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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Restoring Sage-grouse Habitat After Fire: Success of Different Restoration Methods Across an Elevation Gradient

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

2013 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The objectives of this study are to 1) determine where different methods to restore sagebrush after large wildfire should be applied based on environmental constraints to efficiently and effectively limit the negative effects to sage-grouse and other sagebrush associated wildlife species, and 2) evaluate newly developed technologies to restore sagebrush steppe habitat for sage-grouse.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
STUDY AREA The study area will be located in the northern Great Basin in sagebrush steppe rangelands. The study sites will be located in the Holloway and Long Draw Fires in Nevada and Oregon where approximately 1 million acres of sagebrush rangelands burned in 2012. The study sites will be areas that completely burned with no sagebrush survival. Elevation will range from 4000 to +7000 ft above sea level. The study will occur on land administered by the Bureau of Land Management. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN We will evaluate sagebrush restoration success with five methods across an elevation gradient using a randomized block design. Treatments will be randomly assigned within block by location and include: 1) natural recovery (control), 2) broadcast seeding sagebrush, 3) broadcast seeding sagebrush followed by roller-packing, 4) broadcast seeding sagebrush seed pillows, and 5) planting sagebrush seedlings. All sagebrush used in the study will be big sagebrush. However, subspecies (Wyoming or mountain) of big sagebrush will vary based on the potential natural community type. Wyoming and mountain big sagebrush will be seeded and planted on sites where Wyoming or mountain big sagebrush was dominant prior to burning, respectively. Treatments will be along five transects that span an elevation gradient from 4000 to >7000ft in the Holloway and Long Draw Fires. Along each elevation gradient, treatments will be applied at approximately 4000, 4500, 5000, 5500, 6000, 6500, and 7000 ft elevation. At each elevation on each transect, treatments will be randomly assigned to five 5 X 10 m plots with a 2 m buffer between treatment plots. Total number of sites will be 35 (5 elevation transects X 7 elevations = 35 sites) and total number of treatment plots will be 175 (5 treatments X 35 sites = 175 plots). All sagebrush seeding treatments will be applied at a rate of 1 lb per acre in the fall. Roller-packing will be applied by pulling a small roller-packer either by hand or behind an ATV/UTV across the plot after seeding. Seed pillows will be a mixture that promotes survival, growth, and establishment of sagebrush (exact formulation is not reported because of proprietary rights). Seeds and seed pillows will be broadcast using a hand-held whirligig fertilizer spreader. Sagebrush seedlings will be hand planted at a density of 1 seedling per m2. Sagebrush seedlings will be grown by planting five sagebrush seeds in seedling cone containers in a three-season greenhouse. Cone containers will be 3.8 cm diameter at the top and 21 cm tall. Sagebrush seedlings will be thinned to one individual per cone container. Sagebrush seedlings will be planted in the spring by digging a hole approximately 21 cm deep, placing the seedling in the hole, and pressing the soil around the roots of the seedlings.

3. Progress Report:
This project was established in July 2013 and the progress directly relates to Objective 2 of the parent project, "Develop decision-support tools to enhance livestock production and other ecosystem services in different sites, climate conditions, and management systems on northwestern rangelands". Thus far, we have obtained maps of the study area and visited the study area once. No funds have been spent to date, but we may spend some of the funds on plot setup materials. We also plan on locating some of the study sites. We intend to hire a post-doc to manage the project and we will also hire temporary technicians to assist with plot setup and data collection. We will locate 35 research sites within the study area and setup research plots in the fall and winter of FY14. At each site we will apply five different treatments. We plan on collecting sagebrush survival and size data in research plots in the late spring and summer and will collect data on site and plant community characteristics.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 05/21/2017
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