioritize sage-grouse habitat for targeted management activities.
This report found that experiments conducted the first few years after tree cutting suggest not much had changed after tree removal treatments. The longer-term results are preliminary, but suggest that hydrologic function and resistance to erosion generally increase where treatments enhance grass, forb, and litter cover in the interspaces between trees and shrubs.
The Joint Fire Science Program (JFSP) digest gives background on Secretarial Order 3336, describes the role of JFSP research, collaborators and partnerships, and the the Great Basin Fire Science Exchange.
This 2016 report highlights selected recent accomplishments of federal agencies and partners in conserving the sagebrush ecosystem and the more than 350 species, including the Greater sage-grouse, as well as the human traditions and livelihoods that depend on it.
The Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy outlined the need for coordinated, science-based adaptive management to achieve long-term protection, conservation, and restoration of the sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystem.
This paper reports that community results from burn treatments can mean an increase in patchy spatial distribution of ectomycorrhiza (EMF). Quick initiation of EMF recolonization is possible depending on the size of high intensity burn patches, proximity of low and unburned soil, and survival of nearby hosts.
This research suggests that widespread environmental change within sagebrush ecosystems, especially the fire-cheatgrass cycle (e.g., invasion of cheatgrass and increased fire frequency) and human land disturbances, are directly and indirectly influencing ground squirrels and badgers.
The paper concludes that though wildfire and invasion by exotic annual grasses may negatively affect other species, harvester ants may indeed be one of the few winners among a myriad of losers linked to vegetation state changes within sagebrush ecosystems.
This study found that to encourage perennial grasses over annual herbaceous species in Wyoming big sagebrush communities, mowing is better suited to locales lacking exotic annuals and retaining ample cover of perennial grasses and sagebrush of smaller size.
This study concluded that, although increases in native species could possibly be obtained by repeating crested wheatgrass control treatments, reducing crested wheatgrass opens a window for invasion by exotic weed species.
This study found that post-fire recovery of big sagebrush in the northern Columbia Basin is a slow process that may require several decades on average, but faster recovery rates may occur under specific site and climate conditions
In this article, authors were able to integrate complex interactions, and visualize the distribution of risk across broad spatial scales, providing land managers and researchers a valuable tool for climate change vulnerability assessments and action plans.
Abstracts of Recent Papers on Climate Change and Land Management in the West, Prepared by Louisa Evers, Science Liaison and Climate Change Coordinator, BLM, OR-WA State Office.
This article reviews trends in aspen science and management, particularly in Utah and highlights recent studies continuing the tradition to keep rangeland managers informed of important developments, focusing on aspen functional types, historical cover change and climate warming, ungulate herbivory, and disturbance interactions.
This paper highlights greater sage-grouse egg depredation observations obtained opportunistically from three common raven nests located in Idaho and Nevada where depredated greater sage-grouse eggs were found at or in the immediate vicinity of the nest site.
This study compared trees in 6- to 28-year-old burned and unburned sites in the third drought year in mixed conifer forests at low elevation in Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite national parks in California, USA. Common conifer species found in the burned plots had significantly reduced probability of mortality compared to unburned plots during the drought. Stand density was significantly lower in burned versus unburned sites, supporting the idea that reduced competition may be responsible for the differential drought mortality response.
This study monitored the habitat-use patterns of 71 radio-marked sage-grouse inhabiting an area affected by wildfire in the Virginia Mountains of northwestern Nevada during 2009–2011. Sage-grouse selected micro-sites with greater shrub canopy cover and less cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) cover than random sites. Total shrub canopy, including sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) and other shrub species, at small spatial scales (0.8 ha and 3.1 ha) was the single contributing selection factor to higher nest survival.
This study found that early seral natives generally outperformed late seral natives when growing with exotics and had earlier emergence timing, although results differed among functional groups and soil types. Survival probabilities, however, did not differ between the early and late seral mixes when growing without exotics.
This study used survey data from three 2010 wildland fires to understand how ecological knowledge and education level affected fire management perception and understanding. Results suggest that education may play a mediating role in understanding complex wildfire issues but is not associated with a better understanding of fire management.
This report documents the growth over the past 20 years of the portion of the Forest Service’s budget that is dedicated to fire, and the debilitating impact those rising costs are having on the recreation, restoration, planning, and other activities of the Forest Service.
The Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge Strategic Plan guides the Great Basin LCC’s science program over a three to five year period (2015-2019). The plan outlines the LCC’s priority topics and how they will be updated, describes the process to determine annual focal topics and activities, and outlines how the LCC will implement, evaluate and adjust the science program.