The Science of Sagebrush: Measuring the Resilience of Rangelands

Resilience workshop in Oregon sagebrush

July 11, 2016

Abe Clark, NRCS soil conservationist from John Day, digs a hole to determine soil depth while Reid Kelly of LaGrande and Bret Cleaver, range specialist with the Ontario Soil and Water Conservation District, to determine the site’s resilience and resistance. Photo: Joshua Dillon

Oregon field trip with SGI partners examines the ability of sagebrush landscapes to recover from a fire

The following excerpt is from an article by Joshua Dillon, which originally appeared in the Baker City Herald. Click here to read the full story.

“You’ve probably heard a little bit about the whole resilience and resistance concepts — R and R for short,” says Jeremy Maestas, a sagebrush ecosystem specialist with the U.S. Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS). He was speaking to a group of about 30 attendees of a June 3 field trip in Baker County titled ‘How to determine the most appropriate treatments before and after wildfire in sagebrush and piñon-juniper ecosystems.’

The group included employees, scientists and a few interns from Oregon, Washington and federal fish and wildlife services; various regional BLM districts; soil and water conservation districts along with ranchers, Baker County Commissioner Mark Bennett, and Leticia Henderson, the Oregon State University Extension Service’s livestock and natural resources agent for Baker County.

The purpose of the workshop was to give ecological scientists the ability and tools to evaluate the resilience and resistance of areas their agencies work in to match up with the regional efforts in the management of public and private lands.

Maestas said it’s about the ecosystem. He explained that it’s important to make land management decisions that keeps the ecosystem stable.

“If we want more sage grouse, more mule deer, better watershed health or more livestock forage, it all rests on having a relatively stable sagebrush ecosystem that’s resilient to fire,” he said.

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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.