• Vegetative response to burning on Wyoming mountain-shrub big game ranges

      Cook, J. G.; Hershey, T. J.; Irwin, L. L. (Society for Range Management, 1994-07-01)
      Information on vegetative productivity and nutritive responses to burning in mesic, high elevation big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata Nutt.) communities is limited. We investigated the effects of 2 wildfires and 3 prescribed fires on current year's production of herbs and selected shrubs for 3 years post-burn, and forage quality for 2 years post-burn in high elevation big sagebrush habitats in southcentral Wyoming. Production of perennial herbs on burned sites averaged twice that on controls, while production of annual herbs varied little 2-3 years post-burn. Burn-induced mortality of Saskatoon serviceberry (Amelanchier alnifolia (Nutt) Nutt. ex Roem.) was less than or equal to 15%, but a 6-fold increase in twig production more than compensated for plant losses. Mortality of true mountain mahogany (Cercocarpus montanus Raf.) and antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata (Pursh) DC) averaged 25% and 55%, respectively, but these losses generally were compensated by increases in browse production. Crude protein content of herbs from late spring through early far was significantly higher on burns for 2 years post-burn. These results suggest well-managed prescribed burning programs have potential to improve May through September diets of large herbivores in southcentral Wyoming mountain-shrub communities.