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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Burns, Oregon » Range and Meadow Forage Management Research » Research » Research Project #435306

Research Project: Enhancing Rangeland Science Diversity in the Northern Great Basin

Location: Range and Meadow Forage Management Research

Project Number: 2070-21630-003-008-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 24, 2018
End Date: Sep 24, 2023

ARS Burns and Oregon State University (OSU) Burns have a long history of producing applied science that supports management decision-making on millions of acres of northern Great Basin rangeland. This impact has been facilitated by the inclusion of Burns ARS and OSU in regional collaborative science-based conservation groups. Collaborative and science-based efforts have proven to be an effective tool for engaging in contentious natural resource management challenges, helping agricultural producers, agencies, and local communities find common ground and solutions. Ongoing work by ARS Burns, OSU Burns, and their extensive partner network (including ag producers, federal and state land management agencies, multiple NGOs, state wildlife agencies, federal regulatory agencies, local and county government, and local conservation entities) has resulted in collaboratively-derived, science-based management frameworks that are accepted by a diverse array of stakeholders. These frameworks are currently guiding management of millions of acres of private and public rangeland in the northern Great Basin. A key ingredient to the success of these ventures has been extensive outreach to customer groups. Active and ongoing engagement by ARS Burns and OSU Burns has resulted in a level of trust necessary to operationalize our applied research in a diversity of management contexts including agricultural production on rangeland supporting sensitive wildlife species such as the greater sage-grouse. Demand for such outreach is in excess of current capacity to supply it; thus limiting the potential for science delivery and associated impact. To ameliorate this problem, ARS Burns will work with OSU to hire an outreach specialist to coordinate and expand these activities. This position will focus on both direct outreach to collaborative groups and private/public land managers and decision makers, as well collaborating with ARS Burns scientists to develop and produce science-based decision support tools and associated research. Specific objectives include: 1) Develop a decision-support tool that guides managers in proactively managing sagebrush plant communities to reduce risk of fire-associated transition to invasive annual grass dominance. 2) Work with stakeholder collaboratives to design and implement ecologically-based adaptive management programs. 3) Develop a web-based training and certification program for land managers using threat-based rangeland management. Benefits to ARS will include increased science delivery capacity to meet ongoing and emerging stakeholder needs, incorporation of ARS research into landscape tools and technologies for rangeland managers, greater capacity of ARS Burns scientists to design and conduct research pertinent to natural resource challenges being faced by stakeholders, and increased collaboration with OSU and other research and outreach parnters.

For Objective 1, OSU will determine the efficacy of using an existing plant community classification tool developed at the Burns Range and Meadow Forage Management Unit to predict post-fire invasive annual grass dynamics based on pre-fire plant community status. This effort will combine existing classification data with post-wildfire field monitoring. OSU will then work with stakeholder collaboratives to link empirical results with manager expectations and use this information as the basis of a decision-support tool for preemptive management of fire/invasive annual grass-prone rangeland. Because our existing classification tool is being used by private, state, and federal managers on over 5 million acres of eastern Oregon rangeland, the potential impact of this objective is very high. Impact metrics will include the number of acres to which the decision support tool is applied as well as customer demand indicators (e.g. requests for workshops and training). For Objective 2, ARS Burns and its expanded collaborator network (including OSU) have developed a series of products to guide ecologically-based management and restoration of rangelands. OSU will work with ongoing and new stakeholder collaboratives to design and implement ecologically-based rangeland management plans with an emphasis on development of monitoring strategies that allow for adaptively testing management alternatives. Impact metrics will include the number of projects, acres impacted, customer demand indicators (requests for information, technical support to collaboratives, and training) and peer review publications resulting from interactions with collaboratives. For Objective 3, OSU will work with an existing stakeholder collaborative to develop an online curriculum for training and certification for using threat-based (i.e., invasive annual grasses and expanding conifer populations) state-and-transition models to inform rangeland management decisions. This program will focus on identifying ecological threats and selecting the appropriate state-and-transition model, using the models to evaluate plant community status relative to threats, determining initial management direction, and adaptively monitoring plant community response to management. This training course will be designed to meet Professional and Continuing Education credit requirements of OSU. Impact metrics will include number of web-site visits, number of students completeing training, course evaluation feedback, geography of student base, and collective acreage under management by course completers.