The accelerated invasion of non-native annual grasses, the spread of pinyon-juniper into the sagebrush steppe, and intensified drought and climate change have created conditions for larger, more intense rangeland fires across the Great Basin. This heightened fire risk poses a threat to those who live and work in this landscape and the hundreds of species of birds, plants and animals that rely on the sagebrush-steppe ecosystem. In 2015, the Department of the Interior issued a secretarial order focused on addressing these challenges at a landscape scale. The Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy, developed in response to the secretarial order, outlines longer-term actions needed to prevent and suppress rangeland fire and restore landscapes affected by fire in the Western United States. To effectively implement the strategy, however, a framework for prioritizing and evaluating management actions was needed.
The USGS, with other federal, state, and university scientists, recently released Part 1 of the Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome (Science Framework) to help managers carry out actions that benefit the sagebrush ecosystem and the species it supports. The Science Framework will help prioritize areas for management and determine effective management strategies based on ecosystem resilience and resistance. Resilient ecosystems are those that can rebound after disturbances, such as wildfire. Resistant ecosystems are less susceptible to disturbances like establishment and expansion of an invasive species.
Part 1 of the Science Framework, published in April 2017, focuses on the science basis and applications for developing a multi-scale conservation and restoration strategy. It sets out scientific information and decision-support tools intended to help managers prioritize areas for conservation and restoration actions, budget for these actions, and manage strategies across scales and ownerships. Part 2 of the Science Framework will focus on other management considerations and will be available later in 2017.