Within the lesser prairie-chicken’s range, predatory birds are more abundant in prairie grasslands with mesquite cover than in open grasslands. Photo courtesy of New Mexico State University.
For many, one of the New Year’s first big chores is to remove a tree from inside their home. Trees, beautiful and useful as they are, do not belong everywhere. Such is the case with trees and other woody species that are expanding into the Western grasslands.
Over the years, woody species like juniper, pinyon pine, redcedar and mesquite have encroached on grassland and sagebrush ecosystems, altering these landscapes and making them unsuitable for native wildlife like the lesser prairie-chicken and greater sage-grouse. Encroaching conifers also degrade rangelands for agricultural producers whose livestock rely on nutritious forage. Read more »
Sage grouse male strutting hoping to attract females.
The greater sage grouse is an iconic bird that lives in the American West’s sagebrush landscape. It’s also a species at the center of a nationwide debate focused on how best to manage its habitat to balance multiple uses and ensure the bird’s long-term survival.
And the dialogue has just been informed by new information from a genetics study that has validated the primary target locations of current conservation efforts. Read more »
USDA Deputy Under Secretary Arthur “Butch” Blazer is all smiles with a group of San Carlos Apache Reservation fourth graders as they hold up their Every Kid in a Park passes. Smokey Bear got in on the fun, too, and provided the kids with a special packet of information about wildfire prevention. (U.S. Forest Service)
With more than 40 years of professional experience working in the field of natural resources, I am sometimes asked to share the personal outdoor experiences I had as a tribal member growing up on my reservation. When the request involves children, and those children are Native American, I am especially honored because in my culture the elders share traditional teachings of how we are connected to nature, both through stories and traditional songs.
As we celebrate Earth Day 2016, I am reminded of a recent invitation from the U.S. Forest Service Tonto National Forest and Smokey Bear to speak at a career day on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in Arizona. I had an audience of 180 tribal fourth graders from Rice Elementary School to share my experiences growing up on a reservation and the lessons I learned about the outdoors. Read more »
Forest Service scientists use a greenhouse in Washington State to grow bluebunch wheatgrass as part of their current reciprocal transplant project. It is one of the largest and most intensive projects of its kind ever attempted.
Wildfires in sagebrush and other range ecosystems are increasing in frequency and severity, often in relation to drought conditions and intrusive species like cheatgrass, a non-native, highly flammable invasive species that establishes itself as a monoculture and crowds out native grasses and forbs.
“What’s preferable to a monoculture is a diverse plant community that includes native grasses, forbs and shrubs,” said Francis Kilkenny, leader for the Great Basin Native Plant Project, a joint effort of the U.S. Forest Service and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Land Management, or BLM. Read more »
John Sloan, the assistant nursery manager at the Lucky Peak Nursery, shows off a one-year old container-grown sagebrush seedling. (Photo credit/Clark Fleege)
The need for food and shelter for wildlife to survive is basic, particularly for sage grouse living in a post-wildfire landscape in western states. The U.S. Forest Service is helping this upland game bird survive by growing about 3 million sagebrush shrubs a year to restore the area’s dry, grassy plains, essential for the bird’s nesting grounds.
“Our goal is to help accelerate the restoration process on our public lands,” says Clark Fleege, manager of the Lucky Peak Nursery, part of the Boise National Forest. Read more »
Ponderosa pines stand tall in front of Yosemite Falls in California. Photo by Kevin Potter, USFS.
It can reach heights of 200 feet and live 500 years, and occupies landscapes across the western United States. Some say its bark has an unforgettable smell resembling vanilla or even cinnamon, and this tree is one tough cookie. It grows in a variety of soils and climates and survives fires that consume other species. It is also an ecologically and economically valuable tree that provides food, habitat and ponderous (heavy) lumber.
It is the iconic ponderosa pine. But the world is changing, and ponderosa pine is vulnerable to climate shifts, high-intensity wildfires and bark beetles — as well as development that replaces trees. To keep the ponderosa pine standing tall, researchers are looking for answers in its genes. Read more »