1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
The objectives for this cooperative project are: 1) to determine the effect of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) on ecosystem processes on USDA, ARS, U.S. Sheep Experiment Station (USSES) lands in the Centennial Mountains of Montana and Idaho, and 2) to create a mechanism for completing the construction and accomplishing the maintenance of the CDNST through the Centennial Mountains.
1b. Approach (from AD-416):
U.S. Sheep Experiment Station scientists will design and conduct statistically valid experiments to determine the short-term and long-term effects of CDNST traffic on plant dynamics, including introduction and spread of invasive weeds, displacement of native plants, soil movement, and physical and chemical characteristics of soil. To accomplish the research objectives, study sites will be defined after the condition of the CDNST has been evaluated and existing trail projects, including necessary maintenance, to be completed over the next 3 to 5 years have been identified. At least one USDA, Forest Service (USFS) trails specialist and at least one USFS trails engineer will hike the trail to identify necessary projects to improve the trail to a satisfactory condition to meet USFS trail standards, meet the needs of the recreating public in accordance with the National Trails System Act of 1968, and avoid compromising USSES research efforts. USSES personnel will accompany USFS personnel as necessary to determine whether recommended improvements will compromise USSES research efforts. As funding and staffing permit over the next 3 to 5 years, the USFS Caribou-Targhee National Forest, or the BLM Dillon, Montana, Field Office through separate agreements with the USFS, will accomplish the necessary and USSES-approved trails projects on USSES lands identified through the inventory.
3. Progress Report:
The goal of this agreement is to maintain a portion of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail (CDNST) that crosses Agricultural Research Service (ARS) land in Montana and Idaho. This goal is in accordance with the National Trails System Act, which requires Forest Service (FS) to manage the routing, establishment, and maintenance of the CDNST. Progress was made in FS proposing trails for maintenance, ARS approving proposed trails, and ARS and FS establishing and maintaining the trails. Trial maintenance will continue in FY2014. This collaboration supported Objective 2 of the parent project, which is focused on developing science-based grazing management strategies and decision support systems that can be used to guide managers to maintain or improve the ecological function of western rangelands.