Post-Fire Grazing Management of Sagebrush Steppe Plant Communities in the Great Basin

    Post-Fire Grazing Management of Sagebrush Steppe Plant Communities in the Great Basin

     

     

    Wildfire size and frequency is increasing in the Great Basin, which requires adjustments in management to allow for ecosystem recovery. Domestic livestock grazing is a major land use in the region, and sustainable post-fire grazing management practices that ensure productive and resilient sagebrush steppe communities are essential to successful ecosystem recovery. Recovery hinges on the growth, reproduction, and recruitment of perennial understory plants, especially bunchgrasses. Perennial grasses provide forage and habitat, increase resistance to invasion, and assist with soil stability and hydrologic function. Here we review the available post-fire grazing literature and provide guidelines for maintaining productive sagebrush steppe communities in grazed areas after fire. Recommendations include: 1) delaying grazing until defined site objectives have been met, 2) delaying grazing until after seed maturity or shatter to promote bunchgrass recovery, 3) instituting an appropriate rotation system to maintain plant production, cover, and composition, and 4) implementing regular monitoring and assessment protocols to determine grazing regime effectiveness.