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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #407162

Research Project: Restoration and Conservation of Great Basin Ecosystems

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Title: A brief history of sagebrush management in the Great Basin: From removal to reduction and beyond

item HARRIS, TYLER - Oregon State University
item JOHNSON, DUSTIN - Oregon State University
item O'Connor, Rory

Submitted to: Rangelands
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/21/2024
Publication Date: 4/30/2024
Citation: Harris, T., Johnson, D.D., O'Connor, R.C. 2024. A brief history of sagebrush management in the Great Basin: From removal to reduction and beyond. Rangelands. 46(3):63-71.

Interpretive Summary: Sagebrush management in the Great Basin over the last 80 years has gone from complete eradication for increased livestock forage to full preservation for sagebrush obligate wildlife. But neither management extreme has worked particularly well because we currently have 30% of the Great Basin identified as “poor condition shrubland”. There needs to be a mix of new and old sagebrush reduction methods that can be used to spur restoration of these poor conditioned shrublands.

Technical Abstract: After years of overgrazing in the late 1800s and early 1900s with little to no management, range management efforts shifted to focus on eradication of sagebrush to promote forage production from World War II to the 1970s. From the 1970s to present the paradigm shifted to an emphasis on leaving sagebrush intact for the benefit of sagebrush-obligate wildlife. However, neither management paradigm has yielded an ideal outcome with approximately 30% of the Great Basin being identified as “poor condition shrubland,” with >10% shrub cover and a high ratio of annual to perennial herbaceous cover. A combination of new and old restoration methods is needed to restore degraded sagebrush communities to rejuvenate the declining perennial herbaceous understories and increase biotic resiliency of the shrub community.