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Rocky Mountain Research Station
Forestry Sciences Laboratory - Moscow, Idaho
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Soil & Water
Engineering Publications


Project Leader:
William J. Elliot
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Fuel management and erosion

Robichaud, Pete R.; MacDonald, Lee H.; Foltz, Randy B. 2010. Fuel management and erosion. Chapter 5 in: Elliot, W.J.; Miller, I.S.; Audin, L., eds. 2010. Cumulative watershed effects of fuel management in the western United States. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-231. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 79-100.

Keywords: cumulative effects, watershed, wildfire, fuel management, water quality, soil erosion

Links: pdf PDF [458 KB]

Abstract: As the severity and extent of wildfires increase, efforts to reduce forest densities on public lands by thinning and prescribed burning also are increasing. The intentional suppression of fires in the western United States, beginning in the early 1900s, has altered the extent, frequency, and severity of wildfires (Agee 1993; Baker 1993). Reductions in timber harvest and in grazing, when combined with the suppression of wildfires, have resulted in higher fuel loadings, which increase the risk of high severity wildfires (Norris 1990). Changes in the fire regime may also cause vegetation changes, such as increases in tree stand density, spread of noxious weeds, and tree invasion into grasslands (Arno and Gruell 1986). Any increase in high severity wildfires is of considerable concern because of the potential damage to life and property and the adverse effects on water quality, fish habitat, and other aquatic resources (Keane and others 2002). The goal of most fuel management efforts is to reduce the potential adverse effects due to increased frequency of large, high severity wildfires. Although forest managers attempt to minimize impacts of fuel management activities, the removal of vegetation and the alteration of soil properties due to logging, road building, and prescribed fire may affect site conditions, forest runoff, and water quality (Lindeburgh 1990; Lousier 1990; Rice and Datzman 1981; Tiedemann and others 1979).

Moscow FSL publication no. 2010b