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Does prescribed sagebrush burning follow science or dogma?


Cara J
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Prescribed fire is often presented as a savior of wildlife and their habitats, restoring ecosystems and protecting landscapes from catastrophic wildfires. However, for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) and many sagebrush ecosystems, a number of studies suggest that nothing could be further from the truth. Promotion of prescribed fire as a management tool is ongoing. In August, the U.S. Forest Service released a new strategy that, in part, calls for increasing the use of prescribed fires. In 2016, The Wildlife Society recognized the growing interest in prescribed fire use and published a technical review that evaluated its effects on wildlife across a variety of ecosystems and habitats in North America. The June 22 issue of the eWildlifer included a photo of a prescribed burn in sagebrush with a caption highlighting potential benefits of wildlife by using prescribed fires as a management tool. Given the wide variety of wildlife habitats across North America, it would be surprising if any habitat management technique, including fire, is universally effective. Indeed, numerous publications have urged caution when using prescribed fire and other techniques aimed at damaging or destroying sagebrush. In part, this is due to the continued loss of sagebrush throughout western North America. An [...]

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