Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 4, 2005
Publication Date: May 18, 2005
Citation: Clements, C.D., Young, J.A. 2005. Antelope bitterbrush: an important browse species in restoration efforts. In: Proceedings of the 6th Western States and Provinces Deer and Elk Symposium. 6:24-36. Interpretive Summary: Antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) is an important browse species to native and domestic livestock. The lack of recruitment of antelope bitterbrush is a problem facing resource managers and significantly effects wintering mule deer herds (Odocoileus hemionus) that are so dependent on this nutritional browse in their transitional and wintering habitats. In addition to the lack of seedling recruitment, wildfire, urbanization, drought, excessive grazing and browsing by domestic livestock and native ungulates have exacerbated the loss of critical antelope bitterbrush communities. In 1999, 650 million hectares of rangelands burned in the state of Nevada alone, in the process of restoring and revegetating these charred rangelands, the Bureau of Land Management purchased more than 1.9 kilograms of forb, grass, and shrub seed. Not a single kilogram of antelope bitterbrush seed was purchased. Direct seeding of antelope bitterbrush, as well as other native species, is a risky undertaking. The restoration of antelope bitterbrush is very important for future wildlife populations. This paper presents an optimistic guide at restoring this important key browse species back into these critical habitats.
Technical Abstract: Antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) is a critical browse species to native and domestic ungulates. The lack of adequate seedling recruitment has resulted in old decadent stands that provide little nutritional value. In addition, wildfires have increasingly consumed important browse communities, and with each passing wildfire season more and more important browse communities are lost for the near future, and in many cases converted to cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) dominated rangelands. Mule deer (Odocoileus hemoinus) are the only declining big game species in North America, the further degradation of these important browse communities only exacerbates the struggle that many mule deer herds face. It is very disturbing that antelope bitterbrush is often passed over as a candidate species in restoration efforts, the presence of antelope bitterbrush as a productive component of shrub communities is beneficial to mule deer and other wildlife species. This paper points out the importance of antelope bitterbrush as a browse species and some optimism in restoring this key browse species back into these critical habitats.