You are here

Jack L. Butler

Scientist Emeritus

8221 S. Highway 16
Rapid City, SD 57702
Contact Jack L. Butler

Current Research

  1. Biology, ecological impact, and management of invasive plants.
  2. Long-term evaluation of patterns of vegetation recovery following successful suppression of invasive plants.
  3. Establishing ecological thresholds for managing grassland vegetation, especially in reference to managing prairie dog colonies as habitat for black-footed ferrets.

Research Interests

My research interests focuses on the ecology and management of the vegetation associated with the grasslands, shrublands, woodlands, and forests of the Northern Great Plains. This includes the effects of invasive plants on the ecosystem structure, function, and sustainability, and vegetation management in relation to natural and anthropogenic distubances.

Past Research

The Northern Great Plains contains some of the largests undisturbed tracts of native grasslands in the United States. These diverse ecosystems provide a wide variety of consumptive and non-consumptive resources. Research is needed to develop the innovative tools and techniques that provide a range of sustainable alternatives consistent with the compromises that are often inherent in simultaneously managing for multiple use.

Why This Research is Important

  1. I have published several papers on the ecology and management on probably the most endangered plant community in the Northern Great Plains, the Green-Ash Draw.
  2. I was heavily involved the National Vegetation Mapping Program in the Northern Great Plains where I worked on team mapping and classifying a wide variety of plant communities.
  3. I was part of large-scale research and demonstration project funded and administered by the Agricultural Research Service. The Project, called TEAM (The Ecological Area-wide Management) Leafy Spurge evaluated the ecology and management of leafy spurge on a regional basis (ND, SD, WY, and MT).


  • Southeastern Oklahoma State University, B.S., Wildlife Conservation, 1979
  • North Dakota State University, M.S., Botany, 1983
  • Texas A&M University, Ph.D., Range Science, 1986
  • Awards

    National Grasslands Research and Technology Award, 2011
    Awarded by the National Grasslands Council

    Featured Publications


    Finch, Deborah M.; Butler, Jack L.; Runyon, Justin B.; Fettig, Christopher J.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Jose, Shibu; Frankel, Susan J.; Cushman, Samuel A.; Cobb, Richard C.; Dukes, Jeffrey S.; Hicke, Jeffrey A.; Amelon, Sybill K., 2021. Effects of Climate Change on Invasive Species
    Reeves, Matt C.; Butler, Jack L.; Schoeneberger, Michele; Kilgo, John C., 2021. Regional summaries: Great Plains Region
    Butler, Jack L.; Ott, Jacqueline P.; Hartway, Cynthia R.; Dickerson, Brian E., 2018. Biological assessment of oil and gas development on the Little Missouri National Grassland
    Ott, Jacqueline P.; Butler, Jack L.; Rong, Yuping; Xu, Lan., 2017. Greater bud outgrowth of Bromus inermis than Pascopyrum smithii under multiple environmental conditions
    Finch, Deborah M.; Pendleton, Rosemary L.; Reeves, Matt C.; Ott, Jeffrey E.; Kilkenny, Francis F.; Butler, Jack L.; Ott, Jacqueline P.; Pinto, Jeremiah R.; Ford, Paulette L.; Runyon, Justin B.; Rumble, Mark A.; Kitchen, Stanley G., 2016. Rangeland drought: Effects, restoration, and adaptation [Chap. 8]
    Pearson, Dean E.; Ortega, Yvette K.; Runyon, Justin B.; Butler, Jack L., 2016. Secondary invasion: The bane of weed management
    Pearson, Dean E.; Ortega, Yvette K.; Butler, Jack L., 2015. Invasive Species Science Update (No. 8)
    Piya, Sarbottam; Nepal, Madhav P.; Butler, Jack L.; Larson, Gary E.; Neupane, Achal, 2014. Genetic diversity and population structure of sickleweed (Falcaria vulgaris; Apiaceae) in the upper Midwest USA
    Pearson, Dean E.; Ortega, Yvette K.; Butler, Jack L., 2014. Invasive Species Science Update (No. 7)
    Roemmich, Aurora R.; Butler, Jack L.; Larson, Gary E.; Turnipseed, E. Brent, 2012. Germination response of prairie dropseed and hairy goldaster to stratification and temperature
    Piya, Sarbottam; Nepal, Madhav P.; Neupane, Achal; Larson, Gary E.; Butler, Jack L., 2012. Inferring introduction history and spread of Falcaria vulgaris Bernh. (Apiaceae) in the United States based on herbarium records
    Runyon, Justin B.; Butler, Jack L.; Friggens, Megan M.; Meyer, Susan E.; Sing, Sharlene E., 2012. Invasive species and climate change (Chapter 7)
    Pearson, Dean E.; Sutherland, Steve; Butler, Jack L.; Smith, Jane; Sieg, Carolyn H., 2011. I. Plants
    Pearson, Dean E.; Kim, M.; Butler, Jack L., 2011. Rocky Mountain Research Station invasive species visionary white paper
    Nosshi, Maged Ikram; Butler, Jack L.; Trlica, M. J., 2007. Soil nitrogen mineralization not affected by grass species traits
    Butler, Jack L.; Parker, Matthew S.; Murphy, John T., 2006. Efficacy of flea beetle control of leafy spurge in Montana and South Dakota
    Butler, Jack L.; Cogan, Daniel R., 2004. Leafy spurge effects on patterns of plant species richness
    A view of a well pad under construction with trucks and other heavy machinery surrounded by prairie.
    Little Missouri National Grassland occurs within one of the major oil and shale plays in North America. Increased oil and gas extraction since 2000 has greatly affected the region. This review investigates the effects of oil and gas development on the grassland and provides specific information on the habitat needs and potential threats for three threatened species or species of concern- the Dakota skipper, Sprague’s Pipit, and the Northern Long-Eared Bat.
    Herbicide treatment targeting the invasive plant, spotted knapweed, in Montana.
    A rapidly emerging problem is that of secondary invasion – an increase in non-target exotics following efforts to suppress targeted invasive plants. Researchers conducted a global literature review and meta-analysis directed at quantifying the magnitude of secondary invasion effects and identifying possible causes in order to improve management outcomes. 
    RMRS scientists and university collaborators collect buds from the Buffalo Gap National Grassland for a growth chamber experiment.
    Scientists found that the invasive smooth brome out-performed the native western wheatgrass under a variety of temperature and moisture conditions. Their results help understand the competitive ability of smooth brome and have important implications for predicting vegetation dynamics under climate change.
    Forest Service scientists and partners developed an aggressive approach to investigate the biological and habitat characteristics of sickleweed (Falcaria vulgaris), a rapidly expanding invasive plant recently introduced into the grasslands of the northern Great Plains. Documenting patterns of invasion before species becomes widespread and identifying traits that may contribute to the success of recent invaders can increase our knowledge of factors influencing invasibility.
    Permanent study plot in 2008 one year following timber harvest.
    Scientists with the Rocky Mountain Research Station and university partners are investigating the short- and long-term resiliency of understory vegetation of ponderosa pine forests to a variety disturbances associated with timber harvest. Creating and maintaining a healthy forest relies on the resiliency of understory vegetation.
    Areas inhabited by black-tailed prairie dogs are subject to continuous and intense disturbance by grazing and burrowing that directly and indirectly alter vegetation composition and structure compared to the surrounding uninhabited areas. The objective of this study is to evaluate patterns of vegetation heterogeneity within and among prairie dog colonies in the grasslands of the Northern Great Plains.
    Stem initiation of key mixed-grass prairie species will be examined under a range of temperature, clipping, and moisture treatments in a series of growth chamber and greenhouse experiments. 

    RMRS Science Program Areas: 
    Maintaining Resilient Dryland Ecosystems