|Gray, Ken - DIV OF WILDLIFE, ELKO,NV|
Submitted to: African Journal of Range and Forest Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 18, 2002
Publication Date: July 27, 2004
Citation: Clements, C.D., Young, J.A., Gray, K. 2004. Cheatgrass invasion and mule deer habitat. African Journal of Range and Forest Science. 20(2):161. Technical Abstract: Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) provides a fine textured early maturing fuel that increases the chance, rate, spread and season of wildfire. In 1964 a firestorm swept through Elko County in northeastern Nevada burning 300,000 acres. Most of the burned habitat was converted from big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata)/bunchgrass to cheatgrass dominance. Subsequently, recurring wildfires at increasingly short intervals has spread and maintained cheatgrass dominance. With each wildfire comes further loss of important browse communities. Historical fire intervals are believed to have been 80 to 110 years, cheatgrass has caused wildfire intervals to increase every 5-10 years, simply to short of an interval to allow for the return and productivity of important browse species. Before the 1964 wildfire, the Independence mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) herd was estimated 38,000 animals. In 1999, 1.8 million acres of northern Nevada rangelands burned, largely fueled by cheatgrass invasions. The Independent mule deer herd has decreased to an estimated 9,000 animals as a result of these wildfires burning critical browse communities. This scenario holds true for many mule deer herds throughout the western United States. Active and aggressive management of cheatgrass along with the restoration of native shrub communities is critical in decreasing the frequency and intensity of wildfires, and providing critical browse habitats to mule deer and many other wildlife species.