An Investigation on the Interaction of Wildfire and Grazing as a Management Tool

by Hannah Farrell, 2017

In my research grant proposal An Investigation on the Interaction of Wildfire and Grazing as a Management Tool, I proposed to investigate A) how the interaction of wildfire and livestock grazing impact the presence and vitality of invasive species, and B) the current attitudes that land managers and ranchers have towards wildfire being used as a management tool in tandem with grazing or other management actions.  My research is to be at a regional level, incorporating a variety of sites throughout southern Arizona. These research questions remain highly valuable in the development of effective land management policy and practices that will be adopted and used by local land managers. Research and anecdotal evidence point to conflicting understandings both in the research literature and by the community at large about the true impacts of many management courses of action; we are in need of empirical evidence. Further, most research on the resulting impacts of land management is conducted at a single site, which may not be useful to apply to an entire region.  


I received the CNRS small grant in the first semester of my PhD program so my research plan has grown and morphed slightly from my original proposal. My research project now specifically focuses on the invasive species buffelgrass and lehmann lovegrass since there is the most active land management around those particular two species in southern Arizona. In addition to considering grazing management and fire regime, I am also considering herbicide use and manual removal of the invasive species as a part of the parameters for research. In the fall of 2017 I have thus far established research sites in the Santa Rita mountain’s Sawmill fire (as described in my original proposal), in the Tucson Mountain Park area (where buffelgrass treatment is ongoing), and in the Catalina Mountain range at sites both impacted by wildfire and herbicide treatment. I have been working with the Buffelgrass Working Group to establish information about herbicide treatment at each location. My planned experimental design and data collection methods are consistent with my proposal where I will be comparing the plant cover, diversity, and production value amongst treatment types. As a part of the work with my advisor and Cooperative Extension Specialist, Elise Gornish, we have been distributing and collecting surveys at various workshops and meetings aimed at understanding the needs and concerns of land managers. 


I expect to continue this project through 2021 (my expected graduation year), and am very excited to see the results. I am also hopeful that these results can make an impact on land management in the arid southwestern US. I plan to publish this work in a peer reviewed journal as well as disseminate the results to local land managers and entities through meetings and technical reports.