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U.S. Geological Survey

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Strong evidence indicates that western juniper has significantly expanded its range since the late 1800s by encroaching into landscapes once dominated by shrubs and herbaceous vegetation (fig. 1). Woodland expansion affects soil resources, plant community structure and composition, water, nutrient and fire cycles, forage production, wildlife habitat, and biodiversity. Goals of juniper management include an attempt to restore ecosystem function and a more balanced plant community that includes shrubs, grasses, and forbs, and to increase ecosystem resilience to disturbances. Developing a management strategy can be a difficult task due to uncertainty about how vegetation, soils, hydrologic function, and wildlife will respond to treatments.

When developing a management strategy, the first and possibly most important step towards success is asking the right questions. Identifying the attributes of the area to be treated and selecting the right treatments to be applied are of utmost importance. One must ask questions addressing the kind of site (that is, potential natural vegetation, soils, etc.), the current state of the site (that is, successional, hydrologic, etc.), what components need to be restored, how the management unit fits in with the overall landscape mosaic, and the long-term goals and objectives for the area or region. Keep in mind sagebrush-steppe vegetation is dynamic and management strategies must take into account multi-decade time frames.

This guide provides a set of tools that will help field biologists, land managers, and private landowners conduct rapid qualitative field assessments that address the kind of site and its current state. These tools include a list of questions to be addressed and a series of photographs, keys, tables, and figures to help evaluate a site. Conducting this assessment will help prioritize sites to be treated, select the best treatment, and predict outcomes.

Success of a juniper management program may be greatly enhanced if an interdisciplinary team of local managers and resource specialists, who are experienced with vegetation, fuels, soils, hydrology, wildlife, and economic and sociological aspects of the local resource, use this guide to aid their decision-making.


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