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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: DISTURBANCE ASSESSMENT AND MITIGATION OF GREAT BASIN RANGELAND Title: Prescribed fire effects on resource selection by cattle in mesic sagebrush steppe. Part 1: Spring grazing

Authors
item Clark, Patrick
item Lee, Jaechoul -
item Ko, Kyungduk -
item Nielson, Ryan -
item Johnson, Douglas -
item Ganskopp, David
item Chigbrow, Darrel -
item Pierson, Frederick
item Hardegree, Stuart

Submitted to: Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 17, 2013
Publication Date: November 12, 2013
Citation: Clark, P., Lee, J., Ko, K., Nielson, R., Johnson, D.E., Ganskopp, D.C., Chigbrow, D.J., Pierson Jr, F.B., Hardegree, S.P. 2014. Prescribed fire effects on resource selection by cattle in mesic sagebrush steppe. Part 1: Spring grazing. Journal of Arid Environments. 100-101:78-88.

Interpretive Summary: Although in widely applied (e.g montane grasslands, tall grass prairie, mixed prairie, shortgrass prairie, shrub steppe, and savanna), use of prescribe fire to enhance habitats and alter resource selection patterns of grazing animals has not been rigorously evaluated on mesic sagebrush steppe rangelands. Beginning in 2003, resource selection patterns of free-ranging mature, lactating beef cows were investigated using global positioning system (GPS) collars for 2 years prior to and for 5 years after a fall prescribed burn was applied to mesic sagebrush steppe in the Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho, USA. Resource selection functions (RSF) developed from these data indicated cattle selected for lightly to moderately burned areas for all 5 postfire years while cattle had previously avoided or were neutral towards these burned areas during the 2 years prior to the fire. Although further tests of the robustness of these RSF models are needed, our study suggest prescribed fire could be used to manage cattle distribution during spring on extensive sagebrush steppe rangelands with the treatment remaining effective for at least 2-3 years longer than conventionally thought.

Technical Abstract: Prescribed fire is commonly applied world wide as tool for enhancing habitats and altering resource selection patterns of grazing animals. A scientific basic for this management practice has been established in some rangeland ecosystems (e.g montane grasslands, tall grass prairie, mixed prairie, shortgrass prairie, shrub steppe, and savanna) but its effectiveness has not been rigorously evaluated on mesic sagebrush steppe rangelands. Beginning in 2003, resource selection patterns of free-ranging mature, lactating beef cows were investigated using global positioning system (GPS) collars for 2 years prior to and for 5 years after a fall prescribed burn was applied to mesic sagebrush steppe in the Owyhee Mountains of southwestern Idaho, USA. Resource selection functions (RSF) developed from these data indicated cattle selected for lightly to moderately burned areas for all 5 postfire years. Cattle had previously avoided or were neutral towards these burned areas during the 2 years prior to the fire. Resource selection responses to the fire lasted 2-3 years longer than would be expected for a simple forage quality improvement effect. Cattle were likely also responding to a longer-term, postfire enhancement in herbaceous production. If applied under conditions similar to this study, livestock producers and natural resource manager will likely find fall prescribed fire effective for managing cattle distribution and shifting their concentrated use away from critical resources such as stream riparian areas and moist upland meadows for as long as 5 years.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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