Scientific research published in the Journal of Wildlife Management and funded, in part, by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation indicates fire triggers new growth that produces quality forage “ approximately equivalent to that of irrigated agriculture” for elk and other animals.
“Fire is the big disturbance factor that a lot of the Western ecosystems evolved with,” Tom Toman, RMEF director of private lands stewardship, told the Billings Gazette.
Toman also explained that fire removes pine needles and other woody debris from the forest floor which in turn allows grasses, forbs and browse species that benefit elk.
University of Montana researchers conducted the study in western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley.
RMEF provides funding for prescribed burning, forest thinning, noxious weed treatments and other conservation work designed to maintain and improve habitat for elk and other wildlife.
(Photo source: Sheila Jennings Veerkamp)