Conservation paradox in the GB—Altering sagebrush landscapes with fuel breaks to reduce habitat loss from wildfire

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This report is intended to provide an initial assessment of both the potential effectiveness of fuel breaks and their ecological costs and benefits. To provide this assessment, the report examined prior studies on fuel breaks and other scientific evidence to address three crucial questions:

  1. How effective are fuel breaks in reducing or slowing the spread of wildfire in arid and semi-arid shrubland ecosystems?
  2. How do fuel breaks affect sagebrush plant communities?
  3. What are the effects of fuel breaks on the greater sage-grouse, other sagebrush obligates, and sagebrush-associated wildlife species?

It also provides an overview of recent federal policies and management directives aimed at protecting remaining sagebrush and greater sage-grouse habitat; describe the fuel conditions, fire behavior, and fire trends in the Great Basin; and suggest how scientific inquiry and management actions can improve our understanding of fuel breaks and their effects in sagebrush landscapes.

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