We describe short-term (< or =10 yrs) and long-term (>10 yrs) responses of prescribed burning to enhance nesting and early brood-rearing habitat for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus). Our primary objective was to provide a literature synthesis to identify short- and long-term responses of prescribed burning to important components of sage-grouse nesting and early brood-rearing habitats in mountain (Artemisia tridentata vaseyana) and Wyoming (A. t. wyomingensis) big sagebrush. In our synthesis, we evaluated ecological status (bare ground and litter), food availability (forbs and insects), and vegetation structure (grass and sagebrush cover). We used six criteria to identify n = 12 papers providing meaningful and rigorous results. Of these papers, six reported the effects of burning in mountain big sagebrush; seven in Wyoming big sagebrush; and one provided information for mountain and Wyoming big sagebrush. Our findings point to some potential for short-term enhancement of forbs and grasses in mountain big sagebrush, but no long-term enhancement of herbs in mountain big sagebrush or short- or long-term enhancement of herbs in Wyoming big sagebrush. In particular, prescribed burning leads to a pronounced negative response in sagebrush cover that lasts for at least a few decades. Based on our findings, we cannot recommend burning Wyoming big sagebrush to enhance sage-grouse nesting or early brood-rearing habitat and we suggest prescribed burning has limited short-term value in enhancing forbs and grasses for sage-grouse inhabiting Mountain big sagebrush.
Beck, Jeffrey L.; Klein, J. Garrett; Wright, Justin; Wolfley, Kenneth P. 2011. Potential and pitfalls of prescribed burning big sagebrush habitat to enhance nesting and early brood-rearing habitats for greater sage-grouse. Natural Resources and Environmental Issues 16(5).