Great Basin Science Delivery Project Delivers

The Great Basin Science Delivery Project and the BLM’s Great Basin Restoration Initiative hosted a one-day field tour of vegetation treatments and fire sites in a large 100,000-acre priority watershed.  The purpose of the tour was to view the progress and accomplishments made by a variety of groups, primarily the BLM, where the focus has been a combined effort of agencies, partners, diverse interests, greater sage-grouse working groups, livestock permittees and big game advocates.  The tour was conducted in late spring and included sites rehabilitated following the large-scale efforts on the Milford Flat Fire site.  It was arranged by Génie MontBlanc, Great Basin Science Delivery Project coordinator from Reno, Nevada and led by Paul Briggs, BLM Fuels Program Manager for the BLM Utah Color Country District.  The tour included examples of watershed restoration, fuels management and emergency stabilization and rehabilitation projects that used various techniques including seeding, mechanical treatments, and prescribed fire. 

Approximately 40 individuals from agencies across several western states were in attendance to learn about opportunities for improving the vegetative composition, structure and value for wildlife and soil stability.  The group was also shown thousands of acres of rangelands that have been restored to a quality of functionality, under a prescribed grazing program that has not existed in the area for the past 100 years.
 
Paul Briggs and his staff guided the group to a number of sites that had been treated with various prescriptions to eliminate the threats and risks associated with dense stands of Utah juniper and pinyon pine trees, as well as decadent stands of shrubs that supported a dangerously thick understory of cheat grass that is highly combustible under summer heat.  The objectives of the treatments also focused on the improvement of habitat once occupied by the greater sage-grouse.
 
The tour visited areas that supported less than one percent composition of perennial grasses and more than 42 percent pinyon-juniper prior to treatments in 2010.  One year following treatments, juniper was reduced to one percent, and perennial grasses, forbs and shrubs had been increased to over nine percent.  The tour of these now two-year old areas, provided the group an opportunity to see how amazingly the area had converted to healthy and resilient vegetation that will persist for years under the correct management prescriptions. 
 
The tour also included examples along portions of the largest wildfire in the history of Utah that burned in 2007.  Now, five years following a massive effort in cooperation with BLM and the Utah Partners for Conservation and Development (Utah PCD) to conduct post-fire restoration and rehabilitation of the critical habitats that burned, stands of waving grasses, forbs and browse could be seen. 
 
For the entire day, visitors viewed improved areas across the Beaver River Watershed.  All of the treatments visited during the field trip were completed in cooperation with the tremendously successful Utah PCD Partnership that has enabled success stories across troubled watersheds in Utah over the last eight years.
 
The amazing work that has been accomplished in Utah’s Color Country District as a result of the dedicated fire, fuels and restoration staff gives hope to the attainment of statewide and Great Basin- wide objectives to re-establish healthy, functional, and productive ecosystems that are more resilient to drought, infestation by exotic plant and animal species, and to catastrophic wildfires, thus providing communities the values that they depend upon.  All work was coordinated and planned in association with the priority guidelines established by the Utah PCD/Watershed Restoration Initiative partnership.


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Researchers and Managers view the successful vegetative responses to Bull Hog treatments in the fall of 2010 Succulent forbs and perennial grasses grow amongst the litter of masticated trees that inhabited the site 2 years earlier Attendees view an  area that was treated with the Dixie Harrow  6 years earlier. The area reflects a healthy composition of forage for livestock, big game and sage grouse Young sagebrush, grasses and forbs provide forage available for Sage Grouse At the conclusion of the tour, the attendees pose for a group shot within an area burned over by the Milford Flat Fire  five years earlier, and since successfully rehabilitated with a variety of desirable vegetation