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The results of a new study show that post-wildfire management efforts, including herbicide treatment and seeding of native plants, influence sage-grouse habitat selection.

Wildfires can have severe consequences for animals like the greater sage-grouse that depend on sagebrush for food and shelter. The increasing frequency and size of wildfires in the western U.S. and subsequent invasion of exotic cheatgrass has resulted in loss of habitat for sage-grouse and the need for restoration efforts. Yet, few studies have evaluated how sage-grouse respond to these efforts. USGS, BLM, USDA, and Idaho Department of Fish and Game researchers investigated habitat selection by 28 male sage-grouse for three years after a wildfire in Idaho and Oregon. During the study period, seeding of sagebrush, grasses, and forbs and herbicide treatments were applied for habitat restoration. Sage-grouse avoided areas with high exotic grass cover and selected habitat with recovering sagebrush. Sage-grouse also selected areas that were treated with herbicides and seeded with sagebrush, native grasses, and forbs, but this pattern varied with time since treatment. These results show that management efforts aimed at controlling exotic grasses after wildfires can positively affect habitat selection by sage-grouse. 

Poessel, S.A., Barnard, D.M., Applestein, C.V., Germino, M.J., Ellsworth, E.A., Major, D.J., Moser, A.M., and Katzner, T.E., 2022, Greater sage-grouse respond positively to intensive post-fire restoration treatments: Ecology and Evolution, v. 12, no. 3, e8671