Wildfire and Invasives: Current Challenges and Future Solutions

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Researchers are increasing attention on the need to address the causes of wildfires in sagebrush country that are driven by invasive annual grasses. They are also suggesting solutions.

In 2013, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies was contracted to establish a multi-agency Wildfire and Invasive Species Working Group and conduct an assessment of fire and invasive plant management options for the conservation of sagebrush habitats across ownerships. The initial effort produced a Gap Analysis Report that summarized the policy, fiscal, and science challenges that land managers have encountered regarding the control and reduction of the invasive annual grass/fire cycle.

Earlier this month an update on the original report was released. This includes an overview of remaining work, with recommendations for actions to improve the conservation and management of sagebrush country. The report is titled “Wildfire and Invasive Plant Species in the Sagebrush Biome: Challenges that Hinder Current and Future Management and Protection – A Gap Report Update” and can be found here. 

Researchers documented that the number one conservation issue facing the western sagebrush rangelands is the lack of program capacity and necessary structure for invasive plant management at all levels of government. Specifically, the report states that the severely limited capacity for invasive plant prevention, early detection and rapid response to control and manage invasive plants, along with regulatory activities and associated native plant restoration operations, is directly tied to the lack of common conservation priorities and consistent long-term dedicated funding for invasive plant management programs.

    Research conducted in the Great Basin indicates that about 20% cover of native perennial grasses and forbs are required after fire or vegetation management treatments to prevent significant increases in cheatgrass, a focal invasive annual grass discussed in this report.

 

Research conducted in the Great Basin indicates that about 20% cover of native perennial grasses and forbs are required after fire or vegetation management treatments to prevent significant increases in cheatgrass, a focal invasive annual grass discussed in this report.

"The Gap Report Update has something for every level, public and private, to consider helping address the fire and invasive threat,” said Virgil Moore, Director of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. “It took a multi-agency, multi-discipline Working Group to identify the problems and provide possible solutions to these conservation and management challenges, it will certainly take a broad-based coalition of agencies, and public and private groups working together to ensure a healthy Sagebrush Biome is available for generations to come."

The top five gaps that need focused attention are explained in the report in detail and proceeded by additional areas of concern.