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Antelope Bitterbrush and Scouler's Willow Response to a Shelterwood Harvest and Prescribed Burn in Western Montana

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In many western Montana ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) stands, fire suppression and past selective logging of large trees have resulted in conditions favoring succession to dense stands of shade-tolerant, but insect- and disease-prone Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Stand thinning and understory prescribed burning have been proposed as surrogates for pre-Euro-American settlement ecological processes and as potential treatments to improve declining forest condition and reduce the probability of severe wildfire. To test the effectiveness of these silvicultural techniques on overstory and understory conditions, research is ongoing in the Lick Creek Demonstration Site in the Bitterroot National Forest, Montana. Our research examined the response (mortality and vigor) of the dominant browse species, antelope bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata) and Scouler's willow (Salix scouleriana), to a ponderosa pine stand restoration project utilizing four treatments: (1) a shelterwood cut that removed 53% of the tree basal area; (2) a shelterwood cut with a low fuel consumption burn; (3) a shelterwood cut with a high fuel consumption burn; and (4) a control. Prior to the application of treatments, 1,856 bitterbrush and 871 willow were located, and their survival and vigor subsequently monitored for 2 yr posttreatment. The cut and burn treatments resulted in the greatest reduction in antelope bitterbrush and Scouler's willow density averaging 66% and 24% of pretreatment density, respectively. The shelterwood cut reduced bitterbrush and Scouler's willow density by 35% and 14%, respectively. On treatments receiving a shelterwood cut (all treatments but the control), but where antelope bitterbrush and Scouler's willow did not have fire damage, mortality was 45% for bitterbrush and 20% for willow, respectively. For bitterbrush and Scouler's willow plants that received fire damage, mortality was 72% for bitterbrush and 19% for willow. Although the burn and shelterwood harvest treatments resulted in reduced density of antelope bitterbrush and Scouler's willow 2 yr posttreatment, these treatments increased vigor of both species and created mineral seedbeds that may be necessary for establishment of seedlings. West. J. Appl. For. 14(3):137-143.
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Document Type: Journal Article

Affiliations: USDA Forest Service, Intermountain Fire Science Laboratory, Missoula, MT 59803

Publication date: 1999-07-01

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  • Each regional journal of applied forestry focuses on research, practice, and techniques targeted to foresters and allied professionals in specific regions of the United States and Canada. The Western Journal of Applied Forestry covers the western United States, including Alaska, and western Canada; WJAF will also consider manuscripts reporting research in northern Mexico that has potential application in the southwestern United States.
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