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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Restoring and Managing Great Basin Ecosystems

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Project Number: 2070-21630-001-00-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Sep 10, 2012
End Date: Sep 9, 2017

Objective:
1) Develop practices and strategies for restoring perennial livestock forage systems, improving Great Basin rangelands using practices such as grazing management, soil treatments, seed coatings, and traditional restoration techniques. (NP215 Component 1; Problem Statements A and C) 2) Develop decision-support tools to enhance livestock production and precision restoration efforts, while also providing other ecosystem services, in different sites, climate conditions, and management systems on northwestern rangelands. (NP215 Component 1; Problem Statement B) 3) Develop effective precision restoration technologies and practices that target specific restoration needs, provide forage for productive grazing, and enhance sage grouse habitat. The technologies and practices could include areas such as engineering of improved means of site and seed preparation, new equipment or techniques for planting, development and use of amendments such as biochar, or others. (NP215 Component 1; Problem Statements B and C)

Approach:
The mission of the Burns unit is to provide the science for sound land and livestock management. This five-year plan builds on a rich history of research at this location, in some cases reaching back to the 1940's. The majority of the western U.S. is occupied by rangelands and the most efficient commodity production in the rangeland environment is grazing livestock. Sustainable management of western U.S. rangelands is facing threats of unprecedented scale from annual grass invasion, encroaching conifers, and an uncertain climate future. Simultaneously, the societal demand for a diversity of ecosystem services from these resources has increased dramatically in recent years. Producers and land managers in the western U.S. are faced with information gaps regarding plant community restoration and establishment of desired species, management of grazing livestock, and vegetation responses to management actions in spatially and temporally variable environments. Filling these information gaps is critical to maintaining the security of livestock forage across the western U.S. During the next five years we will build on our prior research addressing issues critical to our understanding and management of sagebrush steppe rangeland. Our focus will be on 1) developing management practices and tools for restoring/rehabilitating sagebrush steppe following weed invasion and juniper expansion, and 2) developing management guidelines and assessment systems for conserving intact plant communities in a variable environment. Although the problem areas addressed by the Burns location stem from local and regional scale issues, our specific research questions and designs help to illuminate principles applicable to national and international issues and audiences through peer review research and synthesis publications. A focus of this research unit has been to provide tools that managers can use, including but not limited to non-technical research reports, information syntheses, field guides and decision trees. Projected benefits of successfully completing and transferring this research are: 1) improved management of existing sagebrush steppe for a variety of uses including forage production and habitat for critical wildlife species, 2) increased probability of success for restoration/revegetation projects, 3) increased ability to determine the effects of management practices within complex landscapes, and 4) a better understanding of the role of climate and site factors in influencing site productivity and restoration/revegetation success.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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