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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Wildfires in Mountain Brush Communities

Authors
item CLEMENTS, DARIN
item Young, James

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: March 20, 2006
Publication Date: May 25, 2006
Citation: Clements, C.D., Young, J.A. 2006. Wildfires in mountain brush communities [abstract]. Nevada Wildland Fire Research and Outreach Conference, Reno, NV. May 25, 2006. p. 8.

Technical Abstract: The loss of critical browse communities is a significant factor in the decline of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) herds throughout the western United States. Mule deer are currently the only declining big game species in North America. Mule deer are browsers and therefore benefit when browse species such as antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus ledifolius), and other woody species are productive components of their range. All of these critical browse species have limited, or no sprouting following burning in wildfires. In the more xeric environments, the invasive annual cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has invaded millions of acres of rangelands. Cheatgrass provides a fine textured, early maturing fuel that increases the chance, rate and spread of wildfire. The invasion of cheatgrass has significantly reduced the fire frequency from an estimated 80-110 years down to 5-10 years in many habitats. In the more mesic environments, the reduction or change in grazing management has resulted in the increase of perennial grasses and the build up of fuels. On the Charles Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge, livestock were removed in 1991. The removal of the livestock resulted in an increase in density and cover of perennial grasses that provided the continuity of fuels that allowed the fire to burn from shrub to shrub and build into a firestorm. The result was the conversion of productive browse communities into perennial grass dominated landscapes. Perhaps this is what the landscape looked like prior to European contact.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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