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Effects of Fuel Management Treatments in Piñon Juniper Vegetation at a Site on the
Colorado Plateau

National Park Service

U.S. Forest Service Firelab

Joint Fire Science Program

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A project funded by the Joint Fire Science Program

Piñon-juniper woodlands have expanded beyond their historical range in the western United States, due partly to land management practices such as fire suppression that began with settlements of the region in the late 1880s. This woodland expansion has replaced sagebrush steppe vegetation, leading to decreased wildlife habitat, soil seedbanks, and plant species diversity, and increased potential for soil erosion and high intensity crown fire. In an attempt to restore historical conditions, "post-settlement" trees have been removed to free resources for sagebrush steppe vegetation to become re-established. This was intitially done by chaining landscapes to uproot all trees, but this method had many undesirable effects including extreme soil disturbance and the creation of even-aged piñon-juniper stands, and is rarely done now on public lands. More recently, mechanical and chemical thinning methods have replaced chaining, often followed by seeding and/or burning. Unfortunately, the cost-effectiveness and ecological effects of various combinations of thinning, seeding, and burning remain mostly unknown, making it difficult for land managers to develop effective management plans. The need for this information is greater now than ever, because of recent plans to apply large-scale fuel treatments across the Western United States, a region dominated by sagebrush-steppe and piñon-juniper vegetation.






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Last Modification: May 26, 2004