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Fire Ecology, 2009
Volume 5, Issue 1

Private-public Collaboration to Reintroduce Fire Into the Changing Ecosystems of the Southwestern Borderlands Region
Authors: Gerald J. Gottfried, Larry S. Allen, Peter L. Warren, Bill McDonald, Ronald J. Bemis, and Carleton B. Edminster
Pages: 85-99
DOI: 10.4996/fireecology.0501085

Fires caused by lightning or Native Americans were the major ecological factor in the borderlands region of Arizona, New Mexico, and Mexico prior to European settlement. Historical overgrazing and aggressive fire suppression have led to the encroachment of woody vegetation and accumulations of woody fuels in these grasslands. Ranchers associated with the Malpai Borderlands Group, state and federal land managers, and the staff of The Nature Conservancy agreed that re-introducing fire could improve landscape productivity and biological diversity. The ranching community was concerned that continued encroachment of woody plants would eventually affect its economic viability and result in the subdivision of ranches and the loss of its way of life. The parties in the borderlands group worked together to develop prescribed fire plans that have resulted in four landscape-level prescribed fires since 1995. They also developed a monitoring plan using established photo points, ground transects, aerial surveys, and remote sensing techniques to ascertain fire effects and to determine if modified procedures could be beneficial. The prescribed fires and results from the monitoring spurred research on wildlife habitat requirements, fire histories, fire behavior, the effects of cool or warm season burning on multiple resources, and interactions of livestock and wildlife grazing and fire. Information from prescribed fires such as those conducted by the borderlands group will become more important as anticipated changes in the region’s climate and vegetation produce new challenges to ranchers and agency land managers.

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