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Spatial Land Use Modeling for Sagebrush Shrubland Restoration
Louis Provencher, The Nature Conservancy, Reno, NV; Elaine York and Gen Green, The Nature Conservancy, Salt Lake City, UT; and Leonardo Frid, ESSA Technologies, Vancouver, BC, Canada
Fire regimes of the 1.1 million-acre Grouse Creek Mountains and Raft River Mountains landscape in northwest Utah may be outside their ranges of natural variability. Stakeholders from the Utah Partners for Conservation and Development (UPCD) shared a mutual interest in quantitatively modeling the cumulative impact of past land management projects and exploring alternative future management scenarios on the integrity of ecological systems of this landscape. As a result of two UPCD workshops using NRCS soil surveys and LANDFIRE biophysical settings (general potential vegetation types) descriptions and models, 17 biophysical settings were first described and state-and-transition management models developed with a-spatial computer simulation software. Partners developed 7 spatial management scenarios, 3 sensitivity analyses, and 2 control scenarios each encompassing management actions and constraints applied to the 17 management models and a vegetation condition map based on remote sensing detection of classes from the 17 state-and-transition models. Management scenarios included whether or not: a) budgets were restricted to ownership boundaries (BLM, USFS, private), b) biophysical settings were prioritized for treatment action, c) fuels breaks were placed along roads, d) restoration treatments were placed adjacent to existing desirable vegetation classes, e) restoration treatments were placed to increase successional complexity, f) the costs of archeological surveys, 13 plant seed, and mechanical treatments were reduced, and g) restoration treatments were only adjacent to human communities-at-risk. Sensitivity scenarios were performed for: a) cheatgrass dispersal, b) exotic forb dispersal, and c) intensity of excessive herbivory. Two control scenarios were to simulate a) the spatial natural ranges of variability and b) the landscape with 2002’s vegetation until 2007 without management. Preliminary results show that a-spatial and spatial natural ranges of variability were similar despite large temporal changes in patch age. Restoration budgets that respected ownership affected similarity of biophysical settings to their ranges of natural variability.