Mechanical practices prior to 1975 Chapter uri icon


  • Mechanical brush management from the early 1900s to 1975 was a time of innovation, development, and experimentation with equipment. While some of this equipment never found general acceptance, the major mechanical practices in use today were developed during this period. It was during this time that powerful crawler tractors came into use with implements that were able to physically modify vast areas of brush in the southwestern United States. Unfortunately, treatments were often applied before the ecological consequences were fully understood. Much needed to be learned about woody plant physiology and morphology, the need for longterm strategic planning, and inclusion of maintenance practices to stretch benefits of high cost initial reclamation treatments. These shortfalls in understanding resulted in the spread of species, such as pricklypear, and rapid loss of initial treatment benefits to aggressive regrowth by many other species that sprouted readily from stem basal buds and root crowns. However, by 1975, land managers had at their disposal an array of mechanical equipment that could effectively provide both woody plant top removal (shredding, roller chopping, etc.) and whole plant removal treatments (grubbing, rootplowing). Moreover, several of these methods provided good seedbed preparation for revegetation. During the 1950s and 1960s, mechanical practices, primarily broadcast treatments such as chaining, were applied on millions of rangeland acres, primarily as a means to increase forage production for livestock. Shortly before the end of the period in the early 1970s, the increasing value of wildlife resources on private lands began to dictate to land managers the need for careful consideration of habitat in brush management operations (as opposed to earlier eradication and control philosophies). This fostered the use of brush patterns, alternating cleared and brushy areas, in attempts to preserve habitat for important game animal species. Mechanical practices have the capability to modify landscapes and facilitate revegetation that cannot be accomplished with any other method. For this reason, they will continue to be important as tools available to managers to accomplish specific land management goals. They are especially valuable when used in conjunction with other methods in an integrated, strategic, and ecologically sound planning process. 2004 by Texas A&M University Press. All Rights Reserved.

author list (cited authors)

  • Hamilton, W. T., & Hanselka, C. W.

Book Title

  • Brush Management: Past, Present, Future

publication date

  • January 2004