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Large-scale fire management restores grassland bird richness for a private lands ecoregion

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1 INTRODUCTION

In grasslands, documentation of successful large-scale restoration strategies is critical for adapting strategies in this era of global change (Augustine et al., 2019). Of all the world’s biomes, grasslands have lost the greatest amount of biodiversity (Newbold et al., 2016). In North America, grassland birds are the flagship taxa for losses in grassland diversity: they are experiencing the sharpest declines of all bird guilds (Rosenberg et al., 2019). Many factors contribute to declines in grassland birds, including conversion of grasslands to row crop agriculture, energy development and urbanization (Rosenberg et al., 2019). But one of the strongest drivers, especially for lands not lost to human development, is woody plant encroachment (Andersen & Steidl, 2019).

Restoring fire to landscapes is one of the most effective methods to halt and reverse woody plant encroachment and restore grassland avifauna (Fuhlendorf et al., 2006). Fire is a critical negative feedback that formed and maintained grasslands globally (Twidwell, Rogers, et al., 2016). However, due to barriers to fire usage imposed by the fact that grasslands are extremely fragmented and most are privately owned, implementing fire restoration beyond the scale of individual pastures or tracts of publicly owned lands is difficult (Augustine et al., 2019). Laws and policies such as widespread fire suppression, narrow ranges of conditions under which prescribed fires are allowed to burn and financial liability resultant from property lost to prescribed fire also create barriers for fire usage (Twidwell, West, et al., 2016; Wonkka et al., 2015). This has led to documentation of local restoration successes, but ecoregion-scale successes have been lacking (Garmestani et al., 2020).

In the Loess Canyons ecoregion of the Great Plains, USA, the threat of woody encroachment to both biodiversity and grassland productivity has motivated an ecoregion-scale restoration initiative led by private ranchers with support from natural resource agencies. To address the scale of this threat, managers have adopted high-intensity fire treatments as a large-scale restoration tool to benefit grassland biodiversity and productivity (Twidwell et al., 2013). Evidence is accumulating for the successfulness of large-scale, high-intensity fire treatments in halting woody plant encroachment and restoring grassland productivity (Bielski et al., 2021; Fogarty et al., 2020). However, large-scale outcomes for grassland biodiversity have not been documented.

Here, we use 14 years of fire treatment history with 6 years of grassland bird monitoring and remotely sensed tree cover data across a 136,767-ha ecoregion to assess grassland restoration outcomes and glean practical lessons. Our objectives are to (1) summarize fire treatment patterns and effects on woody plant cover, and (2) quantify spatiotemporal responses of grassland bird richness to woody plant cover change and fire treatments.

 

To read the full publication, click here 

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PBA Communication Kit

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The Communications Kit provides resources to facilitate discussion and interactions within and between those who conduct prescribed burning and local communities. Check out the file attached for more information. 

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Prescribed Burning Communication Kit

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The Communications Kit provides resources to facilitate discussion and interactions within and between those who conduct prescribed burning and local communities.

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Reducing Woody Encroachment in Grasslands

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Use of elevated chaining for cedar skeleton removal following fire

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This publication not only explains why and when to use the chaining method but also includes design and details for assembly of the equipment. 

GPFSE  2021-2

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Chaining Trees After Wildfire

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For specs please click here

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Chaining Specs after Wildfire

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For the publication please click here

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Prescribed Burning Communication Kit

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The Communications Kit provides resources to facilitate discussion and interactions within and between those who conduct prescribed burning and local communities.

 

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Wyoming Prescribed Burning Regulations: Review of Policy, Guidelines, and Case Law for Private Lands

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INTRODUCTION

Prescribed burning is the application of intentionally set fires to meet specific resource management objectives in native and agricultural ecosystems. These include enhancing wildlife habitat, reducing fuel loads and wildfire risk, burning crop residue and cleaning irrigation ditches. Prescribed burning should be carefully used because of air quality concerns and escaped fires can injure people and damage property. As a result, burning in Wyoming is subject to regulation and individuals may be liable when regulations are violated or where failure to exercise reasonable care results in an escaped fire that causes damage or injury. This bulletin provides an overview of the law and regulations regarding prescribed burning on private land in Wyoming.

For more information, see attached article. 

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2020 National Prescribed Fire Use Report

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The National Association of State Foresters (NASF) and the Coalition of Prescribed Fire Councils (CPFC) worked collaboratively to produce the 2020 National Prescribed Fire Use Report. Since 2011, the two organizations have partnered to prepare triennial reports (in 2012, 2015, and 2018) on prescribed fire activity, state-level programs, and barriers to prescribed fire implementation. These reports remain the only fire surveys that assimilate state forestry agencies’ fire intelligence for use among the prescribed fire community.

For more information, check the attached file. 

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