Date of this Version
Fire Science Brief, Issue 87, January 2010
Over time, fire exclusion has caused the accumulation of fuels and changes in vegetation structure and composition in many western ecosystems. This is commonly assumed to have also occurred in the oak woodlands, shrub lands and grasslands of southwestern Oregon. As a result, land managers of the Medford District of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) have sought to reduce fuel-loads using a variety of thinning methods including mechanical mastication and hand-cutting, piling and burning. As of the mid-1990s, these treatments have been used on thousands of acres annually of the Ashland Resource Area (ARA) of the BLM. Since non-coniferous ecosystems of southwest Oregon were seldom studied, researchers hoped to achieve a greater understanding of the ecosystems by studying the plant communities and their relation with the environment such as slope, elevation and soils. Researchers also needed to gather information about the region’s historical condition as well as observe how plant communities in the chaparral components of the area responded to thinning treatments. Above all, researchers sought to determine the effectiveness and consequences of these treatments—not only for the native and non-native plant species, but for ecosystem preservation and restoration.