Fire & Climate
Fuel Treatments & Effects
Sagebrush ecosystems in the United States have been declining since EuroAmerican settlement, largely due to agricultural and urban development, invasive species, and altered fire regimes, resulting in loss of biodiversity and wildlife habitat. To combat continued conversion to undesirable ecological states and loss of habitat to invasive species fueled by frequent fire, a variety of fuel treatments, including networks of fuel breaks, are being implemented or proposed in sagebrush ecosystems, particularly in and around the Great Basin. In this forum paper we briefly review current knowledge of common fuel treatment approaches, their intended benefits, potential risks, and limitations. We additionally discuss challenges for fuel treatment strategies in the context of changes in climate, invasive species, wildlife habitat, and human population, and we explore how advances in geospatial technologies, monitoring, and fire behavior modeling, as well as accounting for social context, can improve the efficacy of fuels management in sagebrush ecosystems. Finally, given continued potential for ecosystem transformation, we describe approaches to future fuels management by considering the applicability of the Resist-Accept-Direct (RAD) framework. The intent of the paper is to provide scientists and land managers with key information and a forward-thinking framework for fuels science and adaptive management that can respond to both expected and unexpected changes in sagebrush rangelands.