Date of Award:

5-2018

Document Type:

Thesis

Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Eric Thacker

Co-Advisor/Chair:

Corey Ransom

Third Advisor:

Beth Burritt

Abstract

Wildfires have caused concern as they have increased in severity and intensity over the last few decades. Land managers have sought management actions to mitigate the risk of wildfire by reducing fuel loads, thus decreasing wildfire intensity. Camp Williams is a National Guard camp near Bluffdale, Utah, where small arms and artillery training occurs. Managers at Camp Williams have created fuel breaks by implementing targeted sheep and goat grazing to remove fine fuel and thin brush. Management objectives set utilization of fine fuels (herbaceous) at 80% by weight. Questions arose regarding the ecological impact of the prescribed grazing rates in these fuel breaks. This study evaluated three fuel breaks and quantified the impacts of targeted sheep and goat grazing at 80% utilization. During the summer of 2015, herbaceous cover, shrub cover, shrub density, and bunch grass density was collected along eight paired (inside fuel break and outside fuel breaks) transects. Results indicate that the current management grazing plan could lead to an increase of invasive annual grasses, which may be counterproductive in fuel breaks. Often fine fuel treatments rely on high levels of grazing utilization (> 80%). However, high levels of utilization can lead to ecological degradation by reducing or eliminating native bunchgrasses. The objectives of the second study conducted were to determine how different levels of grazing utilization (30%, 50%, and 80%) relate to fuel characteristics and subsequent fire behavior. Results suggest that moderating grazing utilization levels (50%) may allow for more sustainable fuel reduction treatments while still reducing wildfire risks.

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