A Green Light for Post-fire Grazing

Editors Note: This article comes to us from Ann Perry of the Agricultural Research Service. It was published in the November/December 2010 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. Two Agricultural Research Service scientists have found that the Wyoming big sagebrush steppe plant community can accommodate grazing cattle and still make a successful comeback after a fire, as long as producers carefully monitor their livestock. “Managers have typically kept grazing cows out of the burned area for two seasons after a fire,” says rangeland scientist Jon Bates, who works at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center (EOARC) in Burns, Oregon. “But our research shows that, at least for rangeland that’s in good condition, there’s no real difference in plant recovery when grazing begins soon after a fire.” In the big sagebrush steppe, periodic wildfires are part of the vegetation community’s historical disturbance regime, and land managers mimic those dynamics with managed fires. Bates teamed with EOARC rangeland scientist Kirk Davies to see how vegetation recovery differed between plant communities where grazing was permitted after a fire and where it was not allowed. The scientists set up thirty 5-acre trial plots in the Northern Great Basin Experimental Range in eastern Oregon, which is dominated by Wyoming big sagebrush and perenni

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