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“Cheatgrass is a tough nut to crack,” said Jeanne Chambers, a research ecologist with the Forest Service in Reno, Nev. “I think that we are providing new tools to better target the work we do.”

“We still need more research on the effect on targeted grazing on native ecosystem over time,” Chambers added.

Maestas said BLM and the Forest Service are also doing prescribed or planned burns of conifers, like pinyon and juniper, that are encroaching into lower elevations of sagebrush habitats.

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"Deborah Finch, of the U.S. Forest Service, says there are plenty of ways dull-colored birds can make up for their less compelling exteriors. “There’s a lot of species that can be flashy and drab at the same time,” she says. “They’re flashy because of their behavior.” The plain chachalaca, for example, is a pheasant-like bird with brown feathers. Its favorite activity is hopping up into a tree and screaming at the top of its lungs. At No. 604 out of 621, it’s still pretty unknown, but at least it’s got a big personality. That’s something the uncool among us can all get behind."
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When Mike Battaglia walked into the woods of the Pike National Forest on a sunny, late winter day, he pointed to the mature ponderosa pines — their needles assembled into bulbous groups, their burnt-orange bark furrowed into scaly plates and the buds of their egg-shaped cones. …“Ponderosa pines are tough,” said the Fort Collins-based U.S. Forest Service research forester. “They can handle fire and drought.” But then, he noted the saplings tall enough to prove that wildfire — natural or prescribed — has not run through the hill just south of the town of Buffalo Creek. A spot like this should burn every 20 to 40 years, Battaglia said, and it hasn’t. If a wildfire sparks here, fast-moving flames could explode out of the abundance of dry fuels. That, in turn, could hurt soil retention, watershed health, wildlife habitat and even carbon emissions.

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The discovery, published in a recent study from U.S. Forest Service's Rocky Mountain Research Station, will likely lead to changes in land use policies near Poudre River tributaries and other streams. It's also a teaching moment in the world of conservation research, where at times the only way to be sure a sensitive species is unique is to enter the weeds of its genetic makeup.

The Arapahoe snowfly — a dark-colored, winged insect about the length of a fingernail — is a type of stonefly that emerges annually from beneath the icy shield of late-winter streams to fly upstream and search for a mate. Stoneflies are familiar to many Northern Colorado anglers because they’re a frequent meal for trout on the Poudre River, so a lot of fly fishing flies are modeled after them.

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Until fairly recently, there was little that could be done to prepare for severe weather events that lead to rapid and unpredictable changes in wildland fire behavior, something which exposes both firefighters and communities to increased risk. But now scientists at U.S. Forest Service’s Fire Lab in Missoula, Montana, are working towards changing that equation.
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Ott is a Rapid City-based research ecologist for the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station. Her talk was the first one of the day Friday during the Black Hills Area Botany & Ecology Workshop at the Outdoor Campus West. The event was free and open to the public and was attended by about 100 people, mostly from government agencies, universities and nonprofit organizations.

Ott’s talk highlighted some findings from a synthesis project she is coordinating. The project’s goal is to synthesize existing research findings into a better overall understanding of the effects of energy development on the Great Plains, and how those effects can be minimized.

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It is on these slopes of the Rocky Mountains that the U.S. Forest Service would pioneer a novel approach to rid forests of the detritus from “epidemic levels” of beetle infestations that wiped out 38,000 square miles of trees — an area larger than the state of Maine. What’s left fuels historic wildfires, prevents wildlife and cattle from finding forage, threatens to topple onto campsites and slows regeneration of trees needed to sustain the beleaguered timber industry.

The plan would allow construction of up to 600 miles of temporary roads to log, thin and set prescribed burns across 850,000 rugged acres from the Colorado-Wyoming border north across the Snowy and Sierra Madre ranges. The ­15-year project, a marked departure from the agency’s historical approach to restoration, is moving forward as President Trump blames the deadliest wildfire in California’s history on “gross mismanagement of the forests” — a widely disputed allegation.

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Genomics scientist Kevin McKelvey at the U.S. Forest Service’s National Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish Conservation in Missoula said the idea popped out of a lecture assignment he was trying to fix. After a decade refining the environmental DNA technique of finding fish evidence in samples of creek water, his lab could detect the presence of five little fish from a thousand yards away.

“The EDNA stuff was cool, but I’d be presenting a fish talk to wildlife guys,” McKelvey said. “So we got thinking outside the box and recognized the magic of EDNA wasn’t limited to water. We could do the same thing on land in snow.” 

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While researchers say the program’s modeling and forecasting capabilities have steadily improved, California’s rising temperatures and worsening droughts are making fires hotter, deadlier, more aggressive, and less predictable. To be more useful to first responders, the software has to get much simpler, says Carolyn Sieg, a plant ecologist at the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station who works closely with Linn. The agency has begun spending a bigger portion of its $2.6 billion fire-suppression budget on modeling that’s more useful in day-to-day battles.
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Getting your paws on a Canadian lynx is no easy task. These rare cats inhabit remote forests and steep rocky mountains. In fact, lynx are so scarcely-seen, they’ve been dubbed the “ghost cat”—and little is known about their distribution. This lack of information has hindered efforts to conserve the animal, which is listed as a threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

Scientists have now begun using a new technique to track these animals down, by detecting trace amounts of DNA left in the snowy tracks of these and other creatures. In a study published in the journal Biological Conservation, scientists from the U. S. Forest Service were able to confirm the presence of a lynx in the Northern Rockies through genetic analysis of snow it had stepped in.

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