Print Page

<<  Back to Newsletter

Vegetation Treatments

Before treatment.
Enos Creek, July 2009 
before treatment.

Before treatment.
Enos Creek, September 
2009 after treatment.

Seedlings planted.
Sagebrush seedlings 
planted in an area burned 
on East Black Mountain.

Before treatment.
Ainsworth allotment in July 2006 before Plateau application.

After treatment.
Ainsworth allotment in July 2008 after Plateau application.

The Worland Field Office (WFO) is currently involved with several vegetation treatment projects to protect and enhance sage-grouse habitat on a landscape scale, while considering ecological, economic, and cumulative impacts. These treatments include mechanical juniper removal, using chainsaws and a tree grinder mounted on a tracked bobcat, planting sagebrush seedlings to repopulate areas that have lost sagebrush to wildfire, and aerial application of herbicides to reduce cheatgrass invasions. The goals of these projects are to complete habitat treatments which are beneficial to sage-grouse, bring about a mosaic of early, mid-, and late- seral vegetation stages on a landscape scale, and reduce concentrated and/or highly flammable fuel loads to decrease the intensity of wildfires. Landscape-sized wildfire can be detrimental for wildlife by removing the sagebrush component over a large area for a long period of time—sometimes several decades. Invasive species, especially cheatgrass, often dominate areas burned by severe wildfire which may result in permanent habitat degradation.

The juniper removal projects represent an established technique to enhance and rehabilitate shrub/steppe communities for sage-grouse and other sagebrush dependant wildlife species. Previous similar treatments have demonstrated enhancements to watersheds, reduced soil erosion, and improved forage quantity and quality for wildlife. Since 2009, the WFO has treated approximately 2,000 acres using this technique on five different projects with continued tr eatments planned for the next 10 years. These projects include the Lower Enos Creek, Myer’s Spring, Upper Alkali, Rome Hill, and Crooked Creek projects.

Using funds from the Seeds of Success program, sagebrush seedlings were reared from seed collected from within the WFO boundary. Seedlings were planted in areas burned in wildfires which have either greatly reduced numbers or a complete absence of Wyoming big sagebrush. Trials to determine what the best planting practices are for the Bighorn Basin began in 2005, and great success has been achieved using a specific autumn planting technique. To date, 120 acres of previously burned land have been planted with Wyoming big sagebrush with an average establishment success rate of 86 percent. More seedlings will be planted this autumn on areas that burned in the East Black Mountain wildfire of 1996 in cooperation with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

In an attempt to decrease cheat grass invasion in sage-grouse habitat and reduce highly flammable fuel loads, WFO has aerially applied herbicides. The first aerial applications were done in 2000 using Roundup herbicide on land that had burned in 1996. Roundup is a short action herbicide that only kills actively growing cheat grass and does not have pre-emergent properties. Field trials done in 2001 through 2003 showed that moderate rates of Plateau herbicide, with pre-emergent properties, would benefit wildfire-burned land that had a moderate invasion of cheat grass. Plateau herbicide has since been applied to 3,000 acres of land in the WFO with success in inhibiting cheat grass seed germination and seedling establishment for between three and four years.

Another 4,500 acres of wildfire burned land located within sage-grouse habitat will be treated with Plateau herbicide in August 2011. Plans are being made to treat an additional 50,000 acres over the next ten years in cooperation with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Other partners include the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, the Big Horn Basin sage-grouse Local Working Group, and various local ranches.

Last updated: 05-16-2011