Wildlife managers often resort to prescribed fire to restore sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) ecosystems thought to have been affected by fire exclusion. However, a fire mosaic of burned and unburned areas may be tolerated by certain wildlife but can be detrimental to sagebrush obligates. This article assesses evidence about the historical frequency and pattern of fire in sagebrush ecosystems and the need for prescribed fire. Fire-scar data from nearby forests require adjustment to estimate fire rotation, the time required to burn once through a sagebrush landscape. Estimates from forests require correction for unburned area and because sagebrush burns less often than forests. Recovery time also might indicate fire rotation.
Wildlife Society Bulletin