Firebreak / Greenstripping
There is currently a battle being waged by homeowners in many parts of the intermountain west and the battlefield is known as the "wildland urban interface". The foe is wildfire and those who live in this expanding zone cannot choose to neglect the enemy; at the very least to do so would mean substantial risk to one's pocketbook and at worst loss of family and property. There are many portions of this red zone where uniform building codes require adherence to wildfire mitigation planning and incorporation of defensible space that is the responsibility of each individual homeowner and the community in aggregate. Please see Wildfire Hazard Mitigation Requirements For New Construction.
Greenstripping, firebreaks, and vegetation management are the most efficient means of combating the risk from these cataclysmic events. Of prime importance in risk assessment within these zones are the fuels involved; everything within these zones must be considered fuel. At the top of the list for fuel assessment is moisture retention of the vegetation within these zones during those times of the year of greatest fire risk. This is where Kochia prostrata has very few, if any, peers. The beauty of this desert plant is that it is as close to zero maintenance as you can get. In the eventuality that there are not enough large mammals to crop this excellent forage (the plant still retains excellent feed value into winter), it may be pastured or even cropped for hay with no additional irrigation. If this wasn't sufficient, the plant is so aggressive for moisture resources that it will crowd out those fine ladder fuels such as cheatgrass and Medusahead. We have something which becomes more efficient with the task at hand, namely providing a protective non-fuel, as the temperatures increase and drought conditions become worse. Much of the plant's ability to perform these functions are directly linked to C4 photosynthesis.
The October issue of Rangelands Magazine carries a peer review article that relates directly to this matter and is reproduced here in its entirety with grateful acknowledgement to the authors and particularly to the Society for Range Management and Rangelands Magazine. (Photos courtesy of Mike Pellant, BLM/Boise, ID.)
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