Rangeland Fire Tour
Wildfires and Wildlife by Art Talsma – In North America, The Nature Conservancy is actively communicating both good fire and bad fire outcomes of controlled burns and wildfires. In June, 2014, the Local Sage Grouse Working Group hosted a rangeland fire tour with our partners in the Owyhee’s. The 40 people on the tour first observed a recovered 6,500 acre wildfire site that was restored by seeding native plants including sage, wheatgrass and yarrow by helicopter with sage grouse funds. We observed the following good aspects of this past wildfire.
- It recovered quickly with our seeding help and weed control efforts.
- Juniper were burned so sage, bitterbrush, and coke cherry were back.
- Rangeland productivity improved for the rancher.
- Sage grouse and deer were back in the improved habitat.
On the bad fire side, we also observed that, especially at lower elevations, there remains a threat from encroaching cheatgrass and medusahead. Rangeland fires are becoming larger in Idaho and testing our capacity to contain them. Restoring large fires is very expensive and often not as successful as the example above. We are working on this complex wildfire dynamic with our partners to protect remaining sage grouse Core Areas in the West. One example is we are working with the Oregon chapter to test innovative seed coatings that we hope will make seeding projects more successful following wildfires. Another example is we are prescribing juniper mastication near sage grouse leks to improve nesting and brood rearing habitat plus it reduces wildfire risk.