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The Wildlife and Terrestrial Ecosystems Program aligns well with the national Wildlife and Fish SPA activities. Progress towards these activities represents contributions from all station science programs, and not just Wildlife and Terrestrial Habitats. Brief descriptions of the program by SPA activities are provided below.
Sustaining Species and Ecosystems of Concern- More ecosystems occur within RMRS boundaries than any other station, spanning prairie, temperate and tropical steppe, desert, coniferous and riparian forests, and tundra. This diversity of ecosystems translates into a diversity of plants and animals with the RMRS region supporting >16,800 plants and animals. More than 3,800 species are of conservation concern, and 217 are formally listed as threatened or endangered. Because more than 90 percent of the appeals and litigation of land management decisions are based on wildlife and fish concerns, studies that provide credible scientific information are critical for meeting legal obligations and sustaining threatened, endangered and sensitive species and their associated ecosystems. Multi-scale studies identify a variety of factors that affect the persistence of species, communities, and ecosystems of concern, such as northern goshawks in southwestern ponderosa pine forests and forest carnivores in the Northern Rockies. The context for most studies includes ecological interactions within and between plant, aquatic, and terrestrial animal communities in a wide variety of ecosystems throughout the Intermountain West and beyond.
Understand Public Use Effects- Research informs federal, state, tribal, and local resource agencies on interactions between people and fish/wildlife. It provides better understanding of public-use effects such that they can be mitigated by appropriate management actions. Although much of the research focuses on recreation effects (OHVs, hikers, birdwatchers, heli-skiing), similar lines of research evaluate effects of transmission corridors and indirect effects of noise resulting from landmanagement activities. Numerous studies are underway to elucidate social and economic values associated with consumptive and non-consumptive uses of fish/wildlife. Predictive habitat models provide a range of management alternatives for simultaneously enhancing commodity and non-commodity uses of fish/wildlife.
Manage for Terrestrial and Aquatic Habitats- Most of the remaining habitats for many species of concern are now found on National Forests and Grasslands. RMRS scientists answer questions about the amount, kind, distribution, and connectivity of habitat critical to the persistence and abundance of these species. These researchers also devise robust techniques for monitoring changes in species and habitats and for recognizing habitats most sensitive to management or essential to species persistence. Scientists also investigate the spatial and temporal aspects of processes that create and maintain habitats crucial for sustaining biodiversity, including the role of fire.
Evaluate Outcomes of Land/Water Uses and Natural Disturbances- A wide array of anthropogenic and natural disturbances affects our grasslands, forests, and waterways. Natural and prescribed fires, silvicultural prescriptions, livestock grazing, spread and control of invasive species, drought, global climate change, insect and disease outbreaks and fragmentation all affect, and potentially threaten wildlife habitats. Researchers are determining immediate, long-term, and cumulative effects of disturbances on species of concern and interest in the Intermountain West.