Wildlife Responses to Brush Management: A Contemporary Evaluation

Timothy E. Fulbright, Kirk W. Davies, Steven R. Archer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Wildlife-associated recreation and biodiversity are important management considerations on public and private rangelands, making it imperative that rangeland professionals explicitly take wildlife conservation into account in vegetation management planning and implementation. Here, we synthesize the literature reporting effects of brush management on wildlife and make recommendations for applying brush management to accomplish wildlife conservation objectives. Key observations arising from our synthesis are that habitat-related terminology is often misused in brush management literature. Recommending brush management as a “wildlife habitat improvement” tool is a non sequitur because habitat is species specific and brush management has different consequences for different species of wildlife and plants. Communication between resource managers and stakeholders can be improved by making it clear that habitat is species specific and then identifying what constitutes a benefit of brush management. Changes in resources resulting from brush management may not benefit targeted wildlife species unless these changes overcome some limiting factor or factors. Wildlife responses to brush management treatments are too complex to make broad generalizations because they are mediated by environmental factors and depend on the plant community, size and configuration of the area manipulated, type of treatment applied, and time since application. Prescriptions aimed at improving habitat for wildlife generalists may have relatively modest positive effects on that group but have potentially detrimental effects on specialists. Given this potential trade-off, an idea to consider is that it may be best to err on the side of using brush management as a tool to manage habitat for specialists. Brush management plans and recommendations should take into account trade-offs such as benefiting grassland wildlife at the expense of woodland species. Taking a broader “systems” perspective that balances needs of wildlife in conjunction with other ecosystem services affected by woody plant encroachment and brush management should be a goal of natural resource managers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-44
Number of pages10
JournalRangeland Ecology and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2018


  • biodiversity
  • grassland
  • habitat
  • rangeland
  • savanna
  • shrubland

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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