Tuesday, June 19, 2007 - 3:40 PM
Ponderosa Pines (Boise Centre on the Grove)

Sagebrush, Fire, and Restoration: New Approaches in the Great Basin

Robert D. Cox and Nancy L. Shaw. USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station, Boise, ID

The relationship between sagebrush, fire, and human activity in the Great Basin has changed drastically since European settlement. Big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata) has gone from being a target of “weed-control” to a target of restoration efforts. This is partly due to changes in fire patterns; records indicate that the area burned each year in the Great Basin has been increasing. From 1993-2003, the latest 10-year period for which data are available, nearly 7% of the Great Basin burned, including significant areas of current and former sagebrush ecosystems. These large areas highlight both the need and the opportunity for restoring burned or otherwise degraded sagebrush ecosystems. In the past, restoration of sagebrush-dominated plant communities has tended to focus on establishment of a select few shrubs and grasses. Current trends are toward restoration of larger scales at higher-diversity. This approach offers both challenge and promise: seeding and establishing a higher diversity of species will require greater inputs of planning, time, and expertise, but also offers the potential for more realistic and healthy plant communities once restoration is completed. Future success will depend on development of new seeding technologies, selection and increase of new species to seed, and new understanding of post-fire requirements for successful restoration of sagebrush ecosystems.