From Nevada Today:
Nearly 44 million acres of Nevada rangelands have been invaded by Pinyon Pines and Juniper trees in the past 150 years, reducing valuable habitat for range animals, including the Greater Sage Grouse, which is a candidate for listing as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
In an effort designed to help the stewards of Nevada's lands make informed decisions, Tamzen Stringham, a professor and nationally recognized rangeland ecologist at the University of Nevada, Reno, travels the open spaces of the 71.5 million acres of the Silver State to catalog and study the rangeland ecosystems. Some of those decisions could be about the habitat for sage grouse, but also pygmy rabbits and other animals that rely on rangelands to survive.
"How we manage these lands to make the birds and other wildlife habitat resistant and resilient to environmental or management impacts is the ultimate goal," she said. "Land managers make the best decisions they can based on current knowledge, and then we look to see if it worked, or if it is a disaster. We quantify these things."
Stringham puts about 25,000 miles on her Ford pickup truck in about three months' time crisscrossing the state to visit hundreds of ecological sites as she and her team catalog site characteristics and responses to various disturbances and management choices so they can prepare state-and-transition models.
"You can't say one thing caused the expansion of Pinyon/Juniper into rangelands," she said. "There are multiple drivers: livestock grazing at settlement, fine fuel reduction, fire suppression, climate change. Fire was a natural driver to keep Juniper and Pinyon in the high rocky places - and a pretty big mechanism.
See the full article here: http://www.unr.edu/nevada-today/news/2015/tamzen-stringham
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