RESEARCH & PUBLICATIONS



Fire patterns in pinyon and juniper land cover types in the semi-arid West (1984-2013)

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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.

Spatiotemporal evaluation of fuel treatment and previous wildfire effects on suppression costs

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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. 

How to generate and interpret fire characteristics charts for the U.S. fire danger rating system

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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.

Long-term impacts of wildfire on fuel loads, vegetation, and potential fire behavior in sagebrush

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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. 

Wildland fire smoke health effects on wildland firefighters and the public

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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. 

Climate change and wildfire effects in aridland riparian ecosystems: an examination of current and future conditions

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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.

Assessment of aspen ecosystem vulnerability to climate change for the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache and Ashley National Forests, Utah

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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.

Using object-based image analysis to conduct high-resolution conifer extraction at regional spatial scales

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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.

Greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) nesting and brood-rearing microhabitat in Nevada and California— Spatial variation in selection and survival patterns

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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.

Hierarchical population monitoring of greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) in Nevada and California—Identifying populations for management at the appropriate spatial scale

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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.

Fuel characteristics, temporal dynamics, and fire behavior of masticated mixed-conifer fuel beds

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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. 

Restoring whitebark pine ecosystems in the face of climate change

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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.

Western Governors' National Forest and Rangeland Management Initiative - Special report June 2017

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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.  

Factors influencing federal and non-federal collaboration with reducing wildland fire risk

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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.

Monitoring protocols: options, approaches, implementation, benefits

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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.

Sexual harassment and gender discrimination in wildland fire management

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.

Using resilience and resistance concepts to manage threats to sagebrush ecosystems, Gunnison sage-grouse, and greater sage-grouse in their eastern range: a strategic multi-scale approach

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.

Science and traditional ecological knowledge strategic plan

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. 

Restoration handbook for sagebrush steppe ecosystems with emphasis on greater sage-grouse habitat—Part 1. Concepts for understanding and applying restoration

This handbook discusses concepts surrounding landscape and restoration ecology of sagebrush ecosystems and greater sage-grouse that habitat managers and restoration practitioners need to know to make informed decisions regarding where and how to restore specific areas.

Restoration handbook for sagebrush steppe ecosystems with emphasis on greater sage-grouse habitat—Part 2. Landscape level restoration decisions

This handbook will guide decision makers through the important process steps of identifying appropriate questions, gathering appropriate data, developing landscape objectives, and prioritizing landscape patches where potential sites for restoration projects may be located. Once potential sites are selected, land managers can move to the site-specific decision tool to guide restoration decisions at the site level.

Effects of drought on forests and rangelands in the United States: a comprehensive science synthesis

This assessment establishes the scientific foundation needed to manage for drought resilience and adaptation. Focal areas include drought characterization; drought impacts on forest processes and disturbances such as insect outbreaks and wildfire; and consequences for forest and rangeland values.

Discovery and innovation: the 2013 Joint Fire Science Program Progress Report

Discovery and innovation: the 2013 Joint Fire Science Program Progress Report

For over fifteen years, the Joint Fire Science Program (www.firescience.gov) has funded discovery and innovation used every day by wildland fire managers. 

The highest compliment for our work happens when research discoveries are adopted and integrated as standards for fire management professionals. 

JFSP now sponsors the Regional Knowledge Exchange. Each Exchange is focused on establishing relationships and discovering priorities of stakeholders interested in wildland fire in their region. 

Fire and fuels management contributions to sage-grouse conservation: a status report

Fire and fuels management contributions to sage-grouse conservation: a status report

Within big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) communities, expansion of invasive plants and changes in wildfire patterns have emerged as the greatest threat to sage-grouse habitats, particularly in the western part of its range. 

Secretarial Order 3336 - The Initial Report

Secretarial Order 3336 - The Initial Report

The report outlines immediate actions to address the threat of rangeland fire in the Great Basin region, prior to the onset of the 2015 Western wildfire season. The report also identifies several related actions and activities to begin in 2015, with full implementation in 2016 and beyond. 

Presidential Memorandum - Creating a federal strategy to promote the health of honey bees and other pollinators

"Given the breadth, severity, and persistence of pollinator losses, it is critical to expand Federal efforts and take new steps to reverse pollinator losses and help restore populations to healthy levels. These steps should include the development of new public-private partnerships and increased citizen engagement." 

Using resistance and resilience concepts to reduce impacts of invasive annual grasses and altered fire regimes on the sagebrush ecosystem and greater sage-grouse – A strategic multi-scale approach

This Report provides a strategic approach for conservation of sagebrush ecosystems and Greater Sage-Grouse (sage-grouse) that focuses specifically on habitat threats caused by invasive annual grasses and altered fire regimes.

Resilience To Stress And Disturbance, And Resistance To Bromus Tectorum L. Invasion In Cold Desert Shrublands Of Western North America

Our capacity to address the rapid and complex changes occurring in semi-arid ecosystems due to invasive grasses can be enhanced by developing an understanding of the environmental factors and ecosystem attributes that determine resilience of native ecosystems to stress and disturbance, and resistance to invasion.

The National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy And Risk Analysis – Phase III Report

This is the third and final national report of the three-phased National Cohesive Wildland Fire Management Strategy development. The report provides a comprehensive, science-based cohesive strategy to address the significant wildfire challenges facing the Nation.

A Review Of Fire Effects On Vegetation And Soils In The Great Basin Region: Response And Ecological Site Characteristics

A Review Of Fire Effects On Vegetation And Soils In The Great Basin Region: Response And Ecological Site Characteristics

This review synthesizes the state of knowledge on fire effects on vegetation and soils in semi-arid ecosystems in the Great Basin Region. We identify knowledge gaps and present a framework for predicting plant successional trajectories following wild and prescribed fires and fire surrogate treatments. Possibly the three most important ecological site characteristics that influence a site’s resilience (ability of the ecological site to recover from disturbance) and resistance to invasive species are soil temperature/moisture regimes and the composition and structure of vegetation on the ecological site just prior to the disturbance event.

A Comprehensive Guide To Fuel Management Practices For Dry Mixed Conifer Forests In The Northwestern United States

This guide describes the benefits, opportunities, and trade-offs concerning fuel treatments in the dry mixed conifer forests of northern California and the Klamath Mountains, Pacific Northwest Interior, northern and central Rocky Mountains, and Utah.

Research Perspectives On The Public And Fire Management: A Synthesis Of Current Social Science On Eight Essential Questions

Nov 9, 2012
McCaffrey, Sarah M.; Olsen, Christine C. 2012. Research perspectives on the public and fire management: a synthesis of current social science on eight essential questions. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-104. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station. 40 p.

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Climate Change In Grasslands, Shrublands And Deserts Of The Interior American West: A Review And Needs Assessment

Current and likely responses of species and habitats to climate change are examined in relation to taxonomic group and ecoregion and with regard to other disturbances. The volume ends with a review of management decision support needs and tools for assessing vulnerability of natural resources and conserving and restoring ecosystems that are or may be impacted by climate change.

Assessment Of Range Planting As A Conservation Practice: Publication And Extended Citations


2011.  Stuart P. Hardegree, Thomas A. Jones, Bruce A. Roundy, Nancy L. Shaw, and Thomas A. Monaco.  Chapter 4, In. D.D. Briske (ed.). Conservation Benefits of Rangeland Practices: Assessment, Recommendations, and Knowledge Gaps. Allen Press, Lawrence KS. pp 171-212.

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"New Study Shows Advantages Of Prescribed Fire And Mechanical Thinning "

A recent paper co-authored by USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Research Station researcher Dr. Chris Fettig and scientists from six universities in the U.S. and Australia shows that fuels treatments can be implemented with few unintended consequences. 

"Responding To Climate Change In National Forests: A Guidebook For Developing Adaptation Options "

Resource managers at the nation’s 155 national forests now have a set of science-based guidelines to help them manage landscapes for resilience to climate change, and this guidebook is now available both electronically and in hard copy.

Review Of Fuel Treatment Effectiveness In Forests And Rangelands And A Case Study From The 2007 Megafires In Central Idaho, USA

This report provides managers with the current state of knowledge regarding the effectiveness of fuel treatments for mitigating severe wildfire effects.  A literature review examines the effectiveness of fuel treatments that had been previously applied and were subsequently burned through by wildfire in forests and rangelands.

Ecology And Conservation Of Greater Sage-Grouse: A Landscape Species And Its Habitats

Thirty-eight federal, state, university, and nongovernmental experts have collaborated to produce new scientific information about Greater Sage-Grouse populations, sagebrush habitats, and relationships among sage-grouse, sagebrush habitats, and land use. 

Cumulative Watershed Effects Of Fuel Management In The Western United States

Vegetation change and anthropogenic development are altering ecosystems and decreasing biodiversity.  Successful management of ecosystems threatened by multiple stressors requires development of ecosystem conservation plans rather than single species plans.  We selected the big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) ecosystem to demonstrate this approach.

Ecological Effects Of Prescribed Fire Season: A Literature Review And Synthesis For Managers

Most species in ecosystems that evolved with fire appear to be resilient to one or few out-of-season prescribed burn(s). However, a variable fire regime including prescribed burns at different times of the year may alleviate the potential for undesired changes and maximize biodiversity.