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AUTHORSHIP AND CITATION:
Tirmenstein, D. 2000. Festuca altaica, F. campestris, F. hallii. In: Fire Effects Information System, [Online]. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Fire Sciences Laboratory (Producer). Available: https://www.fs.fed.us /database/feis/plants/graminoid/fesspp/all.html [ ].
Updates: On 30 January 2018, the common name of Festuca altaica was changed in FEIS from: northern rough fescue to: Altai fescue. Distrbutional maps were also added.
NRCS PLANT CODE: 
alpine rough fescue
northern rough fescue
mountain rough fescue
plains rough fescue
The rough fescues are in the grass family (Poaceae). They form a closely related complex of species that are separated by rhizome morphology and ploidy level . There are 3 species in the rough fescue complex:
Festuca altaica Trin., Altai fescue [14,60]
Festuca campestris Rydb., mountain rough fescue [1,2,14,60,80]
Festuca hallii (Vasey) Piper, plains rough fescue [14,60]
Altai and plains rough fescue are tetraploids, whereas mountain rough fescue is octaploid [2,3]. In this summary, "rough fescue" refers to the complex. Species are referred to by the full common names listed above.SYNONYMS:
for Festuca hallii:
Festuca altaica subsp. hallii (Vasey) Harms 
Festuca altaica var. major (Vasey) Gleason 
Festuca scabrella var. major Vasey 
FEDERAL LEGAL STATUS:
No special status
Information on state- and province-level protection status of plant species in the United States and Canada is available at NatureServe.
Distributions of the species in the rough fescue complex are:
Altai fescue - from Alaska and the Northwest Territories south to British Columbia [4,7]; scattered occurrences in the Great Lakes states and the eastern provinces [1,4,11,13,15]
mountain rough fescue - from British Columbia east to Alberta and south to Montana and Oregon, Idaho, and Colorado [4,13]
plains rough fescue - from eastern British Columbia east to Manitoba and south to Colorado and North Dakota [4,10,13]
|Distributions of Altai fescue, mountain rough fescue, and plains rough fescue, respectively. Maps courtesy of USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC  [2018, January 30].|
Common associates of rough fescue in prairie communities include timber oatgrass (Danthonia intermedia), Idaho fescue (Festuca idahoensis), prairie Junegrass (Koeleria macrantha), bluegrass (Poa spp.), lupine (Lupinus spp.), and shrubby cinquefoil . Plains rough fescue commonly occurs with blue grama (Bouteloua gracilis) . On the steppes of Washington, rough fescue is often associated with Idaho fescue/sulphur flower (Eriogonum heracleoides) and Idaho fescue/common snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus) habitat types . In central Alberta and Manitoba, rough fescue commonly grows in association with porcupine grass (Stipa spartea var. curtiseta), western snowberry (Symphoricarpos occidentalis), prairie Junegrass, timber oatgrass, and quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) [6,12].
Altai fescue grows in tundra meadows in Alaska with downy ryegrass (Elymus innovatus) and bluegrass (Poa spp.) . In Alaskan taiga communities, Altai fescue grows on windy foothill sites with bluejoint (Calamagrostis canadensis) . It also grows in boreal lodgepole pine forests .
Mountain rough fescue is a dominant component of several grassland associations of southern Alberta and British Columbia . It also occurs in open ponderosa pine forests, in forests within the subalpine zone, and in grassy balds within forested areas .
Plains rough fescue originally occupied quaking aspen parklands and benches along the Rocky Mountain foothills [42,102]. It also grew in parts of the northern Great Plains . Grazing and agriculture have largely eliminated plains rough fescue from many of the highly productive, low- elevation sites it once occupied [6,95]. Griltz and Romo  estimate that less than 5% of prairie once dominated by this subspecies remains, primarily as small, isolated remnants. Plains rough fescue overlaps with mountain rough fescue in parts of the Rocky Mountains .
Plant classifications describing communities dominated by rough fescue are as follows:Forest regions of Montana 
Individual rough fescue plants often form large-diameter bunches. Moss and Campbell  reported crown diameters of 10 to 20 inches (25-50 cm) on undisturbed sites in Alberta. In quaking aspen parklands of Saskatchewan, plant diameters rarely exceed 5 to 6 inches (13-15 cm). Plants have an extensive fibrous root system that can reach more than 4 feet (120 cm) in depth on sites in the black soil zone in Saskatchewan. Approximately 73% of the root system is concentrated in the top 6 inches (15 cm) of soil. On these sites, average yield of underground fescue parts to a depth of 4 feet (1.2 m) is estimated at approximately 11.11 tons/acre .
Culm height, color, and other characteristics differ by species . Rough fescue species are distinguished primarily by growth habit and other morphological characteristics, and there is overlap among the subspecies. Botanical characteristics of the species follow.Altai fescue tends to have yellowish- to dark-green foliage. Plants are densely caespitose with short, inconspicuous to infrequently present rhizomes [1,80]. Plants produce 5 to 10 culms that are 16 to 24 inches (40-60 cm) in height, and have 3 to 5 florets per spikelet [14,46,80].
Mountain rough fescue is bluish gray-green, densely caespitose, and occasionally has short rhizomes [14,46,80]. It is relatively tall and forms large clumps consisting of up to 25 culms . Culms generally range from 16 to 36 inches (40-90 cm) in height, with 4 to 6 florets per spikelet . Mountain rough fescue has double the chromosome number of the other 2 subspecies .
Plains rough fescue is somewhat rhizomatous and mat forming in habit. Plants are bluish or gray-green bunchgrasses with short rhizomes. Plants produce 3 to 5 culms that range from 8 to 26 inches (20-65 cm) in height. There are 2 to 3 florets per spikelet. Plants are relatively short, less strongly tufted than the other subspecies and produce short, creeping rhizomes [1,14,62]. Dead sheaths persist at the base of plants .RAUNKIAER  LIFE FORM:
As is the case with the majority of cool-season grasses, the seed crop of any year is initiated and partially develops during the fall. Final seedhead maturation occurs the next summer. Vegetative buds are maintained throughout the year at approximately 0.09 inch (2.3 mm) above the root-stem transition. Floral initiation occurs primarily during late August and early September. Reproductive apices are gradually elevated to 0.6 inch (15.2 mm) during the winter months. Rapid culm elongation occurs during May and early June .
Variation in year-to-year germination and seed production has been reported. Seed production is not related to basal area or the number of tillers per plant. Although factors responsible for erratic seed production in rough fescue are unknown, Stout and others  suggest that environmental factors can have a significant impact when seed development occurs over a prolonged period. Their studies indicate that low temperatures enhance seed development.
Griltz and others  report that "persistence of viable rough fescue seed in the soil is low." In Alberta, the number of viable seed per m2 of rough fescue decreased with grazing . According to Griltz and others  germination in rough fescue is primarily controlled by water stress and not temperature. For example, plains rough fescue is known to germinate over a wide range of temperature. Germination was found to be highest at constant temperatures of 59 and 68 oF (15 and 20 oC) . Germination of rough fescue is reduced by exposure to moist conditions at low temperatures . Johnston and MacDonald  reported germination rates of 86 to 96.5% during field trials in southern Alberta. Details on germination characteristics of rough fescue by temperature, light, and osmotic potential are available [44,87,92,93].
Stands typically take from 3 to 4 years to fully develop. Initial establishment is enhanced on sites that receive protection from grazing. The establishment of plains rough fescue is likely to be highest where plants have died or where competition is reduced at some distance from established plants .
Plains rough fescue, which grows along the foothills and in mountain grasslands of the Rocky Mountains, is rhizomatous. In Alberta, bunches are connected by short rhizomes to form a large, loosely consolidated crown. Rhizomes emerge either laterally or from underneath the crown and radiate in all directions. Sprouts are then produced within approximately 0.8 inch (2 cm) of the parent plant. Maximum root depth is 6 inches (15 cm). Maximum rhizome lengths are approximately 23 inches (60 cm). Vegetative regeneration in plains rough fescue may be reduced by heavy grazing. Plains rough fescue produces seed only infrequently .
Altai fescue may have short, inconspicuous rhizomes [1,14].
Mountain rough fescue rarely produces rhizomes [14,46,80]. Mountain rough fescue tillers appear to survive "several" years and become larger with age . Most tillers are vegetative and lack culms . Seed production is erratic. Several years may elapse without any appreciable seed set. Important seed years in southern Alberta were 1902, 1952, 1964, and 1966 .SITE CHARACTERISTICS:
Rough fescue grows on a number of soil types including loam and silty loams . In eastern North America, Altai fescue populations are often localized. Populations are found on sand plains, serpentine barrens, limestone plains and basaltic slopes. In western North American, Altai fescue grows in subalpine, alpine, taiga, and tundra zones in open forests, meadows, and grasslands, or in timber, rocky slopes, and plateaus .
Site preferences of rough fescue vary by subspecies. Mountain rough fescue is a dominant component of foothill grasslands. This subspecies occurs on more mesic and cooler sites than the other subspecies .
Topography supporting plains rough fescue ranges from level to gently rolling. Plains and mountain rough fescue are separated by elevation in southern Alberta. Plains rough fescue occupies prairie sites in central Alberta and Saskatchewan at elevations from 1,200 to 2,000 feet (366-610 m) .
Elevational ranges of rough fescue vary as follows [25,30,32,49,68,71,103,118]:2,000 to 7,500 ft (600-2,300 m) in Alberta
Altai fescue is common soon after fire in quaking aspen woodlands of Alaska . It is also prevalent on some black spruce (Picea mariana) sites 40 to 100 years after fire in British Columbia . It occurs in early stages of succession in tundra communities of the Alaska Range . It is present into the early shrub stage, but does not reproduce sexually. By the late shrub stage, rough fescue is no longer present. Generalized succession in these tundra communities is as follows :pioneer stage: 25-30 years
Plains rough fescue is considered a climax species in grassland communities of Manitoba .SEASONAL DEVELOPMENT:
In British Columbia, flowering typically occurs from mid-May to mid-June, with seed dispersal from mid- to late July. Maximum plant weights were not attained until late June, after culm and blade elongation had ceased. Summer growth cessation is controlled primarily by available water . Fall regrowth occasionally occurs in plains rough fescue in Manitoba . In British Columbia, fall regrowth occurred in 2 out of 3 years in September or October. Lack of regrowth was attributed to effects of defoliation .
|Dates of phenological development of rough fescue over a 3-year period on 2 sites in interior British Columbia .|
3,798 Feet (1,158 m)
2,800 Feet (854 m)
|End of flower||7/1||6/22||6/13||6/23||6/14||6/12|
|Seed in milk||----||----||6/29||6/30||----||6/19|
|Seed in dough||----||7/11||----||7/7||7/5||6/26|
|Leaf growth stops|
|estimated from measurements||6/10||6/29||5/30||6/2||6/7||5/28|
|Fall regrowth begins|
|estimated from measurements||9/9||none||none||9/22||none||10/17|
Susceptibility to fire is related to fire severity, frequency, and season . Crowns are characterized by coarse stems that tend to persist from year to year. During burning, densely packed stubble accumulations insulate perennating buds located near the ground surface [55,75]. Reductions in plant vigor are more long lasting following growing-season burns than dormant-season burns. Postburn recovery rates decline the further into the growing season plants are burned [12,91]. Where reduced fire frequencies have produced large-diameter bunches with heavy litter build-ups, survival may be severely inhibited, as crowns tend to continue burning long after passage of the flame front [6,119]. Antos and others  suggest that fire frequencies in the range of 5 to 10 years may best maintain rough fescue.
Fire regimes: In parts of Saskatchewan, presettlement fire intervals in plains rough fescue communities were estimated at 2-6 or 5-10 years . Barrett  estimates presettlement fire free intervals of 10 to 18 years in ponderosa pine rough fescue communities in Idaho. Late summer or autumn lightning fires may have encouraged the growth of rough fescue in Oregon . Grazed areas generally hamper fire spread, and intense use by livestock may have greatly restricted fire spread in rough fescue grasslands .
Find fire regime information for the plant communities in which these species may occur by entering the species' names in the FEIS home page under "Find Fire Regimes". The following table provides fire-return intervals for some plant communities in which rough fescue is common.
|Community or Ecosystem||Dominant Species||Fire Return Interval Range (years)|
|plains grasslands||Bouteloua spp.||< 35|
|blue grama-needle-and-thread grass-western wheatgrass||B. gracilis-Hesperostipa comata-Pascopyrum smithii||< 35|
|wheatgrass plains grasslands||Pascopyrum smithii||< 35 |
|Great Lakes spruce-fir||Picea-Abies spp.||35 to > 200 |
|Rocky Mountain lodgepole pine*||Pinus contorta var. latifolia||25-300+ [8,9,86]|
|Pacific ponderosa pine*||P. ponderosa var. ponderosa||1-47|
|interior ponderosa pine*||P. p. var. scopulorum||2-10 |
|quaking aspen (west of the Great Plains)||Populus tremuloides||7-120 [9,45,74]|
|aspen-birch||P. t.-Betula papyrifera||35-200 [35,109]|
densely packed stubble accumulations help to insulate the perennating
buds when fire severity is low, with very dry burning conditions the dense stubble accumulations can generate
high-severity fires . Fires that penetrate the duff layer and burn into the
root crowns increase belowground temperatures that can damage belowground
tissues [19,100]. Fire damage can be particularly severe and mortality can
occur on sites where reduced fire frequencies have
produced heavy litter buildups within large-diameter rough fescue crowns .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF FIRE EFFECT:
Rough fescue can be severely damaged by hot, mid-summer wildfires. Rough fescue cover was significantly reduced by spring burning on rough fescue-dominated foothills grassland in western Montana. At postfire year 1, rough fescue cover was 8.1% on burned areas and 24.6% on unburned areas. The site had been protected from fire for 32 years and had been ungrazed for almost 80 years. Rough fescue plants were characterized by large-diameter bunches with substantial accumulations of old culm stubble. Mortality occurred where crown diameters exceeded 7.8 inches (20 cm), and many of these plants had burned to below the soil surface. Complete consumption of some bunches produced holes in the ground from 1 to 2 inches (3-5 cm) in depth that were filled with as much as 1 inch (3 cm) of ash .
PLANT RESPONSE TO FIRE:
Rough fescue recovers from fire by tillering, sprouting from the root crown, and regenerating from seed [1,42,91,99,100]. It is initially reduced by fire regardless of the season of burning. Although prefire cover is typically regained within 2 to 3 years on most sites , burning season and fire severity can influence the rate of recovery. Despite burning at high temperatures, rough fescue can sometimes initiate conspicuous green shoots within a week after the fire. Rough fescue is unharmed by burning if the plant is dormant .
Spring burns can adversely affect flower development, and seed production can be reduced. Spring burns may be more detrimental due to elevated growing points that increase susceptibility; however, in a southeastern British Columbia study, spring burns had no significant effect on rough fescue cover .
Fall burns appear to have no effect on seed production [12,100]. Elevated soil moistures which are associated with fall burns may also reduce damage. Early spring growth and flower development were reported following the fall burn in British Columbia. Earlier growth was attributed to increased soil temperatures resulting from greater heat absorption from the blackened surface .
Nonrhizomatous Altai and mountain rough fescue appear more
susceptible to fire damage than plains rough fescue. Plants are particularly prone to fire
damage on sites where reduced fire frequencies have produced
large diameter bunches with heavy stubble
accumulations. Antos and others  observed decreased
sprouting response with increasing bunch size following
a hot, mid-season wildfire in Montana. Crowns less than
4 inches (10 cm) in diameter sprouted completely, whereas
sprouting was inhibited in crowns greater than 7.8 inches
(20 cm) in diameter. Three years after the fire, average
coverage of rough fescue on burned sites was 11.1%
versus 29.9% in unburned areas. Herbage production can remain below
unburned levels for 2 to 3 years when mid-season burning
generates high severity fires .
DISCUSSION AND QUALIFICATION OF PLANT RESPONSE:
Rough fescue cover can be severely reduced when burning occurs during the growing season. On quaking aspen parkland of southern Alberta, Bailey and Anderson  reported a 26% decline 1 year after a spring burn compared to a 6% decline after a fall burn. Rough fescue cover was reduced for at least 3 years: herbage production on burned sites remained below production on unburned areas. New rough fescue growth on burned sites was approximately 4 inches (10 cm) in height at postfire year 3. In contrast, burning on similar sites immediately after snowmelt, when leaf growth was approximately 1.5 inches (4 cm), slightly reduced rough fescue cover but maintained prefire annual production during postfire year 1.
Generally, plains rough fescue responds to fire by increased tiller production. Burned swards are shorter and denser than unburned swards. Apparently the further into the growing season the burning occurs, the greater the detrimental effect. Grilz and Romo  reported reduced tillering of plains rough fescue following spring or fall burns in communities with patchy smooth brome. Sinton  observed a nearly linear relationship between herbage production, leaf blade length, and tiller density following burning 1 week, 4 weeks, and 8 weeks after snowmelt.
Drastic reductions in seed production can occur after spring burns. Bailey and Anderson  reported a 92% reduction in seedstalk production 3 months after a spring burn in southern Alberta. Following a spring burn in Saskatchewan, biomass in grasslands dominated by plains rough fescue was reduced by 72 to 84% . Like many cool-season grasses, rough fescue initiates floral development in the fall. Studies of rough fescue indicate that growing points are gradually elevated during the winter from 0.4 inches (12.6 mm) above the root crown transition in October to 1.5 inches (40 cm) in May . Bailey and Anderson  suggest that floral initiation is not affected by spring burns; but by May, the greater height of reproductive growing points leaves them them susceptible to fire damage. Seed development on burn sites approximated that on unburned stands within 2 growing seasons. Fall burns had no effect on subsequent seed head development.
In Montana, rough fescue decreased 17.5% in the 1st season after fire. During the 2nd growing season after fire, a 5% reduction was noted when compared to prefire levels . The following densities (stems/m2) were reported for rough fescue following spring and fall burning in Saskatchewan :
spring burn fall burn unburned (1988) (1987) Aug. 87 1065 1860 1190 Sept. 88 1425 1180 1170 Aug. 89 1275 1905 1110
For further information on rough fescue response to fire, see Fire Case Studies. The following Research Project Summaries provide information on prescribed fire use and postfire response of plant community species, including rough fescue, that was not available when this species review was originally written:
Spring burns should be conducted as soon after snowmelt as possible to minimize fire damage . The degree to which plants recover typically declines as the growing season progresses [5,91]. In northwestern Montana, fall burns can increase the chances of soil erosion by wind or water, leaving rough fescue more susceptible to frost damage. Fall burns may also reduce important elk forage, including rough fescue, during the 1st winter after burning .Protein content (%) of rough fescue may be increased by burning. In central Montana, protein content ranged from 6.0 to 8.9% on unburned control sites, and from 8.1 to 14.6% on burned sites .
Burn 1) April 8th - high moisture content of fallen litter resulted in mostly standing fuel burning and only 43% consumption
Burn 2) April 27th - moisture content of litter was 29% when the fire temperatures were highestBurn 3) June 1st - no additional information
Burn 4) July 31st - conditions were driest on July 31st, but precipitation at the time of burning increased moisture of the standing fuel
Burn 5) October 19th - greatest percentage of fuel burned on this date
|Air temperature (oC)||Relative humidity (%)|
|Total fuel||Moisture content (%)||Fire temp.*||Fuel consumed|
|(kg/ha)||standing fuel||fallen litter||soil||(oC)||(%)|
|*Approximate fire temperature was recorded using temperature pellets, each designed to melt at a specific temperature. These were arranged on a asbestos card, covered with mica and positioned 4 inches (10 cm) above ground level. This was the height at which maximum temperature occurred in this grassland.|
Yield of rough fescue herbage (kg/ha) produced in the current year, harvested in August 1978 after burning or mowing:1978
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
Tiller density (number/m2) of plains rough fescue in 1978 and 1979 (after treatment in 1978):1978
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
Leaf growth (cm) of plains rough fescue over a 9-day period in June, 1979:1978
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
|Burn 1||Burn 2||Burn 3||Burn 4||Burn 5|
Plants are used throughout the growing season by a number of big game species including bighorn sheep, mule deer, elk, and bison. Rough fescue is the primary food for bison herds wintering in the quaking aspen parklands of southern Canada [53,76], and bison also utilize rough fescue heavily in fall. Summer bison use of rough fescue is described as "moderate" in Alberta .
Rough fescue is heavily use by elk on winter ranges in Montana. It is 1of the preferred winter range grasses in west-central Montana . Jourdonnais and Bedunah  report that it is the most preferred forage for wintering elk on the Sun River Game Range of Montana. Elk consumption of rough fescue may also be fairly heavy in both spring and fall (20 and 27% "aggregated frequency") . In northern Idaho, elk feed on rough fescue in mid-summer and fall, with higher use noted in late summer . Rough fescue is also important late fall elk food in subalpine grasslands of British Columbia . In Alberta, elk and cattle favor mountain rough fescue grasslands as feeding areas , and mountain rough fescue grasslands are important winter rangelands . Seasonal elk use of rough fescue was as follows in west-central Alberta :
Diet Consumption (%)
Winter use of rough fescue by Rocky Mountain mule deer in the United States and in Alberta is described as "light" [66,94]. In Montana, white-tailed deer use rough fescue during winter in trace amounts  and in northern Idaho it is used in early summer . Bighorn sheep make at least "moderate" use of rough fescue on winter ranges of Alberta. During July, rough fescue was the largest component of bighorn sheep diets . Winter-ranging mountain goats feed on rough fescue on lower slopes, ridges, high ridges, and rock outcrops . Snowshoe hares feed on rough fescue in summer .PALATABILITY:
Palatability of rough fescue is rated as follows [32,49]:
|domestic sheep||good||fair||---- (no data)|
In-vitro digestibility studies indicate that rough fescue ranks slightly above average in relative nutritive value among associated species on a rough fescue-dominated grassland in southwestern Alberta . Rough fescue makes good-quality hay in southern Canada , with crude protein levels of 7% and total digestible nutrients ranging between 44 and 57%. Nutritional value by phenology is as follows :
Phenology % Digestible protein % Cellulose leaf stage 6.6 33.2 heading 5.4 33.4 seed ripe 2.4 36.6 cured 1.5 38.4 weathered 1.0 39.5
Additional nutritional values from southwestern Alberta were as follows :
|dry matter (%)||protein (%)||crude fat (%)||crude fiber (%)||ash (%)||Ca (%)||P (%)|
Levels of crude protein, phosphorus, and carotene decline with seasonal growth . In central Montana, protein values in April averaged 17.0% . In west-central Montana, nutritional values of rough fescue were as follows :
|stage||crude protein (%)||cellulose (%)||hemicellulose (%)||ash (%)|
Mean winter values are as follows :
|% dry mass|
Rough fescue is tolerant of winter grazing [55,104,114]. Approximately 80% utilization can occur during dormancy without any appreciable loss in summer vigor . Dormant-season grazing may actually enhance plant vigor by stimulating tillering . However, Campbell and others  suggest that maintenance of excellent or climax conditions is not possible on rough fescue ranges subjected to grazing.
Plains and mountain rough fescue are described as "sensitive" to summer grazing . Plains rough fescue may be reduced by light to moderate grazing during the growing season in Alberta ; however, overall plant vigor may be unimpaired following light grazing [57,79]. In Alberta, rough fescue was not eliminated despite 80% utilization with light cattle stocking over a 32-year period in which seed was not produced and plants were described as "inconspicuous" [113,116]. A "modest increase" in cattle stocking led to a marked decline in range condition .
Numerous clipping studies have focused on rough fescue, and detailed information is available [72,111,116]. In Alberta, production potential was not affected by a single harvest at the end of August in 3 consecutive years. A single defoliation stimulated tillering, but additional cutting reduced tiller numbers . Plants can be adversely affected by defoliation in September . Clipping studies suggest that greatest mortality occurs when plants are clipped weekly to 2 inches (5 cm) from mid-May to late-June and then once in early September to remove regrowth . Mortality also occurs following weekly, season-long defoliation .
Grazing can cause a general decline in rough fescue coverage. In western Montana, rough fescue is one of the 1st species to decline after grazing . Common increasers with grazing include Idaho fescue, Parry's oatgrass (Danthonia parryi), needlegrass (Stipa spp.), prairie junegrass, and thread-leaved sedge (Carex filifolia). Heavy grazing in rough fescue prairie of Alberta led to decreases in rough fescue and increases in Parry oatgrass, Idaho fescue, and wheatgrass (Agropyron spp.) . Prolonged heavy grazing leads to replacement by weedy species such as fringed sagebrush (Artemisia frigida), locoweed (Oxtropis campestris), pussytoes (Antennaria spp.), dandelion (Taraxacum officinale), and rubber rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) [29,33].
Basal area is a good indicator of grazing history on most sites. Following heavy grazing, large, robust bunches are typically reduced to small, inconspicuous shoots. On sites in southern Alberta receiving 17 years of continuous summer cattle grazing, mean percent basal area of rough fescue differed as follows :
|ungrazed (0%)||lightly grazed (20%)||moderately grazed (20%)||heavily grazed (70%)||very heavily grazed (90%)|
It may be helpful to monitor grazing intensities on cattle and horse summer ranges receiving concentrated use throughout the growing season. To maintain plant vigor of rough fescue grasslands of Alberta, Campbell and others  recommend grazing intensities that retain 40 to 50% of the current year's growth and 20% of the seedstalks. Deferred-rotation and rest-rotation systems of grazing are recommended for rough fescue-dominated grasslands in Montana. On low elevation spring and fall ranges, grazing should not begin until late spring; early grazing of many sites results in exclusive utilization of rough fescue until other forage species become available . Two to three summers of heavy grazing can effectively eliminate plants from sites in Alberta . In Alberta, plants were nearly eliminated after 5 years of heavy grazing . An erect growth habit permits easy removal of large portions of photosynthetic material. Continued close grazing greatly lowers vigor and eventually results in the death of the plant. Recovery from overgrazing is slow due to erratic seed production and limited tillering abilities. "Susceptibility to damage from heavy grazing may result from a limited ability of the species to produce lateral tillers from axillary meristems. Our observations suggest that tillering in rough fescue, especially when grazed, is not as vigorous as the data indicated" .
In interior British Columbia, rough fescue comprises up to 10% of the dry-matter yield of the middle grassland zone, and up to 50% of the dry-matter yield of the upper grassland zone . Such attributes suggest that rough fescue can be managed as a key forage species on sites where it comprises more than 15% of the total plant composition [49,97].Rough fescue grasslands are susceptible to weed invasion. In Montana, the low montane zone is particularly susceptible . In parts of Montana, large areas of grasslands have been invaded by Douglas-fir, causing reductions in rough fescue . Leafy spurge has invaded some rough fescue communities in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and in Glacier National Park . Montana rough fescue communities are described as "fairly resistant" to invasion by spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe ssp. micranthos). Smooth brome (Bromus inermis) is invading many rough fescue sites in Saskatchewan . Griltz and Romo  recommend monitoring ranges regularly for smooth brome invasion. "Brush" has invaded rough fescue grasslands in central Alberta .
1. Aiken, S. G.; Darbyshire, S. J. 1990. Fescue grasses of Canada. Publication 1844/E. Ottawa, ON: Agriculture Canada, Research Branch, Biosystematics Research Centre. 102 p. 
2. Aiken, S. G.; Lefkovitch, L. P. 1984. The taxonomic value of using epidermal characteristics in the Canadian rough fescue complex (Festuca altaica, F. campestris, F. hallii, "F. scabrella"). Canadian Journal of Botany. 62: 1984-1870. 
3. Aiken, Susan G.; Fedak, George. 1992. Cytotaxonomic observations on North American Festuca (Poaceae). Canadian Journal of Botany. 70: 1940-1944. 
4. Anderson, E. William; Franzen, David L. 1983. Rough fescue in Oregon. Rangelands. 5(3): 118. 
5. Anderson, Howard G.; Bailey, Arthur W. 1980. Effects of annual burning on grassland in the aspen parkland of east-central Alberta. Canadian Journal of Botany. 58: 985-996. 
6. Antos, Joseph A.; McCune, Bruce; Bara, Cliff. 1983. The effect of fire on an ungrazed western Montana grassland. The American Midland Naturalist. 110(2): 354-364. 
7. Arno, Stephen F. 1979. Forest regions of Montana. Res. Pap. INT-218. Ogden, UT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station. 39 p. 
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