Download the compiled Great Basin Factsheet Series 2016: Information and tools to conserve and restore Great Basin ecosystems.

For hard copies of the compilation, contact Génie MontBlanc, Great Basin Fire Science Exchange Coordinator, at (775) 784-1107 or

Fuel Breaks That Work

July 16, 2015

Great Basin Fact Sheet No. 5: Fuel Breaks That Work

By: Kevin Moriarty, Lance Okeson, and Mike Pellant


Invasive grasses like cheatgrass and medusahead are continually increasing, converting native sagebrush-steppe plant communities into nonnative annual-dominated grasslands. In lower elevations of the Northern Great Basin’s sagebrush-steppe, the fire return interval
has been reduced from 50-100 years to less than 10 years in some places. These changes are having highly negative effects on sagebrush obligate species, including greater sage-grouse. This fact sheet provides a framework for the placement, use, and effectiveness of established fuel breaks for protecting sagebrush ecosystems.

In Brief:

  • Established fuel breaks are a useful tool for managing the size and severity of wildfires.
  • Managers recommend a holistic approach that includes education, monitoring, and maintenance to maximize the benefits of fuel breaks.
  • Fuel breaks are useful for slowing and sometimes stopping fires, but can’t alone be depended on to stop a wind-driven head fire.

Click here or on the image below to download a PDF of the full fact sheet.

GBF 5 - pic

This fact sheet is part of the Great Basin Fact Sheet Series compiled collaboratively by WAFWA, USFS, BLM, NRCS, RMRS, ARS, USGS, and FWS. The series provides land managers with brief summaries of current science concepts and management strategies related to conservation and restoration of the sagebrush sea.


The Sage Grouse Initiative is a partnership-based, science-driven effort that uses voluntary incentives to proactively conserve America’s western rangelands, wildlife, and rural way of life. This initiative is part of Working Lands For Wildlife, which is led by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service.