AoR 76: To Seed or Not to Seed? Post-Fire Rehabilitation with Richard Fleenor

Deciding whether to seed, what to seed, and how to apply seed after wildfire are weighty questions. Seeding costs money, seedings often fail, and most rangelands won't pay you back for rehabilitation failure. Richard Fleenor, NRCS state rangelands conservationist in Washington, has a background in plant materials and revegetation and discusses with Tip analyzing burn severity, pre-fire plant community composition, and options in seed selection and application.


>> Tip Hudson: Welcome to the Art of Range, a podcast focused on range lands and the people who manage them. I'm your host, Tip Hudson, range and livestock specialist with Washington State University Extension. The goal of this podcast is education and conservation through conversation. Find us online at The audio quality on this recording is less than we are normally able to provide due to some technical difficulties, but this is a good time to remind listeners that there are full transcripts of the interview that you can find on the show notes website, and at I apologize for the inconvenience, but because it is difficult to reproduce an interview, I would encourage listeners to check out the transcript if there are content details that are difficult to hear. Thank you. My guest today on the Art of Range is Richard Fleenor. Richard has a long track record working in range lands and is currently the Natural Resource Conservation Service State Range Specialist for Washington State. He has a lot of experience in plant materials, and we're going to focus a bit on that today in the context of fire recovery, but first some introductions. Richard, what got you interested in range land science and what are some of the roles you've been in as a range professional?

>> Richard Fleenor: Oh, over the years, I got interested in range science actually in college. I wasn't sure what I was going to major in. I looked into biology and forest resources, that kind of thing, but then I found out that -- investigating, that the range specialists the ones that spent the most time in the field, so I went, I'm going to do that. So that's kind of what got me into it. And over the years, I've worked for the Bureau of Land Management as a range technician and for the Colville confederated tribes in a couple positions. One is a vegetation ecologist and one is a Range Management Specialist, actually it's a range conservationist is what they call [inaudible], and then for the NRCS, I worked in different positions, a range conservationist, management specialist, and plant materials specialist.

>> Tip Hudson: And how -- who was in the position here with NRCS range specialist before you were?

>> Richard Fleenor: [inaudible] and he had that position for -- he's a longtime Range Management Specialist from the NRCS but he was only [inaudible] staff about three or four years, something like that.

>> Tip Hudson: And was Jerry Rouse prior to him?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yes, and he'd been there for like --

>> Tip Hudson: For a while.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- 10, 15 years or something like that.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah. And Jerry was instrumental, wasn't he, in helping put together some of the ecological site descriptions for Washington State?

>> Richard Fleenor: Absolutely, yup. And yeah, he was a really smart guy, and he put those together. We're actually reviewing -- renewing them now or updating them, and so they're going to be revised a little bit, but yeah, Jerry put them all together in 2003 and 2004, I think it was. Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: I think I'm still working off a batch of draft ESDs that he gave me back in '05 or '06.

>> Richard Fleenor: And I think they kind of stayed that way.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: I think we just left them as draft, and now on across the nation, they're trying to do more of them. It's got to do with, again, with some software issues. They were developing -- we have software now there that it's going to collect all our information, geographic information, so when a planner goes in and does a plan, this software will collect a lot of data geographically, like on soils, ecological sites, and stuff like that, so because that's a nationwide thing for NRCS, we're updating those ecological sites even more, and that's not to say -- we're not done yet with them by the way. It's not to say those old ones aren't super useful, They're still super good, and they're in the FOTG, the field office technical guide, so they're still -- they're still usable. By all means, use those until these other ones get updated and some ways some people may prefer the way the information is kind of laid out in the old ones to the way it's laid out the new ones and that's fine.

>> Tip Hudson: We may come back to ESDs even. I hadn't thought about that, but one, I'm talking about fire. People are maybe tired of hearing about fire and probably tired of things burning up, but periodic fire is a reality in much of the West. Yeah, even though we're enjoying a snowstorm today, we're still talking about fire, but regular fire is a reality here and in lots of places around the world, and love it or hate it, wildfire happens, and we have to think through how to respond to it, you know, how to limit ecological damage from wildfire, how to reestablish stabilizing functional vegetation after fire, whether to seed something new, even if new means getting back to native or naturalized species. All these questions seem to revolve around vegetation, species-specific responses to fire, conditions of the plant/soil interface, and the relative maybe adaptability of various possible plant species to a given soil and climate type. We obviously can't cover all of the soil/climate combinations in a one-hour interview but in the United States, and worldwide, there are lots of semi-arid vegetation types that have similar precipitation patterns, and I think similar ecological risks to the ones we experience in the intermountain west, and the Great Basin, which are themselves, you know, pretty large areas would cover an awful lot of podcast listeners. The impetus for this particular interview, and probably several to follow, is wildfire recovery in our region, the Inland Northwest and specifically rangeland fires, as opposed to forest fires, so we'll cover some details probably that will not be applicable everywhere, but the principle discussed would be widely applicable, I think. So feel free to punt any question that you don't feel comfortable answering, but we'll wade in and feel our way through some important topics that I know you know something about. It feels like one of the bigger questions that has to be answered relatively soon after a wildfire event is whether to let the existing plant community come back, or to apply intentional management effort to try to establish something else and direct the vegetation successional trajectory towards something other than what was there before the fire, and one reason that's a big question is that it's a financial question, especially for private landowners. This can cost a fair bit of money. Both seeding and weed control can be expensive, and so there needs to be some expectation of success to justify that expense, so here's the first real question for you. How does -- how would you go about determining whether seeding is advisable? You know, fire severity, pre-fire species composition come to mind, but where would your own thinking start on that?

>> Richard Fleenor: Well, I think that you have a point there off the bat, pre-fire species composition, that's an important thing to remember, and also your goals and how you use the land, because just because a fire comes through, and yeah, like you imply, it may be an opportunity to do something, but you still want to keep in mind how you've been using it and you want to use it the same way, and so also, and we can talk about whether you should seed or not in a second, but as far as species selection, stuff like that, you would really want to be compatible being on how you burn. Fires usually burn mosaic, you know? It's not super clean, and that kind of thing, so yeah, as far as that goes. Now as far as whether, you know, you just want to rehab the site, even considering what species were there originally and if you still like them, then of course-- and you know all this stuff. Burn severity is an important factor. If it was a low burn severity, and burns severity has to do with the amount of organic matter above ground and to some extent below ground, how much the organic matter, biomass, vegetation, whatever you want to call it, has been burned up and volatilized, and so low burn severity means your plants usually have -- most of your herbaceous species on range land, which most rangeland fires tend to be low severity fires, most of that stuff will have survived.

>> Tip Hudson: So I'm not really in the fire community. I'm curious, when if a fire ecologist says fire severity, do they mean -- me as a plant person, I'm thinking the amount of plant damage that's been done, but a fire person may be speaking of, you know, temperature, known temperatures or the, you know, the completeness of a fire, you know, how little of a mosaic is left. How would a fire person -- how would -- maybe how would you define fire severity?

>> Richard Fleenor: Okay.

>> Tip Hudson: I know those things are usually tied together, temperature and plant damage, but.

>> Richard Fleenor: Sure, and it's -- and people talk about burn fire intensity, and that's sometimes -- and you'll hear people actually use those sort of interchangeably and they're not. You know, fire intensity is yeah, like how hot things are burning and how intense the fire is. It may be super intense, but it might move through pretty fast --

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- and still leave root crowns intact, and that kind of thing, even though it was high intensity.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: But in that case, the severity certainly is how much basically, really organic matter has been volatilized, and that even means so even into the soil, to where like the root crowns, the roots, the other organics in the soil have been volatilized, so now your soil structure's changed, right?

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So now it's a more simplified soil ecosystem, if you will, and the soil has been damaged, so under low burn severities, that's not going to have happened as much as opposed to medium severity, it's a little -- it's worse, and some plants survive, but some don't, and some more soil damage was done, but not super extensive. And then high severity, of course, as you can imagine, is most of your plant matter has been burned out, and it's even burned organics in the soil. The soil structure is actually now changed, at least the top two to four inches or somewhat, and so you've changed the soil properties as well.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah. Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Did I answer the question?

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, so fire severity has to do with the effect of the fire.

>> Richard Fleenor: The effect of the fire.

>> Tip Hudson: You could have a fire that looks like a flaming freight train that's going 40 miles an hour, and it seems like it's Armageddon, but if it blows past, blows through the plant community really fast, you know, with high wind behind it, that may not do a lot of severe damage.

>> Richard Fleenor: Right. And some of us have seen that. Like oh, my gosh. The sagebrush is torching 20 feet high in the air. This is cottony. You can walk there 20 minutes later and go, wow, it's not -- yeah, it's not that bad.

>> Tip Hudson: So in the case of a severe fire, where you expect or know that there was significant plant damage, maybe to back up a bit, how would somebody determine if they're not sure whether the effects are severe or not, like determine whether or not -- say you got, you know, a bunch of perennial grasses that were there prior to the fire, and it burned, how can you tell whether or not those survived the fire?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, so the way you do that is -- and what I would always say, if you're unsure about that, you know, contact an extension agent or NRCS field office to get some additional help on that, but just going out there, if your -- if the root crowns of grasses are still intact, like you can scrape off the top. It may be blackened on top, but if you take your foot and kind off scrape off the top, and there's still a green crown or even a brown crown that wasn't burnt, then your grasses are in pretty good shape. That'd be low severity. And the crowns can even burn a little bit, and if you kind of dig down into the roots a little bit, but if all those roots just below the surface are still kind of intact, most of your grasses will have survived, and they'll sprout back the next year. Now, they may be scrawny that first year and, you know, you'll -- what the NRCS recommends after any fire is to wait. Rest that particular pasture that whole year and then defer grazing until seed set the second year just to allow those grasses to recoup some of that energy and produce seed and then kind of repopulate the spots that are vacant of vegetation with new seeds. So anyway, so if you can still see crowns and roots, that's a low severity. If you look at it, and you scrape away and the crowns look like they've been damaged more and their roots may have been burnt like down like about a little bit an inch or a little bit of the top surface -- and I guess I should also talk about -- well, a lot of duff on the surface. If there's still some duff left, it's a low-severity fire.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: You know? If you've got like not much duff left, but there's some duff left, then it's a kind of a medium-intensity fire and the easy ones are to see is high severity. There's no duff left. Getting back to the vegetation, it's just all been consumed. It's white ash. Low-severity fire, you have black ash, right? It'll be on the surface, and then moderate-intensity will still be kind of black. Black [inaudible] a high severity fire tends to -- you know, all you're left with is white and gray ash, and oftentimes, if you brush that away with your hand, the soils down below are kind of like a burnt orange, oftentimes, and so yeah, and there's just no vegetation, other than maybe some tree stumps, you know, big large stuff maybe is still there, but anything fairly small is [inaudible].

>> Tip Hudson: I'll just ask the questions as I think of them. In a severe fire where you have all the duff burned up, would there be -- how well does the soil seed bank survive? Would you get plants coming back from seed?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, like so in a high severity?

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: That's a good question, too. So in most cases, no, it will have burned up the seed back as well in a high-severity fire. It -- only seeds that survive might be down four or five inches or something like that, and those are liable to not make it to the surface anyway. But you will have -- and that's a good point. In low-severity fires, there still will be seed that will have survived, and moderate-severity, less so but so I'd say less so on our moderate, and then high severity you'd have essentially none. You couldn't count on it, in other words --

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- to like revegetate your site.

>> Tip Hudson: So whatever comes -- whatever begins to grow in a plant community that experienced a high-severity fire would be seed that blows in from offsite?

>> Richard Fleenor: It'd be deep rooted, like if it was a deep-rooted shrub or something.

>> Tip Hudson: Because it has meristematic tissue that are down below the heat level.

>> Richard Fleenor: Down below, you know, like you can torch off an aspen stand pretty crazy, right? And this goes for recreating areas in general. I see where it'll just go up a draw, and you think there barely is going --

>> Tip Hudson: Right. Takes everything.

>> Richard Fleenor: Takes everything, and there's like that white powder reaction. It's gone, but they have deep enough roots that the next year you go oh, my gosh. There's aspen like crazy there. So that's -- riparian shrubs will do that. Deciduous shrubs or riparian shrubs will do that.

>> Tip Hudson: What about perennial forbs? Will they survive them? Or are their growing points too close to the surface.

>> Richard Fleenor: They'd be pretty much too close for the most part.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: [inaudible] exceptions. Any -- well, we're talking about range, not forest, right?

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So there's some forest species just real quickly, you know, I've seen [inaudible] that it has seeds. It, actually when a fire comes through, it actually burns a little wax plug and you'll go to a place that you did not see [inaudible] and after the fire you see it -- you now see it everywhere --

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- and you're like, where did this come from? Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Uh-huh.

>> Richard Fleenor: So, but that is a shrub, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: So if you had a high severity fire, it would likely be a good idea to put some seed down?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yes. Unless -- so, maybe. [inaudible] the idea I think about it like if it's a high-severity fire that burned through like kind of a rocky place, it probably wouldn't do much good to try to seed that, and so if you have high-severity fire with, you know, moderate to deep soils, then yeah, that would be a good place to seed, but sometimes you'll get these higher severity fires on a steep slope and it's rocky, kind of, and you're probably not going to seed those anyway.

>> Tip Hudson: Might or might not take. With a low-severity fire, how would you make a determination of whether or not seeding might be a good idea?

>> Richard Fleenor: So low-severity fire, I'd say if you had a good range to begin with, or a fairly good range to begin with, and you had a low severity fire on rangeland, it's probably -- it's very likely it is going to make it better. It's not going to impact it, you know, blue bunch and you know, Sherman big bluegrass and all these, they tend to survive fires pretty well, and they actually, bluegrass tends to like thrive afterwards. If your -- you have like an annual cheatgrass range and [inaudible] moderate or light severity fire, that might be an opportunity to actually -- because it'll burn off the cheatgrass and it will burn some of the seeds laying on the surface and so it is almost like an opportunity if you want to take it, to like -- and I would recommend, if the landscape allows, to drill in seed, because you can drill in the perennial grass, and oftentimes, and particularly in like a moderately severe fire, you'll burn enough of that cheatgrass seed that you kind of get like a year of low cheatgrass production. If you do nothing, that second year, boom, you got cheatgrass like nobody's business, even like more than before the fire.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So sometimes you have a little bit of a window there, but if it's super light, you're still going to have cheatgrass that next year [inaudible] light severity fire, but if you drill in a perennial grass that can compete with it, then that in the long run should give you better range.

>> Tip Hudson: If you were going to seed some kind of perennial grass into a low severity fire that had cheatgrass before the fire, would it be a good idea to do some kind of site preparation, like a herbicide treatment for the cheatgrass? What are the -- or maybe, what would the likely successional pathway be if you just put down grass seed? To what extent could that suppress cheatgrass?

>> Richard Fleenor: Well, it's if -- I think ideally, if, you know, you had that situation, I think what I might want to do -- or let's just say we might be able to drill in your -- or regardless if broadcast or drilling, I guess if you're going to drill it in, what you might want to do is kind of wait, and if you get a fall rain, and sometimes we do, you know? We get enough rain that the cheatgrass will germinate, and then you could do a quick application of a broad spectrum herbicide and kill that flush of cheatgrass, so now you've burned some cheatgrass and that'd be the last flush, and if you drill it into that, I'd think you'd have pretty good success. If, yeah, if. Yeah, so I guess as far as site prep, in these drier environments, you're not going to want to wait until spring to see, because, as we know, with the type of a climate we have, wet winters and somewhat wet springs with dry summers and all that, usually wait until spring to seed, in the like less than 12 inch precip zone is your success is not that good. However, above that, like 14 inch precip zone, you can plant, drill in the spring and have success and that would give you actually another opportunity to spray the cheatgrass if that was the situation.

>> Tip Hudson: After spring greenup.

>> Richard Fleenor: After spring greenup, spray it and in the like higher than 12 or 14 inch or higher than that precip, and then you could drill in your perennial grass and that would be a good opportunity to kill that last flush of cheatgrass.

>> Tip Hudson: Are there other particular grass species that do a better job than others at displacing or preventing invasion of cheatgrass?

>> Richard Fleenor: Well, I think the main thing -- this is just my opinion, which I think it's probably common, is the most adapted grasses to the site, right? So if you're in the Columbia Basin and you're in the seven to nine inch precip zone, it really doesn't matter that hard fescue or some rhizomatous grass really competes well with the cheatgrass because of its root structure, if it can't survive the low precip. And number one to compete, you got to have something that survives where it's planted, and so even sometimes bunch grasses are your best choice, even though intuitively you might think well, they don't have a root system as good as, you know --

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- as a rhizomatous grass, so I would use -- you know, look at the ecological sites for what species can grow there, and then also find out from your vendors or whatever what plant [inaudible] what -- if they're not -- if they're introduced species, will grow well, like let's say in a really low environment, low precip environment and get that first, and then if you have some options there, what species have a little bit better root structures and stuff and, you know, go with those.

>> Tip Hudson: I may have jumped the gun on that question but, you know, if -- how would you go about determining what to seed? Because whether or not a plant can compete with cheatgrass is only one option, or one consideration. You just mentioned the plant's got to be able to survive in the given site that you're planting it in. Like you're not going to plant orchard grass in a six inch rainfall zone.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah. Yeah, so what the seed is -- getting back to kind of what your goals and what your -- what you have already and how you're managing the land already, because even let's say you're you got a site that's, let's say it's in a low precip zone and you got mostly native species, you know? We'll just say bunch for now. And it gets burnt over, and you think well, I got an opportunity to put in like a little bit more aggressive, like a crested wheatgrass, you know, a separating wheatgrass or something like that. And at first, you think gosh, sure, that's a -- that grows well in dry environments, productive, you know? It's hardy. I can graze it in the spring oftentimes, and you can graze bluebunch but again, if you had a moderate severity fire, you're still going to have bluebunch surviving, and then if you plant Siberian or crested, now you kind of have a funky mix of plants, and they're going to be grazed kind of differently by your livestock, and you may put yourself in a situation that is harder to manage now, because you got these two different types of species, so you want to make sure that, yeah, the plants can survive there, and they're going to work with the management system that you have, and the other -- and the plants are there, unless for some reason -- let's go back to the high severity fire, you know, everything's torched. Well then you don't have to worry about that so much, right? -- because you've got nothing left and you can put in kind of what you want, but having said that, you know, fires almost always are a mosaic, and you almost always within not that big of a space, you can walk from a low severity area to a high severity area, you know, and again, high severity tends to be more rare on range, but you can have pockets of it, especially if you have juniper trees or if you have sagebrush, high density of sagebrush in some places and stuff like that where the fire stayed longer. So you still have a mosaic, so it's never, you know, just a super quick answer, kind of a we'll always do this then.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, no.

>> Tip Hudson: Then a lot of lot of seed company charts or plant materials charts include ease of establishment as one of the -- for one of the ranking criteria. To what extent should that be considered. Like if a species is difficult to establish, one, what exactly does that mean to somebody who's not a seed grower?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, no, that's something to keep in mind as well. I would agree, so you might -- let's just, again, keep kind of talking about that low precip environment. You might have -- let's say you're going to put an introduced species in there, because you feel as if you'll have more success with that, okay? And you might have a species that's pretty easy to establish. In this case, I'm just using a couple of examples, like separating wheatgrass will do well in the seven to nineish precip zone of the Columbia basin, and you might go well, I know a a Russian wildrye, that's pretty drought tolerant, and that, you know, I might want to do that, talking about your ease of establishment, the Russian wildrye is kind of more finicky in getting established. Once it gets established it's a pretty great plant for forge and that kind of thing, but it's a little more finickier than, like Siberian wheatgrass. So yeah, you might make a decision there to go with Siberian if you don't want to risk it. So I can just -- yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: And does finicky mean that it has a -- tolerates a narrower range of soil conditions, or that it requires planning at a really specific planting depth? What all does finicky mean, in terms of establishment?

>> Richard Fleenor: Well, the planting depth is one of them, and then just the vigor of the seedlings is less hardy, so yeah, you got to be more picky on how at the right depth and then the seedlings are a little, you know, less vigorous so if it's competing with cheatgrass and all this and that, it's not going to do so great in the beginning, whereas Siberian would kind of do pretty well from the get-go. Yeah, so that's [inaudible]. Now in the long run, like if the cheatgrass was controlled and stuff, eventually the Russian wildrye will be really competitive --

>> Tip Hudson: Right,.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- but it's just -- it just doesn't come out of the gate as well --

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- and there's other species that are known for kind of easy to establish like slender wheatgrass, bluebottle rye, you know, mountain brome. There's quite a few like that and, you know, I don't want to get off the subject here, but oftentimes those ones that are easy to establish, they tend to be short-lived.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: It's kind of -- yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Right. I've heard it said about some of the big warm-season perennial grasses of the Midwest that it's a bit like growing an elephant. It takes a lot of work to bring it to maturity, but once you got it there, you really got something.

>> Richard Fleenor: Oh! Okay.

>> Tip Hudson: It has a lot of value. It's got longevity. It's, you know --

>> Richard Fleenor: That would be like [inaudible] rye.

>> Tip Hudson: -- [inaudible] asset.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Okay, yeah. But and yeah, there's, you know, that'd be -- I don't know. Is the audience just in the Northwest here, or --

>> Tip Hudson: No. I mean, yeah, it's more of a national audience.

>> Richard Fleenor: Okay, and so as you'd expect being a Washington NRCS, I'm more familiar with the Pacific Northwest.

>> Tip Hudson: Oh, yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: No, I think the same thing applies with some of the preferred perennial species here. Going back to seeding, I've seen some commercial Timothy fields where the soil bed was too fluffy, and the only place where it germinated was where the tractor tires had rolled over a place that had already had seed put down, and every place that had not been compacted by the tractor tires, nothing established because the seedlings came up. The root hairs didn't find anything solid to hang on to, ran out of moisture and just died.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah. Yeah, it's troublesome. Like, now this isn't in just range, but like in -- you have a lot of fires, you know, post-fire redoubt, there's be a lot of dozer lines around fires, right? And so, you know, the dozer lines, when they're fighting fire, they put all these dozer lines to control the fire, and then it's all over with, and then what part of the rehab is is they go and pull the berms back on the dozer lines, and by that time, it's all fluffy. It's almost powder, and then we'd have money to seed, and you kind of oftentimes, with fire, you're oftentimes you're limited when you're working with the, you know, assistance from the government or whatever. Like, okay, you have money to seed now. You do it now, or you don't get --

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- and so you'd seed this in not in the best of times, and sometimes you'd seed that and if you seed it right after they pull the berms, it's like you said, it'd be so powdery, the seed would kind of just sink in there. It'd be so fluffy, it wouldn't work -- do worth a darn. You know, it'd die. But then if you wait and you get a rain, then you get like a little bit of [inaudible] cap and the seeds just sit right on top, and that didn't really work so well --

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- so there's a lot of circumstances that don't really work out so well, you know, that you got to live with, and so.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah. Maybe talk a bit about planting methods, and we'll come back to some species. I've heard some aerial applicators say that you if you're going to apply seed in any broadcast method, you've got to get it before the first rains come following a fire because that tends to cause the ash and soil to kind of cap off and do just what you described.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Would you say the same thing if a person was trying to broadcast on the ground?

>>Richard Fleenor: Yeah, I think that it kind of sort of comes down to like precip again. I think, yeah, I would probably, all things being equal, try to get it in while there's still some ash that's a little bit powdery for lack of a better word, again, being -- keeping in mind that it's usually a lighter severity fire type situation that the seed can kind of land on that. I think that in a little bit higher precip areas where you get significant snowfall, I think that you can wait until if you can do like right before the snow falls, and then they get a snow cap layer on that. I think you can have some success with that, but I've seen so many. I've seen it done both ways. Right? And I've been disappointed both ways, quite a bit. And it'd be frustrating on these bear teams, spend all this money, you fly all that seed on, and you go out and it's just the successes is fairly low. So it -- yeah, that's why we always speak of if you can drill it in, right?

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: And if it's you're seeding a dozer line or something, if you can, you know, try to wait till that -- it's -- till you get good seed/soil contact without being super fly, you, now, things like that, because just broad -- I've seen so much seed thrown out, and even if it's you see, when it's still like right after a fire, if it's a moderate fire, you throw that seed out there, there's still so many plant roots and plants that are still there, the little seed isn't going to do anything and compete with the plants are already there anyway, and you'll oftentimes you'll see people seed a fire that it's like it doesn't even need it. It's not going to do anything but feed mice, insects and, you know, and because there's enough root crowns already there that it's going to sprout anyway, so yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Range drills are a pretty involved piece of equipment. It's not the kind of thing you can pick out for 500 bucks at a used implement dealer. To what extent are their rangeland drills available for rent for private landowners?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, that's a good question, too, and I wish there was more. And I haven't -- I'm not exactly sure. It wasn't too long ago, I was talking with one of the conservation districts, and I guess the BLM down in Vail has several range drills that they don't even -- I think they might want to -- they might not even renting or get rid of. They, you know, down there I guess they've got some. So I think they're around. I know the tribe, Colville tribe has an old one, whether it still works or not, you know, I'm not sure, but so some around but you're right. Most people aren't going to have access to that, so it -- you can seed it if it's not -- if you don't have rocky range ground, and you have a regular grain drill --

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: You should be able to run it. Of course, if it's rocky, then you're going to beat your drill up and people may not want to do that.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: You know, I get that. Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Let's go back to some to some species, and maybe reference material. Where would somebody like if, say, I live here, and I want to know what should I plant here? The way I would go about that, as a extension person is finding a list of plants for that soil type, either from a soil site description, or from a like ecological site description. Are there other places to get lists of potential species that would be native to that soil type?

>> Richard Fleenor: Well, let's just stick with that for just one second. Yeah, the web soil survey is out there for everybody. Just you can google that and pick out your location on the landscape. It's pretty easy to use. Pick out your area of interest, and it has all sorts of data, and like you mentioned, it'll have the ecological site description in there. And so you'll know what ecological site description you got, and even if it doesn't list -- it doesn't have the ecological site, it'll say what ecological site it is, excuse me, in there. Then the ecological site description, which is several pages of information. Then you can go to your -- the NRCS Field Office Technical Guide, and in section two, go in and find that ecological site description that fits soils on your map, and that gives you an idea what plants grow there natively, and so that's if you're interested in planting native species, that'd be a good source there.

>> Tip Hudson: And if you can't find that, you can call up your NRCS office and they can take your location and dig it out for you?

>> Richard Fleenor: Absolutely, and they'd be a great reference for even knowing kind of which, you know, which plants will do a bit better than others? And like these questions and the questions you have, which ones establish a little easier than others. And then also, which introduced ones, which obviously won't be on ecological description.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: And they might say, well, these introduced ones would work here pretty good.

>> Tip Hudson: I ask because I've had a hard time finding ESDs from the web soil survey, which is why I end up going back to the draft copies I've got from Jerry Rouse.

>> Richard Fleenor: And that's going to be changing, which it's not going to be very helpful to say now, but they're putting in this new software called EDIT, and what I think will end up -- that will be accessible to NRCS people, but then, I think it'll still be available to the general public in the Field Office Technical Guide in Section 2, those descriptions and yeah. And by the way, I know this is just -- that this comment is just for Washington, it's in the archive folder in Section 2. Don't be afraid to go in and use that.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, they're -- I have been really impressed with the amount of information that's available in the ecological site descriptions, and I think they're really useful.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah. They're very good.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah. Are there other lists of species recommendations, maybe specifically seeding recommendations for a given region?

>> Richard Fleenor: I know that, Washington, we have, again, and in the Field Office Technical Guide, we even have postfire seeding recommendations, just kind of a general one-page thing, because sometimes people need it in a hurry, so it gives some general recommendations for rangeland, for forest land, range, native range, not native and then also, if you plan on putting down something like winter wheat or something like that to control erosion as quickly as you can, but I think that most NRCS states will have their own. Well, several states, as you know, have plant material centers, and plant material, actually, the plant materials website is a great place, now that I mention it, for particular seeding information like this for particular states. So you can go to your particular state, or your closest plant material center, and then look for things in there, and they'll usually have guidelines on seeding and stuff like that.

>> Tip Hudson: Both species mixes and methodology, seeding recommendations?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yes, yes, and I know in Washington we have -- so quite a few years ago it was, I worked with Jerry Rouse just before he left, we put together a seeding guide, and it's on the Washington Field Office Technical Guide, but it's in an Access database, and more and more people are not using Access anymore, so it's something that I need to try to get in either Excel or even maybe even a simpler format than that, but if you have Access, and you're interested in Washington or Oregon seeding, particularly on a -- well on the east side is what this Access database addresses, but then we've also got information there for the west side as well, Oregon and Washington.

>> Tip Hudson: Is the information from that in the Washington and Oregon NRCS, I think it's like a revegetation guide or something like that? There's a publication that's a couple hundred pages long that's pretty significant. It looks like it might be the data that you're referring to in that Access database. Not sure.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, we might be talking about two different things, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Okay. That one I know is available and it's useful, so we'll post that [inaudible] link to that on the website.

>> Richard Fleenor: That would be great. And there's some really good documents that sometimes I just forget are out there.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: And, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah. One of the questions that -- I don't even know if it's controversial or not, but it's something that we get asked all the time. You know, to what extent is there a functional difference between locally adapted native seed that tends to be significantly more expensive per pound, and the commercial stuff that you can buy from a larger seed dealer, where they have the same species name, but there might be a tenfold difference in price?

>> Richard Fleenor: Well, I think that, of course, as you know I'm not a geneticist, right? So I'm just speaking from a range management and from a revegetation standpoint. Again, using the example here, the Columbia Basin is really dry, so you can buy bluebunch wheatgrass which, you know, the stuff that's been around for years, Whitmar, Goldar, some others that actually is really good material and it works really well, so I don't want to discount those, but if you're in a particularly really dry part of Washington, one of the drier parts of Washington and you needed like a bluebunch that to plant and it wasn't a huge area, and you could afford a little bit of extra cost getting a ecotype from the dry part of Washington, well, you'd probably have better success than getting the ecotypes that a little bit wetter part. Like Whitmar was found in a 14 inch precip zone, or actually higher than that. So in that case, I think you could go with an ecotype and it'd be justified. Here in Washington, once you get a little -- it gets a little wetter at 14 inches and that kind of area, I don't know if you have to justify the cost of a local ecotype.

>> Tip Hudson: So the more severe the environment, the narrower the range of conditions that the -- or that you need an ecotype that's specifically adapted to a low rainfall site.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah. I would get that.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah. That's helpful. What are some common species that you've seen do particularly well in a wider range of environments? I would expect bluebunch wheatgrass just because it, you know, its ecological amplitude is wide. You see it, you know, in really dry sites all the way up to 16, 20 inches of precipitation, and lots of different soil types. Are there others that are pretty adaptable as well?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, that one bluebunch is a good one and it's sometimes the more you learn about it, kind of the more impressed that you become, impressed it. Other ones, Sherman big bluegrass, which used to be Poa ampla, but now is genetically about to be the same as Poa secunda, just way bigger. So that one, that does pretty good, but it does pretty good in a lot of different areas, but again, it kind of suffers in a really dry part of the state. Of course I say that because I've seen it fail in really dry parts, but then go to a CRP seeding. I went to one last year, expecting it to not be in good shape, and the guy says it's been here 20 years and it looks like a million bucks so, you know, it's as you know, ecology is very nuanced, right?

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Soils, aspect, precip, you know, when the rain comes, when it doesn't come, and so it's even maybe a, you know, a few miles away something may do better than where you are, just because of all the --

>> Tip Hudson: Actually, the same thing with Idaho fescue. You know, some sites where the textbook description of Idaho fescue would say it shouldn't live there, but there's Idaho fescue everywhere, and it seems to be doing just great.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, exactly, yeah. So let's see. What other ones that might -- of course, you know, introduced ones do really well, you know, separating wheatgrass, crested wheatgrass, and then the pasture species, of course, you know, like tall fescue, you know, perennial ryegrass. Of course, those are forage plants, not so much they wouldn't really be -- you probably wouldn't find those so much in a fire situation because they're more pasture-like, less reeds-like, so I guess for range grasses.

>> Tip Hudson: What would be a reason to pick an introduced species that functions like a native, say taller or mid-stature bunch grass? What would be the reason for using an introduced but naturalized grass species?

>> Richard Fleenor: I think that if you've got rangeland that's already been really overtaken by annuals or invasives, whether it's [inaudible] cheatgrass or whatever it might be, and then getting the original, you got to keep going with [inaudible] but like to get a native plant community established, if you could get a introduced plant community established that is similar, like you say, functionally, but it'd be your odds of doing that, it's less risky. I think that would be a great improvement, right? -- over the annuals and the broadleaves, weeds, but it may not be perfect as far as, well --

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Ecological match to what was there before.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, but it'd still be close.

>> Tip Hudson: Less risk in terms of cost or likelihood of establishment or both?

>> Richard Fleenor: I'd say both.

>> Tip Hudson: Okay.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, both. Not that there'd be nothing wrong with that. I mean, like that's -- you kind of -- yeah, I don't -- I think sometimes you can't when you're dealing -- when you're managing working lands, you got to kind of be pragmatic, right? You got to kind of go with what's -- I mean, you got to deal with what you can afford, and what'll work and you can't necessarily just always shoot for the moon, you know? Well, nobody's going to do that. They could go broke, you know?

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: So he's just -- yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Plant what will work and what you can get down. You know, you see -- it seems like most commercial seed mixes have, you know, three to five species in them. Is there any -- you know, if somebody gets a good deal on a big batch of a single species like bluebunch wheat grass, should they add something to it? Is it acceptable to just plant a single species? What are some of the reasons for having a seed mix of two to five species in there?

>> Richard Fleenor: Okay. Yeah, so like first of all, the advantage of two to five species is they kind of operate -- they occupy different niches. So I think it's usually good to have two to five different species, and again, keeping in mind your management and it's quite acceptable to go I just want to go with this one. If it's just like general rangeland that was a native species, and you kind of want to just try to keep it back, get it back to where, you know, it relatively was, you probably, you know, five species is pretty good. That way you kind of ensure you got a shallow-rooted plant, a couple deep-rooted perennials, shallow-rooted perennials, and maybe a small-seeded, big-seeded. And you might even have a rhizomatous species. You want -- you know what I mean? -- kind of a mix of things. So I think it's, generally speaking and then so, you know, and you get if your -- you know, a fire, you're going to have shallow soils, deep soils, north aspects, south aspect, oftentimes. You know, you're going to have a variety of conditions, so it'd be good to have kind of a variety of species that when they fall on that particular site, Species A may not do so good on that site, but Species B is going to do okay on that site.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: And so that way you kind of -- you can kind of help ensure that you'll have more appropriate species across the landscape.

>> Tip Hudson: I think Sam Fuhlendorf would say with five species, you're five times less likely to be entirely wrong --

>> Richard Fleenor: That's a good point.

>> Tip Hudson: -- with any one of them.

>> Richard Fleenor: That's a good point.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Who said that?

>> Tip Hudson: Sam Fuhlendorf.

>> Richard Fleenor: Okay.

>> Tip Hudson: A range guy out of Oklahoma.

>> Richard Fleenor: Okay. One thing I would caution against, sometimes people will say hey, I got this species mix from the dealer or from the seed vendor, you know? And so oftentimes, and nothing against seed vendors. I work with them and I'm good friends with them, but they, you know, they got to sell a product, and they're not necessarily going to sell you the wrong stuff, but they may not be selling you really the completely right stuff, either. They might be some generic mix that they put together at the beginning of seeding season, and then you call up and they go oh, yeah, we got it. And they might have five, six species or it sounds good but there may be two of those species in there that are like, you wouldn't expect to do good, no matter what. They're just not appropriate for where you're putting the grass seed.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So I would always look into making sure that if that you do get a mix from a dealer, you know, make sure that all five of those species or whatever, so you're not wasting your money on one or two. It's almost like they looked in the back room and went oh, we got a whole bunch of this seed. Let's throw it in. We got to get rid of it, you know?

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, I'm sure that's what happened.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah. So and --

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Now one of the ones that's been talked about a lot in news a lot, and there's a lot of acres is crested wheatgrass. There's some new varieties of crested wheatgrass out there. What are your thoughts on seeding with crested?

>> Richard Fleenor: I think crested, if you're -- yeah, no, crested is great if you have a pasture, and you're using it, you need to use it in the spring pretty regularly, and that's what you use it for, and you need that. Then having something hardy like crested that take being grazed, you know, two springs out of three or, you know, it -- no, there's nothing wrong with that.

>> Tip Hudson: Cheap seed, easy to establish.

>> Richard Fleenor: It's cheap. It's easiest to establish.

>> Tip Hudson: You get some grazing value.

>> Richard Fleenor: You can kind of beat it up, as we like to say, and it comes back. Whereas if you put bluebunch in that same situation or most any other native seed here in the Inland Northwest, it won't last. It wouldn't last spring grazing.

>> Tip Hudson: Unless you graze it more carefully.

>> Richard Fleenor: Unless you graze it more carefully.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, right.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So, no, it's -- and getting back to that point about, you know, how -- what's your goal and how you're using it has a lot to do with it, and what's there, again, already, too, so.

>> Tip Hudson: Mm-hm. And what about these sterile annuals that are sometimes planted after fire for rapid soil stabilization? Does that only work in a forested setting where you've got a little bit more moisture and usually more organic matter? Or would that be applicable on rangelands as well?

>> Richard Fleenor: Well, I don't -- I haven't seen it done rangelands very often.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: And I don't think it's necessary usually because that's usually you're usually putting those in high severity areas --

>> Tip Hudson: High slope.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- on steep ground.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: And you usually don't have too much of that in rangeland, so I don't think you're going to need it. And as far as the sterile, I've been involved with quite a few winter wheat seedings in forest, steep, highly severe -- high severity burned areas, and I haven't really seen -- now maybe -- your listeners out there may have seen this but I haven't seen where winter wheat's the real issue. It comes up great that first year, first spring, and then you have remnant populations for a little bit for a year or two, and then it's gone --

>> Tip Hudson: Fizzled out.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- so it really doesn't -- for some reason it doesn't. I think the deer eat the seed heads off or something over time or it doesn't seed so well when it sits up there all summer long. And when we start winter, then it falls off or something. It just doesn't seem to reach the -- to where it's an issue.

>> Tip Hudson: Right, but now cereal rye feels like it's sort of similar to winter wheat, but it definitely can be a problem.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, that's right. That's a good point. Here in the Northwest, cereal rye is a real issue, which people in the Midwest, even on the west side, grow it on purpose, you know, for forage, but no, it's -- cereal rye is a whole different issue, and hopefully nobody seeding that after a fire, but -- and one thing, and also I wanted to say this real quick. You know, like why are we seeding, you know? And some people say well, we're seeding so we don't have erosion, you know? And that's -- sure, that's why you do it in part, but sometimes the expectation is oh, so we won't have erosion this winter. Well, you really -- you get no erosion control whatsoever until late spring in the following year.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: And by that time, you've had snow and rain.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So if it's going to erode, it's pretty much already done it.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So that was kind of, yeah, it -- and even winter wheat, I was checking a fire, postfire situation in July when you're after a thunderstorm, and it really took -- the winter wheat really took really nice and pretty thick up there, and even with that, we had quite a bit of erosion. The winter wheat was all just laid down flat, and so I'm sure it helped a lot of soil, but a lot of soil still came up [inaudible], so it's almost, you know, you can try to -- you do it to reduce the risk, but you're never going to be able to eliminate the risk of erosion after a fire.

>> Tip Hudson: We, Washington State had some pretty extensive range fires that were now a year and a half ago. If somebody -- a private landowner in that, you know, in part of that fire mosaic, has not seeded back and is not happy with the plant community that they ended up with after the fire, is it too late to go back in and put some seed down? And if not, based on what considerations?

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, so like what is it? We're talking like rangeland situation --

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: -- that they went back. I suspect that by now it'd probably be occupied by cheatgrass, if that was the case. So and then and that being the case, they may kind of maybe missed an opportunity, because now the cheatgrass too, like you say, a few years later, the cheatgrass is going to be full force and now they're going to have to deal with that, and so they're going to have to do some site prep, you know, some kind of herbicide treatment or whatever to deal that cheatgrass and then try to maybe seed in perennials. And I guess, if for some reason, they're in a site that doesn't have cheatgrass, it hasn't come, I guess there'd be no reason why not to. They're paying again what other species are there, drilling, if they can drilling, and seed compatible species, that if for their grazing management they would still work together. Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, I know the burn station in Oregon has done some research on the combinations of fire and herbicide to control cheatgrass and then follow that up with seeding. I think most private landowners would be pretty scared of doing a controlled burn for the purpose of seeding after it but if one person could do that, you know, say you can burn it early enough in the spring when the cheatgrass will burn, but everything else won't, would that be a worthwhile consideration, or no?

>> Richard Fleenor: I think burning alone for cheatgrass isn't going to do it, especially in a prescribed burn, where it's you're not going to wait till it's 100 degrees with 20 mile an hour winds.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: So I think burning with a combination with herbicide is great because you can like burn off a lot of that, you know, the vegetation, and then things are going to green up and then you get hit it with a herbicide, and I think that's -- that really helps the herbicide get to the point of contact on the fresh green leaves when they're growing. So I think a combination of burning and herbicide is a good combination, and then plant.

>> Tip Hudson: Followed by seeded.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Last question, then I'll let you go. I'm certain that I read somewhere that following fire, there's often a flush of nutrients that results in higher than average seed viability on the -- in the perennial plants in a year or two postfire. Do you know if that's the case? And if so, to what extent is that helpful in trying to reestablish vegetation?

>> Richard Fleenor: Oh, I think that's -- I think Mother Nature is kind of -- I think the plants have kind of evolved to do that. Up into areas where there's pinegrass seeding in a, you know, a Doug Fir pinegrass area, and pinegrass, as you may or may not know it, you know, they almost never have seed heads on them. It's a rhizomatous grass that, you know -- and I didn't recognize the plants. I was like, what is this big bush grass with all these seed heads? What the heck is that? They're all over after this fire. And that was -- it was pinegrass. It went to seed like crazy. And you'll see, you know, bluebunch do that, and other grasses, yeah, just that release of -- and obviously, some nutrients are released in the atmosphere so, you know, some are made more available.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah, and those grasses just really respond well, and that's kind of -- and that's probably almost another reason why if your burn isn't, you know, is still a low severity, let your grasses do this, boom, you know? And then if you control grazing afterwards, like rest of that first year, which means not graze for a whole year, and then defer the second year till after seed set, that may go a long ways towards getting your range back into shape.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: And it's amazing how ,you know, I'll just say this real quick. It's amazing and a lot of bear teams I've been on, you go out to site after a fire, and you go oh, my gosh, this is terrible.

>> Tip Hudson: It's a moonscape.

>> Richard Fleenor: It's a moonscape. This is never -- you know? And then you come back five years, you're like, wow! What happened to the moonscape? It looks great. I mean, not always obviously, but yeah, so it's those high severity areas are really, really the issue.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, but I've been pretty surprised, you know, in say an August fire, and by, you know, September 15th, you see four-inch-long leaves coming off of the plant crowns where you haven't even had any rain yet, but --

>> Richard Fleenor: And it hasn't even had any rain yet.

>> Tip Hudson: -- somehow they're coming back.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah. Yeah, that's crazy. Yeah. And that's those things that, you know, be ready, but you almost tell people, you know, don't panic, you know? Just, you know, yeah, but go out and look at it and if it looks like it's not high severity, if it's moderate or less, you may be okay.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: Because it -- yeah. A lot of people put a lot of money -- I mean, it's just -- it's -- you know, it seems like it's intuitive, like, oh, it's all burned off. Let's throw seed on it.

>> Tip Hudson: You got to do something.

>> Richard Fleenor: And it's really, a lot of times, it's better to not.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah, I feel like this reinforces one of my convictions about range management, which is that it's a lot easier to maintain a perennial, a healthy perennial grass community than it is to replace one that's been degraded and so, you know, taking management steps, such as being cautious with grazing, being careful about grazing to avoid losing the perennials in the first place, is way money ahead, compared to trying to fix one that has been degraded into cheatgrass and tumble-mustard.

>> Richard Fleenor: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. You know, and when it comes to fire, you can almost -- when it comes to fire, if you know your range is -- was in good shape, you know, prior to a fire, you almost don't have to worry, you know? So it was in great shape. It's going to come back fine. Now, like you -- if it was cheatgrass, then it's going to probably -- if it was in bad shape, it could get worse.

>> Tip Hudson: Right.

>> Richard Fleenor: Yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: More cheatgrass.

>> Richard Fleenor: It's going to be more cheatgrass.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So it's -- yeah, in fact, there was a -- we talk about prescribed burning. You know, when we were developing a plan years ago on the rez, you know, it's like, well, where should we prescribe burn, and they're we're not going to talk about that, and they wanted some guidance on that, and what it basically came down to, if it was in good shape, good shape range land, which you might think doesn't need a prescribed burn, that you can prescribe burn. If it's in bad shape, and you think that needs a prescribed burn, well a prescribed burn's not going to help that anyway.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah.

>> Richard Fleenor: So it's kind of -- it's not intuitive that way. It's sort of the opposite, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: I do have one more question --

>> Richard Fleenor: Okay.

>> Tip Hudson: -- since you've got the platform here. What would you say are a couple key management points to keep healthy perennial grass rangeland in a perennial grass rangeland state?

>> Richard Fleenor: That, I think understanding the grass growth, the physiography -- the physiology, excuse me -- of the grass growth, like when it's developing its -- how its growing points, whether they're low, when they get elevated so, you know, when your cattle bite them off and when -- how that affects basically, regrowth and all that, so I guess really understanding the basics of grass growth for your particular grasses that you're managing is really the key, because it's not just like well, I only raised half or whatever or this or that. It's like when you graze it, how long you graze it, whether it's being rebit and all this and that, so I guess, really understand your grass and how it reacts to grazing, and how so you know how you can get your forage from that grass, but without giving it long-term damage. That's really the key, and here in Washington, we have tech notes, that talk about critical periods for the grass growth in this state, and what are the critical periods when you should only graze during a critical period once every three years, and different things like that. So that'll keep your range in good shape. Just like I mentioned, you know, crested can be grazed more because if you understand oh, this grass, I can graze hard or more and still be okay. This grass, I can't do that same thing with, so just really understanding your grass and how you got to graze it is the most important.

>> Tip Hudson: Yeah. Yeah, I -- and from talking with quite a few ranchers, there's a lot of people who don't know about some of the really useful resources put out by NRCS, so we will put a link to some of those things in the show notes when this episode releases and see if we can push people to some good guidance that they haven't come across before.

>> Richard Fleenor: And I always recommend them talking to actually their extension agents. Their local extension agents are awesome, as well as NRCS field offices, yeah.

>> Tip Hudson: Great. My guest today was Richard Fleenor, State Rangeland Specialist with the Washington NRCS. Richard, thank you for your time. I really appreciate it.

>> Richard Fleenor: Thank you. Glad to be here.

>> Tip Hudson: Thank you for listening to the Art of Range Podcast. You can subscribe to and review the show through iTunes or your favorite podcasting app so you never miss an episode. Just search for Art of Range. If you have questions or comments for us to address in a future episode, send an email to For articles and links to resources mentioned in the podcast, please see the show notes at . Listener feedback is important to the success of our mission, empowering rangeland managers. Please take a moment to fill out a brief survey at This podcast is produced by CAHNRS Communications in the College of Agricultural, Human and Natural Resource Sciences at Washington State University. The project is supported by the University of Arizona and funded by the Western Center for Risk Management Education through the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

>> The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by guests of this podcast are their own and does not imply Washington State University's endorsement.


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