Southwest Wyoming contains abundant energy resources, wildlife, habitat, open spaces, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Although energy exploration and development have been taking place in the region since the late 1800s, the pace of development for fossil fuels and renewable energy increased significantly in the early 2000s. This and the associated urban and exurban development are leading to landscape-level environmental and socioeconomic changes that have the potential to diminish wildlife habitat and other natural resources, and the quality of human lives, in Southwest Wyoming. The potential for negative effects of these changes prompted Federal, State, and local agencies to undertake the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative for Southwest Wyoming
Human infrastructure and invasive plant occurrence across rangelands of southwestern Wyoming, U.S.A
Manier, D.J., C. Aldridge, M. O’Donnell, and S. Schell
The overall goal of the Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs) being conducted for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is to provide information that supports regional planning and analysis for the management of ecological resources. The REA provides an assessment of baseline ecological conditions, an evaluation of current risks from drivers of ecosystem change, and a predictive capacity for evaluating future risks. The REA also may be used for identifying priority areas for conservation or restoration and for assessing the cumulative effects of a variety of land uses. There are several components of the REAs. Management Questions, developed by the BLM and partners for the ecoregion, identify the information needed for addressing land-management responsibilities. Conservation Elements represent regionally significant aquatic and terrestrial species and communities that are to be conserved and (or) restored. The REA also will evaluate major drivers of ecosystem change (Change Agents) currently affecting or likely to affect the status of Conservation Elements. We selected 8 major biomes and 19 species or species assemblages to be included as Conservation Elements. We will address the four primary Change Agents—development, fire, invasive species, and climate change—required for the REA. The purpose of the work plan for the Wyoming Basin REA is to document the selection process for, and final list of, Management Questions, Conservation Elements, and Change Agents. The work plan also presents the overall assessment framework that will be used to assess the status of Conservation Elements and answer Management Questions.
Interactive energy atlas for Colorado and New Mexico: an online resource for decisionmakers
Carr, N.B., J. Diffendorfer, S. Hawkins, D. Ignizio, N. Latysh, K. Leib, J. Linard, A.M. Matherne, and N. Babel
Throughout the western United States, increased demand for energy is driving the rapid development of nonrenewable and renewable energy resources. Resource managers must balance the benefits of energy development with the potential consequences for ecological resources and ecosystem services. To facilitate access to geospatial data related to energy resources, energy infrastructure, and natural resources that may be affected by energy development, the U.S. Geological Survey has developed an online Interactive Energy Atlas (Energy Atlas) for Colorado and New Mexico. The Energy Atlas is designed to meet the needs of varied users who seek information about energy in the western United States. The Energy Atlas has two primary capabilities: a geographic information system (GIS) data viewer and an interactive map gallery. The GIS data viewer allows users to preview and download GIS data related to energy potential and development in Colorado and New Mexico. The interactive map gallery contains a collection of maps that compile and summarize thematically related data layers in a user-friendly format. The maps are dynamic, allowing users to explore data at different resolutions and obtain information about the features being displayed. The Energy Atlas also includes an interactive decision-support tool, which allows users to explore the potential consequences of energy development for species that vary in their sensitivity to disturbance.
Gunnison sage-grouse lek site suitability modeling
Ouren, D.S., D.A. Ignizio, M. Siders, T. Childers, K. Tucker, and N. Seward
In order to better understand and protect species with minimal or decreasing populations, it is imperative to determine their actual existing population size. The focal species for this project is the Gunnison sage-grouse (GUSG), which became a proposed endangered species under the Endangered Species Act, thus confirming the need for better population estimates. Lek site counting during mating season has historically been the primary method for estimating population size since the grouse are very difficult to count at other times of the year. The objective of this project was to use historical data and available technology to identify additional potential lekking sites. This was done by determining areas throughout the study area that have the same landscape characteristics as those where known lekking activities occur. More accurate population counts could be the outcome of locating more lek sites.
One of the remaining seven GUSG populations, the Crawford population (estimated at 128 individuals) exists in an area that includes the Gunnison Gorge National Conservation Area and the northern portion of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park (our study area). While the Crawford population is small, it is still considered a self-sustaining population; the persistence and growth of this population directly contribute to genetic diversity conservation of this declining species. To date, only observational and anecdotal information about the Crawford population’s range, movements, and seasonal habitat use exist.
From 1978 to the present, GUSG population monitoring has been accomplished through annual lek counts conducted each spring during GUSG mating season. Although this method has provided information on GUSG population trends, it is somewhat limited because counts are based only on known lekking sites and historically minimal efforts have been made to identify additional lek sites. To meet the objective of locating more potential lekking sites, we used a suite of spatial data, geographic information system tools, and maximum entropy species distribution tools. Based on expert knowledge and landscape variables, the modeling process evolved into a hybrid approach for delineating areas that would have a significant probability for supporting GUSG lekking activities. Based on model results, a sampling protocol was developed for model verification. The results of this project provide wildlife managers with a more sophisticated methodology to evaluate GUSG habitat for potential lekking sites.
Population connectivity and landscape genetics of greater sage-grouse in Wyoming
Fedy, B. and S.J. Oyler-McCance
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20th Annual Conference of The Wildlife Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, October 5-9, 2013
The Ecosystem Dynamics Branch of the Fort Collins Science Center offers an interdisciplinary team of talented and creative scientists with exper¬tise in biology, botany, ecology, geology, biogeochemistry, physical sciences, geographic information systems (GIS), and remote-sensing, for tackling complex questions about natural resources. As demand for natural resources increases, the issues facing natural resource managers, planners, policy mak¬ers, industry, and private landowners are increasing in spatial and temporal scope, often involving entire regions, multiple jurisdictions, and long time¬frames. Needs for addressing these issues include (1) a better understanding of biotic and abiotic ecosystem components and their complex interactions; (2) the ability to easily monitor, assess, and visualize the spatially complex movements of animals, plants, water, and elements across highly variable landscapes; and (3) the techniques for accurately predicting both immediate and long-term responses of system components to natural and human-caused change. The overall objectives of our research are to provide the knowledge, tools, and techniques needed by the U.S. Department of the Interior, state agencies, and other stakeholders in their endeavors to meet the demand for natural resources while conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services.
Ecosystem Dynamics scientists use field and laboratory research, data assimilation, and ecological modeling to understand ecosystem patterns, trends, and mechanistic processes. This informa¬tion is used to predict the outcomes of changes imposed on species, habitats, landscapes, and climate across spatiotemporal scales. The products we develop include conceptual models to illustrate system structure and processes; regional baseline and integrated assessments; predictive spatial and mathematical models; literature syntheses; and frameworks or protocols for improved ecosystem monitoring, adaptive management, and program evaluation. The descriptions below provide snapshots of our three research emphases, followed by descriptions of select current projects.