• Cattle grazing and vegetation succession on burned sagebrush steppe

      Bates, J. D.; Davies, K. W. (Society for Range Management, 2014-07)
      There is limited information about the effects of cattle grazing to longer-term plant community composition and herbage production following fire in sagebrush steppe. This study evaluated vegetation response to cattle grazing over 7 yr (2007-2013) on burned Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis [Beetle & Young] Welsh) steppe in eastern Oregon. Treatments, replicated four times and applied in a randomized complete block design, included no grazing on burned (nonuse) and unburned (control) sagebrush steppe; and cattle grazing at low (low), moderate (moderate), and high (high) stocking on burned sagebrush steppe. Vegetation dynamics were evaluated by quantifying herbaceous (canopy and basal cover, density, production, reproductive shoot weight) and shrub (canopy cover, density) response variables. Aside from basal cover, herbaceous canopy cover, production, and reproduction were not different among low, moderate, and nonuse treatments. Perennial bunchgrass basal cover was about 25% lower in the low and moderate treatments than the nonuse. Production, reproductive stem weight, and perennial grass basal cover were greater in the low, moderate, and nonuse treatments than the control. The high treatment had lower perennial bunchgrass cover (canopy and basal) and production than other grazed and nonuse treatments. Bunchgrass density remained unchanged in the high treatment, not differing from other treatments, and reproductive effort was comparable to the other treatments, indicating these areas are potentially recoverable by reducing stocking. Cover and production of Bromus tectorum L. (cheatgrass) did not differ among the grazed and nonuse treatments, though all were greater than the control. Cover and density of A.t. spp. wyomingensis did not differ among the burned grazed and nonuse treatments and were less than the control. We concluded that light to moderate stocking rates are compatible to sustainable grazing of burned sagebrush steppe rangelands. © 2014 The Society for Range Management.
    • Of grouse and golden eggs: Can ecosystems be managed within a species-based regulatory framework?

      Boyd, C. S.; Johnson, D. D.; Kerby, J. D.; Svejcar, T. J.; Davies, K. W. (Society for Range Management, 2014-07)
      Declining greater sage-grouse populations are causing concern for the future of this species across the western United States. Major ecosystem issues, including exotic annual grass invasion and conifer encroachment, threaten vast acreages of sagebrush rangeland and are primary threats to sage-grouse. We discuss types of problems facing sage-grouse habitat and argue that complex ecosystem problems may be difficult to address under the Endangered Species Act as currently applied. Some problems, such as anthropogenic development, can be effectively regulated to produce a desired outcome. Other problems that are complex and involve disruption of ecosystem processes cannot be effectively regulated and require ongoing commitment to adaptive management. We believe that historical inertia of the regulatory paradigm is sufficient to skew management toward regulatory mechanisms, even though complex ecosystem problems impact large portions of the sage-grouse range. To overcome this situation, we suggest that the regulatory approach embodied in the Endangered Species Act be expanded to include promoting management trajectories needed to address complex ecosystem problems. This process should begin with state-and-transition models as the basis for a conceptual framework that outlines potential plant communities, their value as sage-grouse habitat, and their ecological status. Desired management trajectories are defined by maintenance of an ecologically resilient state that is of value as sage-grouse habitat, or movement from a less desired to a more desired state. Addressing complex ecosystem problems will involve shifting conservation roles. Under the regulatory approach, programmatic scales define regulatory policies, and local scales focus on implementing those policies. With complex ecosystem problems, programmatic scales empower local conservationists to make decisions necessary to adaptively manage problems. Putting ecosystem management on par with traditional regulatory actions honors obligations to provide regulatory protections while maintaining the capacity of the ecosystem to produce habitat and greatly expands the diversity of stakeholders willing to participate in sage-grouse conservation. © 2014 The Society for Range Management.