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Protecting restoration investments from the cheatgrass-fire cycle in sagebrush steppe

July 28, 2021

The US federal government has recently committed to the difficult task of slowing and managing the invasive grass-fire cycle in sagebrush steppe, where property, livelihoods, and entire ecosystems are at risk. To safely manage this crisis, the government recently proposed to construct about 17,700 km of fuel breaks and millions of hectares of fuel reduction treatments in six western states. A challenge for resource managers will be the strategic placement of these land treatments. We investigated the need for this massive effort from the perspective of protecting previous rehabilitation and restoration seeding investments, including over 3,400 seedings implemented from 1990 – 2019 covering about 24,540 km2. We found that portions of over 26% of these seedings have since burned representing nearly 17% of this seeded area. Locations that had recurrent wildfire had repeat treatments and thus multiple investments in the same location. We concluded that management actions protecting remaining sagebrush and investments are warranted, especially in areas where the invasive grass-fire cycle is most pervasive. Given the decades required for most sagebrush to recover after wildfire, the urgency of this management intervention is evident. The specific details, placement, and effectiveness of these interventions could influence outcomes and potential unintended consequences.

Publication Year 2021
Title Protecting restoration investments from the cheatgrass-fire cycle in sagebrush steppe
DOI 10.1111/csp2.508
Authors David Pilliod, Michelle Jeffries, Justin L. Welty, Robert Arkle
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Conservation Science and Practice
Index ID 70231885
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center