Female greater sage-grouse observed at a high-elevation mountain big sagebrush site, Inyo National Forest, CA, photo by Chris Balzotti, Stanford University, used with permission.
Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) scientists have studied sagebrush ecosystems, including its threats and methods for restoration throughout the Intermountain West since the 1930s. This science has been included in many conservation and management plans produced by state and federal agencies. They are also contributing their vast knowledge, expertise and leadership to the efforts of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Secretarial Order 3336 by providing sound science in the development and implementation of measures to conserve, enhance, and restore sagebrush ecosystems and sage-grouse habitats by reducing, eliminating, or minimizing threats, in particular fire and invasive species.
For nearly a century, the Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA FS), has studied sagebrush ecosystems, including invasive species such as cheatgrass and its control, sagebrush genetics and ecology, climate history and change, fire effects and mitigation, restoration, landscape ecology, and sagebrush obligate species such as greater sage-grouse.
This legacy of past and present research is an integral part in the development and advancement of the DOI Secretarial Order 3336, An Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy: Final Report to the Secretary of the Interior, May 2015 (Strategy, DOI 2015). The Strategy outlined the need for coordinated, science-based adaptive management to achieve long-term protection, conservation, and restoration of the sagebrush ecosystem in the face of threats by wildland fire and invasive species. Essentially, a science plan was needed that could be implemented to produce knowledge in support of management needs identified in the Strategy. A team comprised of experts from DOI, USDA, Joint Fire Science Program, Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, and the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies took on this task, led by co-team leaders, Deborah Finch, USFS RMRS Science Program Manager and Ken Berg, U.S. Geological Survey Center Director. This effort led to the development and publication of the 2016 Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy Actionable Science Plan (Science Plan). The Science Plan describes 37 science needs under five priority topics: fire and fuels, invasive species, restoration, sagebrush and sage-grouse, and climate and weather.
What is in the Future
- Implementation of the Actionable Science Plan is already underway, with a workshop to develop actions, scheduled by the Great Basin Consortium in 2017.
- New research, syntheses and tools by RMRS and other Forest Service scientists, in partnership with numerous cooperators, are in process and will continue to be initiated that contribute to actions identified in the Plan.
- A final version of the “Science Framework” for The Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy will be released in 2017. Jeanne Chambers, RMRS Research Ecologist, is the lead author. The Science Framework reports on the management direction using resilience and resistance science that underpins the Strategy.
In addition to the Featured Publications list below, there is an extensive list of publications relevant to this topic. Click here to go to the RMRS website for a hyperlinked list of relevant publications resulting from a search using the key words – sagebrush, wildfire.
The following downloads are annotated bibliographies for each of the five priority topics that provide support to the Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy and serve as building blocks to the implementation of the Actionable Science Plan.