Long-term Sagebrush Treatment Research
Wild Utah Project has been collaborating with our chief partners, USDA Agricultural Research Services and Utah State University, on a long-term large scale research study since 2009. We are investigating the interaction between mechanical sagebrush treatments and the return of cattle grazing. The results of this study fill a significant gap in the sagebrush ecosystem restoration literature and have implications for sage-grouse habitats. The long-term field site is located on Kennecott Utah Copper lands on the west side of the Salt Lake Valley, where a single grazing permittee who grazes most of the east sagebrush-filled bench of the Oquirrh Mountains is a willing partner to a 160 acre, 20+ year grazing study.
In 2010 state contractors implemented the standard 'Dixie-Harrow' treatment (mechanical removal of large swaths of sagebrush typically employed by Bureau of Land Management) across the eight separate 20-acre study plots designated across a predominantly homogeneous sagebrush habitat on the west bench of the Oquirrh mountains. For the next two years, together with our partners, we recorded post-treatment vegetation conditions in cattle exclosure plots to compare to the pre-treatment conditions that were previously recorded. Cattle were introduced back into designated areas of the plots in 2013, and are brought in every year either in the fall or the spring. Permanently fenced 5 m2 subplots within each of the larger plots allow us to follow the vegetation trajectories in the treated/grazed, treated/ungrazed, untreated/grazed, untreated/ungrazed combinations and compare results across treatments and the interactions between them. The initial findings of this study are included in a manuscript that is being reviewed for publication. On-going work and results of the larger long-term study will result in a series of publications to follow.