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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #324262

Research Project: Restoring and Managing Great Basin Ecosystems

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: Winter grazing decreases wildfire risk, severity, and behavior in semi-arid sagebrush rangelands

Author
item Davies, Kirk
item Boyd, Chad
item Hulet, April - University Of Idaho
item Bates, Jonathan - Jon

Submitted to: Oregon Beef Producer
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/9/2016
Publication Date: 4/1/2016
Citation: Davies, K.W., Boyd, C.S., Hulet, A., Bates, J.D. 2016. Winter grazing decreases wildfire risk, severity, and behavior in semi-arid sagebrush rangelands. Oregon Beef Producer. APRIL/MAY. 4 p.

Interpretive Summary: Wildfires are an ecological and economic risk for many semi-arid rangelands which has resulted in increased pressure for pre-suppression management of fuels. In rangelands, fuel management treatment options are limited by costs. We evaluated winter grazing as a tool to manage fuels and alter fire behavior in sagebrush rangelands. Winter grazing compared to no grazing decreased fine fuels and increased fuel moisture content without increasing exotic annuals or negatively impacting native plants. Winter grazing shortened the wildfire season from approximately three months to less than a month by increasing fuel moisture. Winter grazing also greatly reduced fire behavior and area burned. The cumulative effect of winter grazing on fuels reduces wildfire risk and severity and thus has the potential to reduce wildfire suppression expenditures in rangelands.

Technical Abstract: Wildfires are an ecological and economic risk for many semi-arid rangelands which has resulted in increased pressure for pre-suppression management of fuels. In rangelands, fuel management treatment options are limited by costs. We evaluated winter grazing as a tool to manage fuels and alter fire behavior in sagebrush rangelands. Winter grazing compared to no grazing decreased fine fuels and increased fuel moisture content without increasing exotic annuals or negatively impacting native plants. Winter grazing shortened the wildfire season from approximately three months to less than a month by increasing fuel moisture. Winter grazing also greatly reduced fire behavior and area burned. The cumulative effect of winter grazing on fuels reduces wildfire risk and severity and thus has the potential to reduce wildfire suppression expenditures in rangelands.