Skip to main content
Jeanne C. Chambers, Jessi L. Brown, Matthew C. Reeves, Eva K. Strand, Lisa M. Ellsworth, Claire Tortorelli, Alexandra K. Urza, Karen C. Short
Year Published:

Cataloging Information

Fire Ecology
Fire Effects
Fuel Treatments & Effects

NRFSN number: 26118
Record updated:


Sagebrush shrublands in the Great Basin, USA, are experiencing widespread increases in wildfire size and area burned resulting in new policies and funding to implement fuel treatments. However, we lack the spatial data needed to optimize the types and locations of fuel treatments across large landscapes and mitigate fire risk. To address this, we developed treatment response groups (TRGs)—sagebrush and pinyon-juniper vegetation associations that differ in resilience to fire and resistance to annual grass invasion (R&R) and thus responses to fuel treatments.


We developed spatial layers of the dominant sagebrush associations by overlaying LANDFIRE Existing Vegetation Type, Biophysical Setting, and Mapping Zone, extracting vegetation plot data from the LANDFIRE 2016 LF Reference Database for each combination, and identifying associated sagebrush, grass, shrub, and tree species. We derived spatial layers of pinyon-juniper (PJ) cover and expansion phase within the sagebrush associations from the Rangeland Analysis Platform and identified persistent PJ woodlands from the LANDFIRE Biophysical Setting. TRGs were created by overlaying dominant sagebrush associations, with and without PJ expansion, and new indicators of resilience and resistance. We assigned appropriate woody fuel treatments to the TRGs based on prior research on treatment responses. The potential area to receive woody fuel treatments was constrained to 52,940 km2 (18.4%) of the dominant sagebrush associations (272,501 km2) largely because of extensive areas of low R&R (68.9%), which respond poorly and were not assigned treatments. Prescribed fire was assigned to big sagebrush associations with moderate or higher resilience and moderately low or higher resistance (14.2%) due to higher productivity, fuels, and recovery potential. Mechanical treatments were assigned to big sagebrush associations with moderately low resilience and to low, black, and mixed low sagebrush associations with moderately low or higher R&R (4.2%) due to lower productivity, fuels, and recovery potential. Persistent PJ woodlands represent high value resources and were not assigned treatments (9%).


Mapped TRGs can help identify the dominant sagebrush associations and determine appropriate fuel treatments at intermediate scales and provide the basis for quantitative wildfire risk assessments and outcome-based scenario planning to prioritize fuel treatment investments at large landscape scales.


Chambers JC, Brown JL, Reeves MC, Strand EK, Ellsworth LM, Tortorelli CM, Urza AK, and Short KC. 2023. Fuel treatment response groups for fire-prone sagebrush landscapes. Fire Ecology 19, article 70.

Access this Document