Forest watershed management research is mandated by over 100 years of legislation, from the Organic Act and Weeks Law enacted around the beginning of the 20th century, to a variety of environmental protection acts passed over the past several decades. Research results have come primarily from studies of a multitude of gaged watersheds selected to represent a variety of geographic locations, forest types, topography and climate.
As part of the 1998 Joint USDA/USDI Fire Science Program, the Fire and Fire Surrogates Study was proposed to establish and evaluate cross-comparisons of fuels treatment practices and techniques to reduce wildfire risk. This study evaluates prescribed fire, thinning, and various mechanical treatment methods for treating, removing, or using woody biomass.
Hydrologic responses of watersheds are strongly related to vegetation and soil disturbances. Many of the storage and transfer components of the global hydrologic cycle are altered by the occurrence of fire. The major effect of fire on the hydrologic functioning of watersheds is the removal of vegetation and litter materials that protect the soil surface.
Views of watershed management in the 21st Century are presented in terms of concept, status, progress and future of watershed planning. The watershed as a unit will increasingly be the basis of planning because the concept is widely understood, many state and federal laws require such a focus, and watersheds are a logical entity for monitoring purposes.
Long-term monitoring of ecological and hydrological processes is critical to understanding ecosystem function and responses to anthropogenic and natural disturbances. Much of the world's knowledge of ecosystem responses to disturbance comes from long-term studies on gaged watersheds. However, there are relatively few long-term sites due to the large cost and commitment required to establish and maintain them.
Of the bat research that has been conducted in the Southwestern states, few studies have addressed species inhabiting grasslands and the potential effects of management activities on these populations. Up to 17 bat species may be found regularly or occasionally in Southwestern grasslands or short-grass prairie. Main habitat requirements of grassland-dwelling bats are suitable roosts, water, and food.
Natural disturbance in western U.S.A. forest ecosystems is related to forest succession, growth, and structural development. Natural disturbance may be biotic (insects and diseases) or abiotic (fire, wind, avalanche, etc.). Natural disturbances are more appropriately thought of as natural processes; disturbance is a social connotation implicating economic loss.