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Project ID: 15-1-07-30

Year: 2015

Date Started: 10/01/2015

Ending Date:  03/31/2019

Title: Lick Creek Demonstration-Research Forest: 25-Year Fire and Cutting Effects on Vegetation and Fuels

Project Proposal Abstract: Knowledge of forest vegetation and fuel dynamics following restoration treatments, and how these differ among restoration treatment alternatives, is essential for managers to understand and prescribe treatments with efficacy and longevity. In the northern Rocky Mountains, fire-dependent ponderosa pine forests were historically maintained by frequent, low severity fires. Reduced wildfire occurrence since the early 1900s has led to denser forests with increased surface and ladder fuels in many areas. Managers often use a variety of burning, cutting, and burning/cutting treatment combinations to achieve ecosystem restoration and hazardous fuels reduction objectives (hereafter: restoration treatments) in these areas with altered fire regimes. Intense research has demonstrated the short-term success of many treatments to restore forest vegetation structure and composition to a more desirable ecological state and to minimize the occurrence of uncharacteristically high intensity, stand-replacing fires. However, the long-term effects of these restoration treatments on vegetation and fuel dynamics remain unclear. As a result, managers of ponderosa pine forests in the Northern Rockies lack proper guidelines to anticipate the longevity of alternative restoration and fuel treatments, assess the need to maintain such treatments, and determine the frequency at which maintenance should occur. The Lick Creek Demonstration/Research Forest (Darby Ranger District of the Bitterroot National Forest) offers a truly unique opportunity to assess 25-year-effects of burning and cutting restoration treatments. Many managers would readily recognize Lick Creek as the site from which the iconic images documenting forest change during the fire exclusion era were developed from a photographic series dating from 1909 to 1997. In 1991, a cooperative venture among the Bitterroot National Forest, University of Montana, and Forest Service Intermountain Research Station (now Rocky Mountain Research Station) initiated a new manipulative research experiment to explore a variety of treatment strategies to restore the sites ponderosa pine vegetation community and reduce fuel loads down to historically-appropriate levels. Two separate but related experiments totaling 215 ha were designed, with prescribed burning and cutting treatment variants that sought to restore the site through different approaches. In doing so, they embraced virtually the full suite of possible treatment combinations that managers of ponderosa pine forests in this region employ. Silvicultural treatments were implemented in 1992, followed by prescribed burning in 1993 and 1994, under a fully replicated experimental design involving randomization of treated units and a permanent, systematic plot sampling network. In a formal recognition of its long-term research value, the site was officially designated as a Demonstration/Research Forest by the Bitterroot National Forest to encourage its integrity as a long-term research site. The Lick Creek Demonstration project now offers an unparalleled opportunity to gain understanding of 25-year responses of vegetation and fuels to ponderosa pine restoration treatments (1991-2016). No other study of this length exists in the Northern Rockies and the inferential value of treatments employed at Lick Creek is very high: the forest type is ubiquitous in the northern Rocky Mountains, and the treatments performed more than 20 years ago remain staples of ponderosa pine forest management in this region. Additionally, treatments implementation was meticulously documented, the sampling plot network is fully intact, the stands remain unmolested, and historic data records are complete. Here, we request funding to capitalize on this unique opportunity by re-measuring Lick Creek.

Principal Investigator: Christopher R. Keyes

Agency/Organization: University of Montana

Branch or Dept: College of Forestry & Conservation

Other Project Collaborators




Branch or Dept

Agreements Contact

Sasha N. Lawson

University of Montana

Office of Research and Sponsored Programs

Budget Contact

Sasha N. Lawson

University of Montana

Office of Research and Sponsored Programs

Co-Principal Investigator

Sharon M. Hood

Forest Service

RMRS-Fire Sciences Lab-Missoula

Co-Principal Investigator

Duncan C. Lutes

Forest Service

RMRS-Systems of Environmental Management

Co-Principal Investigator

Anna Sala

University of Montana

Division of Biological Sciences


Michael G. Harrington

Forest Service

RMRS-Rocky Mountain Research Station

Project Locations

Fire Science Exchange Network


Great Basin

Northern Rockies


Southern Rockies









Bitterroot National Forest

Project Deliverables

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

Supporting Documents

There are no supporting documents available for this project.

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