Journal of NACAA

Evaluating Targeted Grazing as a Fuels Treatment

ISSN 2158-9429

Volume 16, Issue 2 - December 2023

Editor: Linda Chalker-Scott


Wildfires have caused concern as they have increased in severity and intensity over the last few decades. Land managers often seek to mitigate wildfire risk by reducing fuel loads, thus decreasing wildfire intensity. This study evaluated the effects of targeted sheep and goat grazing at an 80% utilization level to create three fuel breaks at Camp Williams, a National Guard camp near Bluffdale, Utah. Inappropriate grazing practices may exacerbate the spread of cheatgrass, which promotes earlier and larger wildfires and extends the wildfire season. In this study, none of the sites showed a significant increase in cheatgrass cover following targeted grazing. However, at the Oak Springs site, the cover and density of sagebrush were lower in grazed plots when compared to ungrazed plots, demonstrating the effectiveness of Fall/Winter grazing in reducing sagebrush cover. This is an important finding, as previous research has shown that removing shrubs like sagebrush increases perennial grass and other herbaceous cover. Indeed, the reduction of sagebrush at this site led to an increase in forbs and grasses. Well-timed, targeted grazing at the correct utilization level is an effective tool to create fuel breaks and mitigate fire risk, particularly at the wildland-urban interface. If done correctly, this will not cause long-term ecological degradation, demonstrating that properly managed grazing can be a valuable tool in managing wildfire risk.

Keywords: Wildfire mitigation, fuel breaks, targeted grazing, cheatgrass

Abbreviations: WUI, wildland-urban interface; AUM, animal unit month

View/Download Full Article