Fuels & Fuel Treatments

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Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership Virtual Conference

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Idaho’s collaborative groups are committed to promoting forest restoration on federal lands. National elections and new Administrations may modify policy impacting public lands management. What is the potential impact on collaborative groups engaged in forest restoration? This regional event brings together leaders from the timber industry, local government, conservation organizations, community groups, and land management agencies from across Idaho. IFRP has structured this virtual conference to include informative presentations, panel discussions on current issues, and break-out sessions.

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Sagebrush plant community responses 10 yrs after conifer removal

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This sageSTEP short features Beth Newingham.

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Effects of tree expansion and reduction on soil climate in a semiarid ecosystem

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The first installment of SageSTEP shorts features Bruce Roundy.

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Variable thinning and Rx fire influence tree mortality and growth during and after severe drought

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California’s high density, fire-excluded forests experienced an extreme drought accompanied by warmer than normal temperatures from 2012 to 2015, resulting in the deaths of millions of trees. We examined tree mortality
and growth of mixed-conifer stands that had been experimentally treated between 2011 and 2013 with two different thinning treatments, one with more structural variability (HighV) and one with less structural variability (LowV), applied alone or in combination with prescribed burning. Tree mortality between 2014 and 2018 varied by species ranging from 42% of white fir (Abies concolor) to 18% of sugar pine (Pinus lambertiana), 12% of
incense cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) and 10% of yellow pine (P. ponderosa and P. jeffreyi). Lower overall tree mortality rates at this location relative to drier locations in the southern Sierra Nevada suggested that drought
effects may have been ameliorated by lower water deficits due to our site’s more northerly location and deep, productive soils in combination with reductions in tree competition following thinning and burning. Averaged
across burn treatments, thinning reduced the overall mortality rate between 2014 and 2018 from 34% to 11%. A total of 23% of the basal area was lost in the unthinned control treatments during this time period, while basal
area was unchanged in the thinned treatments, with growth offsetting mortality. There was no significant difference in mortality or basal area change between LowV and HighV, suggesting that leaving trees at variable spacing may not compromise growth or resilience of the stand during a drought. Overall tree mortality was greater in the prescribed burn treatments, most pronounced in the smaller tree size classes, and varied by species, with burning having a significant effect on incense cedar and all pines, but not white fir. Trees with greater competition (Hegyi index) were more likely to die, particularly when also burned. Burning, however, consumed surface fuels and lowered fire hazard. With predictions of warmer droughts and greater weather variability, reducing forest density (basal area) and keeping surface fuel loads low will be important for building greater resilience to future drought stress and wildfire.

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Plant functional groups and species contribute to ecological resilience 10 yrs after woodland expansion treatments

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The Sagebrush Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) evaluated the ecological effects of prescribed fire and cut‐and‐leave treatments in sagebrush communities experiencing tree expansion in North American cold desert shrublands. We used 10 yr of data from the SageSTEP network to test how treatments interacted with pre‐treatment tree dominance, soil climate, and time since treatment to affect plant functional groups and dominant species. Non‐sprouting shrub (Artemisia spp.), sprouting shrub, perennial graminoid, and annual grass responses depended on tree dominance and soil climate, and responses were related to the dominant species’ life‐history traits. Sites with warm and dry soils showed increased perennial graminoid but reduced Artemisia shrub cover across the tree dominance gradient after prescribed burning, while sites with cool and moist soils showed favorable post‐burn responses for both functional types, particularly at low to moderate tree dominance. Cut‐and‐leave treatments sustained or increased native perennial plant functional groups and experienced smaller increases in exotic annual plants in both soil climates across the tree dominance gradient. Both treatments reduced biocrust cover. Selecting appropriate tree‐reduction treatments to achieve desired long‐term outcomes requires consideration of dominant species, site environmental conditions, and the degree of woodland expansion. Careful selection of management treatments will reduce the likelihood of undesirable consequences to the ecosystem.

Sagebrush and aspen landscape

Great Basin-Focused Events from #SRM2021

We are hosting several workshops, symposia as part of the 2021 Society for Range Management annual meeting. **You do not need to be registered for the SRM meeting to attend.

Strategic Targeted Grazing to Reduce Fine Fuels (Feb 16, 1:30-4:00 PST/2:30-5:00 MST)

The Strategic Grazing symposium was held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It provides updates on the Idaho and Nevada strategic grazing demonstration areas. Symposium recording.

Sagebrush Ecosystem Recovery 10+ Yrs after Treatments (Feb 17, 1:30-3:30 PST/2:30-4:30 MST)
The Sagebrush Ecosystem symposium provides Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) updates. It was held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It shares what’s been learned after at least 10 years post-treatment. Symposium recording.

Big Sagebrush Restoration Status (Feb 18, 1:30-4:00 PST/2:30-5:00 MST)
The Big Sagebrush symposium was held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It was brought to you by the Rangeland Equipment and Technology Council (RTEC).  Symposium recording.

Fire in piyon-juniper

Advanced burn boss workshop and fire science symposium

The Advanced Burn Boss Workshop and Fire Science Symposium (click “Log in as Guest” in the event portal) is a combined virtual event that will provide targeted training for burn bosses: RT300, IFTDSS, and smoke modeling, as well as interactive presentations for a wide audience that bridge research and practice using the three pillars of the Cohesive Strategy: Resilient Ecosystems, Fire Adapted Communities, and Safe and Effective Wildfire Response.

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Sagebrush ecosystem recovery 10+ years after treatments

Symposium recording

The Sagebrush Ecosystem Recovery symposium will provide Sagebrush Steppe Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) updates. It will be held in conjunction with the Society for Range Management Virtual Meeting. It will share what’s been learned after at least 10 years post-treatment. **You do not need to be registered for the SRM meeting to join.

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The effects of prescribed fire on wildfire regimes and impacts

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Prescribed fire can result in significant benefits to ecosystems and society. Examples include improved wildlife habitat, enhanced biodiversity, reduced threat of destructive wildfire, and enhanced ecosystem resilience. Prescribed fire can also come with costs, such as reduced air quality and impacts to fire sensitive species. To plan for appropriate use of prescribed fire, managers need information on the tradeoffs between prescribed fire and wildfire regimes. In this study, we argue that information on tradeoffs should be presented at spatial and temporal scales commensurate with the scales at which these processes occur and that simulation modeling exercises should include some realistic measure of wildfire probability. To that end, we synthesized available scientific literature on relationships between prescribed fire and wildfire regimes, and their associated ecological and societal effects, focusing specifically on simulation modeling studies that consider wildfire probability and empirical and modeling studies that consider prescribed fire and wildfire regimes at spatial and temporal scales beyond individual events.

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Forest vegetation change and its impacts on soil water following 47 Years of managed wildfire

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Managed wildfire is an increasingly relevant management option to restore variability in vegetation structure within fire-suppressed montane forests in western North America. Managed wildfire often reduces tree cover and density, potentially leading to increases in soil moisture availability, water storage in soils and groundwater, and streamflow. However, the potential hydrologic impacts of managed wildfire in montane watersheds remain uncertain and are likely context dependent. Here, we characterize the response of vegetation and soil moisture to 47 years (1971–2018) of managed wildfire in Sugarloaf Creek Basin (SCB) in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierra Nevada, California, USA, using repeat plot measurements, remote sensing of vegetation, and a combination of continuous in situ and episodic spatially distributed soil moisture measurements. We find that, by comparison to a nearby watershed with higher vegetation productivity and greater fire frequency, the managed wildfire regime at SCB caused relatively little change in dominant vegetation over the 47 year period and relatively little response of soil moisture. Fire occurrence was limited to drier mixed-conifer sites; fire-caused overstory tree mortality patches were generally less than 10 ha, and fires had little effect on removing mid- and lower strata trees. Few dense meadow areas were created by fire, with most forest conversion leading to sparse meadow and shrub areas, which had similar soil moisture profiles to nearby mixed-conifer vegetation. Future fires in SCB could be managed to encourage greater tree mortality adjacent to wetlands to increase soil moisture, although the potential hydrologic benefits of the program in drier basins such as this one may be limited.

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