Western juniper (Juniperus occidentalis spp. occidentalis Hook.) woodlands are rapidly replacing lower elevation (< 2 100 m) quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) stands throughout the northern Great Basin. Aspen restoration is important because these communities provide critical habitat for many wildlife species and contain a high diversity of understory shrubs and herbaceous species. We studied two juniper removal treatments to restore aspen woodlands. Treatments included cutting one-third of the juniper trees followed by early fall burning (FALL) or early spring burning (SPRING). Selective cutting of juniper was performed to increase cured surface (0–2 m) fuel levels to carry fire through the woodlands. We tested treatment effectiveness at removing juniper from seedlings to mature trees, measured aspen sucker recruitment, and evaluated the response to treatment of shrub and herbaceous cover and diversity. In the FALL treatment, burning eliminated all remaining juniper trees and seedlings, stimulated a 6-fold increase in aspen suckering (10 000 ha−1), but initially resulted in a significant reduction in herbaceous cover. Spring burning removed 80% of the mature juniper trees that remained after cutting. However, 50% of juniper juveniles survived the SPRING treatment, which will permit juniper to redominate these stands in less than 80 years. Aspen suckering in the SPRING increased only 2.5-fold to 5 300 stems ha−1 by the third year after fire. In the SPRING, herbaceous cover increased 330% and the number of species observed doubled by the third year after fire. If the management objective is to eliminate western juniper with minimal cutting and stimulate greater aspen suckering, we recommend that woodlands be burned in the fall. If the objective is to maintain shrub and herbaceous cover and moderately increase aspen suckering, spring burning is recommended. With spring burning it appears follow-up management will be necessary to remove juniper that are missed in initial treatments.
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Vol. 59 • No. 1