Fire patterns in the range of the greater sage-grouse, 1984-2013 - Implications for conservation and management

Open-File Report 2015-1167
By: , and 



Fire ranks among the top three threats to the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) throughout its range, and among the top two threats in the western part of its range. The national research strategy for this species and the recent U.S. Department of the Interior Secretarial Order 3336 call for science-based threats assessment of fire to inform conservation planning and fire management efforts. The cornerstone of such assessments is a clear understanding of where fires are occurring and what aspects of fire regimes may be shifting outside of their historical range of variation. This report fulfills this need by describing patterns of fire area, fire size, fire rotation, and fire season length and timing from 1984 to 2013 across the range of the greater sage-grouse. This information need is further addressed by evaluating the ecological and management implications of these fire patterns. Analyses are stratified by major vegetation types and the seven greater sage-grouse management zones, delineated regionally as four western and three eastern management zones. Soil temperature and moisture indicators of resilience to fire and resistance to cheatgrass invasion, and the potential for establishment of a grass/fire cycle, are used as unifying concepts in developing fire threat assessments for each analysis strata.

The results indicate that fire threats are higher in the four western than in the three eastern management zones. Among the four western management zones, the Snake River Plain and the Columbia Basin ranked somewhat higher than the Southern Great Basin and Northern Great Basin in terms of fire effects on sage-grouse habitat. These results support the previous high ranking of fire as a threat to the greater sage-grouse in the western region. In contrast, considering the low rankings for fire threats in the eastern region, it may be useful to reconsider the relative importance of wildfire as a threat to greater sage-grouse in those three management zones.

Suggested Citation

Brooks, M.L., Matchett, J.R., Shinneman, D.J., and Coates, P.S., 2015, Fire patterns in the range of greater sage-grouse, 1984–2013—Implications for conservation and management: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2015-1167, 66 p.,

ISSN: 2331-1258 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

Fire Pattern Results
Discussion of Fire Patterns
Fire Threats Assessment for Greater Sage-Grouse Habitat
References Cited
Appendixes 1-13

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Fire patterns in the range of the greater sage-grouse, 1984-2013 - Implications for conservation and management
Series title Open-File Report
Series number 2015-1167
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151167
Year Published 2015
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Western Ecological Research Center
Description Report: vi, 66 p.; Dataset
Country United States
State California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming
Other Geospatial Colorado Plateau, Columbia Basin, Great Plains, Northern Great Basin, Snake River Plain, Southern Great Basin
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details