This section explores the tools available to land managers for combating the invasion of annual grasses. Scroll down the page to read each sub-section, or click the Land Management Tools drop-down navigation to go directly to a sub-section
Begin by watching Lance Okeson describe importance of fuel breaks.
Proactive fuel breaks (the enhancement of existing roads and vegetation manipulation adjacent to these roads) are an example of a pre-suppression activity that can be used to address the severe problem of large, uncontrolled wildfire outlined earlier. Fuel breaks can constrain fire spread and augment suppression efforts by reducing fire size and frequency, constraining fire growth rate, compartmentalizing fires, providing firefighters better access to the fire, minimizing fire response time, and providing safe locations to establish anchor points and engage in suppression. Three key elements of fuel breaks that improve their function are (from Maestas et al. 2016):
Established fuel breaks are a useful tool for managing the size and severity of wildfires, but can’t alone be depended on to stop a wind-driven head fire (Great Basin Factsheet Series #5); they must be designed within the bounds of other ecological, social, and economic considerations which influence potential options and effectiveness (Maestas et al. 2016).
It is critical to examine the landscape context and trade-off between reducing wildfire size and severity and the potential environmental and social impacts (e.g., sage-grouse and other wildlife habitat fragmentation, risk of increasing invasive weeds, effects of non-native plant introductions on native plant communities, impacts to wilderness characteristics, challenges with implementation across multiple jurisdictional boundaries):
Listen to Lance Okeson describe a fuel break.
There are five main considerations for locating fuel breaks:
The main types of fuel breaks (photos from Maestas et al. 2016) include:
Costs vary between treatments. Review the chart to understand the different costs (from Maestas et al. 2016, appendix A).
|Fuel Break||Typical Settings||Advantages||Disadvantages||Cost|
|Brown Strips/disk lines||
||Mineral soil with no fuels is the most effective fuel break||
||$30-50/ac annually; herbicide may be needed to control weeds|
|Mowed Fuel Breaks||Relatively intact sagebrush communities with adequate perennial understory||
||$30-50/ac, recurring 5-10 years; regular herbicide applications may be needed to control weeds|
|Greenstrips||Areas highly susceptible to annual grass invasion (warm/dry sagebrush sites) or impacted by repeated fire||
||$100-500/ac; depends upon plant materials cost at time of establishment and degree of site prep; may require reseeding if failure|
In these two videos, Lance Okeson first shares some of the potential negative effects or conflicts arising from the design of fuel break projects and then some of his thoughts on how to integrate partners into the fuel break planning process to reduce controversy and conflict.
To begin, watch this short video in which Mike Pellant describes livestock grazing as a fuels management tool.
Livestock grazing influences factors related to fuel characteristics, including the proportions of herbaceous and woody fuel, amount of herbaceous biomass, live/dead fuel mix, and continuity of fuel at a patch and landscape scale. Fuels management programs that incorporate grazing treatments must consider the long-term effects of such treatments on both desired and undesired plant species, with desirability defined by site-specific management goals and objectives (Strand et al. 2014).
To reduce cheatgrass fuels on large areas of rangelands you must strategically repeat appropriate grazing practices over a multi-year period over a diverse landscape under widely different climatic conditions (Pellant restoration course). Spring grazing in annual grass dominated areas is the most effective time to reduce cheatgrass fuel loads before the start of the wildfire season. Fall/winter grazing can reduce carryover fuels but not spring production (fuels).
How does livestock grazing impact sage-grouse habitat? Begin by watching a short video where Chad Boyd describes how grazing can be used as a fuels management technique.
Strand et al. (2014) provide a good overview of livestock grazing and its influence on fuel loads in the sagebrush ecosystem:
Chemical treatments and seedings are used to decrease invasive species composition and increase native species dominance in areas where native perennial grasses and forbs are insufficient for site recovery (Chambers et al. 2017). Chemical and seeding treatments may be selectively applied in conjunction with prescribed burning or mechanical treatments. Typically, these treatments are in response to clear evidence of a nonnative invasive species threat. Areas of higher priority for chemical and seeding treatments:
FIAT is a tool and process to identify priority habitat areas and management strategies to reduce the threats to Greater Sage-Grouse resulting from impacts of invasive annual grasses, wildfires, and conifer expansion in the western (Great Basin) range. Note that another tool (the Sagebrush Management and Resistance Resilience Tool, SMRRT) will provide a tool for the eastern (Rocky Mountains) range. Using the SMRRT tool, managers will assess key landscapes; management strategies to address threats such as invasive annual grasses will be an outcome. SMRRT is discussed in more detail in the Eastern Range Lesson.
FIAT data is available for the assessment areas shown in the map.
Specific goals for fuels management as identified during the FIAT process are:
Examples of FIAT outputs/data products:
Click Case Studies to review land management actions in practice.