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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Reno, Nevada » Great Basin Rangelands Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #408969

Research Project: Management and Restoration of Rangeland Ecosystems

Location: Great Basin Rangelands Research

Title: Effective restoration efforts following the Martin Fire

item Clements, Darin - Charlie
item JEFFRESS, MATT - Nevada Department Of Wildlife
item MCADOO, CALEB - Nevada Department Of Wildlife
item Harmon, Daniel - Dan

Submitted to: Society for Range Management
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 11/1/2023
Publication Date: 1/30/2024
Citation: Clements, D.D., Jeffress, M., Mcadoo, C., Harmon, D.N. 2024. Effective restoration efforts following the Martin Fire. Society for Range Management. 77:81.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The accidental introduction of cheatgrass and its’ subsequent invasion onto millions of acres of Great Basin rangelands has increased this wildfire intervals from an estimated 60-110 years down to a reported 5-10 years. When habitats are threatened by this frequency of wildfires, critical wildlife habitats and sustainable grazing practices are severely threatened as well. With each passing wildfire season more and more critical shrub communities are burned and converted to cheatgrass dominance while significantly impacting sensitive species such as sage grouse and mule deer that depend heavily on browse species killed in wildfires. When cheatgrass moves in, wildfires that destroy shrubs follow. This scenario has played out all across the Intermountain West, which now is experiencing larger and more frequent wildfires at alarming rates. An excellent example of such catastrophic wildfires is the 2018 Martin Fire that burned 435,000 acres of rangelands significantly impacting grazing and wildlife resources as well as threatening life and destroying property and rangeland infrastructure. A massive collaborative effort took place between U.S. Government and State Agencies which included the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS), and Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) as well as wildlife and conservation organizations which included Nevada Bighorns Unlimited, Nevada Chukar Foundation, Nevada Muleys, Carson Valley Chukar Club and Nevada Gold Mines. In the process of applying seeding treatments, the Government experienced a shutdown, temporarily halting the BLM’s efforts, but due to the strong partnership with NDOW and the BLM, NDOW did an excellent job and played a major role in seeing this massive seeding effort through without delay. Of the 435,000 acres that burned, this collaborative effort seeded over 70,000 acres in late 2018 and early 2019 and treated another 65,000 acres with pre-emergent herbicides in 2018 to control cheatgrass and followed up with more seeding applications in 2019. The goal of this restoration/rehabilitation effort was to enhance food and cover resources for wildlife and livestock. Efforts aimed to restore/rehabilitate rangelands to an improved state for wildlife and sustainable grazing practices by establishing a high density of native and introduced perennial grasses to suppress cheatgrass and associated fuels. Cheatgrass dominated habitats were treated with pre-emergent herbicides as an aggressive and effective weed control program followed by the seeding of perennial grasses, shrubs and forbs. There was also a goal to monitor these treated habitats to gauge the success of treatments. A number of seed mixes were aerially applied to more than 57,000 acres which included native and introduced grasses, shrubs and forbs. Aerial seeding is often required due to inaccessible and/or rough terrain not suitable for equipment needed in drill seeding operations. Drill seeding of native and introduced perennial grasses yielded significantly higher results than broadcasting efforts of perennial grasses. Aerial application of Wyoming big sagebrush and western yarrow also yielded excellent results. One of the most successful attributes of the efforts put forth to restore or rehabilitate rangelands burned in the Martin Fire is partnerships. Partnerships provide an opportunity to combine and stretch resources further than individual efforts. Furthermore, partnerships create a more durable environment and are an important element for successful restoration or rehabilitation of rangelands.