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Project ID: 13-1-04-45

Year: 2013

Date Started: 08/01/2013

Ending Date:  12/31/2016

Title: Integrating Fuels Treatments and Ecological Values in Piñon-Juniper Woodlands: Fuels, Vegetation, and Avifauna

Project Proposal Abstract: Piñon pine and juniper woodlands are important yet poorly understood communities of the western United States. These ecosystems support diverse and unique bird communities: 20% of nesting species are considered piñon-juniper obligates. Unfortunately, many piñon-juniper ecosystems have been considerably degraded by human practices over the last century. Piñon-juniper woodlands also make up a large proportion of the wildland-urban interface and many stands are high priority for fuels treatments to reduce wildland fire hazard. However, piñon-juniper management and restoration is often hindered by both conflicting management aims and inadequate scientific understanding. The purpose of the proposed research is to assess the relationships between piñon-juniper fuels treatments and ecological values, and to develop strategies to integrate fuels treatments with ecological values in piñon-juniper woodlands. Land managers frequently face trade-offs between wildand fire hazard reduction objectives and ecological goals. An understanding of the nature and degree of such trade-offs in piñon-juniper woodlands remains limited by sparse quantitative research. To what extent do piñon-juniper fuels treatments achieve ecological objectives, where are they in conflict, and how might fuels treatments be altered to reduce undesirable ecological impacts? Our study focuses on the piñon-juniper landscapes of the Arkansas River valley in south-central Colorado, on lands managed by the BLM Royal Gorge Field Office (BLM-RGFO), where 17,000 acres (7080 ha) have been treated in over 300 fuels treatments between 1998 and 2009. Building on a pilot study conducted in 2012 at the request of land managers, the objectives the proposed research are to: 1) Characterize effects of fuels treatments and relationships between piñon-juniper avian communities, vegetation composition and structure, landscape attributes, and fuels. 2) Develop metrics of the ecological effects of fuels treatments based on these relationships. Avian occupancy is a novel and promising such metric, because bird habitat selection integrates both stand-level and landscape-scale variation. 3) Model fire behavior, fuels, and vegetation dynamics in treated and untreated piñon-juniper stands. We seek $192,501 from JFSP to complete these objectives through bird point counts, vegetation and fuels sampling, quantification of landscape attributes, and statistical and simulation models. Data will be collected at 15-20 hydroaxe treatment sites and 15-20 hand-thinning treatment sites paired with 30-40 untreated control sites on lands managed by the RGFO. The information provided at each step of the way will lead directly to management recommendations and applications. The proposed research will be completed between 2013 and 2016; study findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed publications, field trips, webinars, and presentations at conferences and local district offices.

Principal Investigator: Jonathan D. Coop

Agency/Organization: Western State Colorado University

Branch or Dept: Environmental Studies Program

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Janice E. Welborn

Western State Colorado University

Sponsored Programs & Grants

Budget Contact

Janice E. Welborn

Western State Colorado University

Sponsored Programs & Grants

Co-Principal Investigator

Patrick A. Magee

Western State Colorado University

Department of Biology

Project Locations


Southern Rockies









Royal Gorge Field Office

Project Deliverables

There is no final report available for this project.
There are no deliverables available for this project.

Supporting Documents

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