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Science Spotlights

A map with roads color coded for risk
In 2016, the USDA Forest Service initiated the risk management assistance (RMA) program to improve the quality of strategic decision-making on its largest and most complex wildfire events. Beyond supporting many of the most complex incidents, the risk management assistance program has expanded to also incorporate pre-event assessment and training, post-fire review, organizational change, and system improvement. A new article provides details and...
Open pine forest with grassland understory treated by fire.
Land use and fire exclusion have influenced ecosystems worldwide, resulting in alternative ecosystem states. Open forests of savannas and woodlands used to be common, with an abundance of native grasses and flowering plants in the southeastern United States. Open pine ecosystems have transitioned to closed forests, primarily comprised of broadleaf species, and loblolly and slash pine plantations.
Colorful map of AZ and NM
RMRS scientist Samuel Cushman has led the development and application of approaches to optimize multi-scale wildlife habitat relationships. We applied these methods to several American marten datasets and found very strong scale dependence of habitat relationships. We further explored how these methods improve understanding of brown bear habitat selection in Spain and understand niche partitioning of two sympatric marten species.
Person in hard hat on a ladder examining a tree
In the recent publication, researchers examine changes in the USDA Forest Service safety culture during the past 100 years. They discuss the engineered solutions used from 1910 through 1994, then interpret safety initiatives of the subsequent twenty-five years, as the Forest Service incorporated social science perspectives into managing workforce safety, understanding emergency fire incidents, and mitigating vulnerabilities across all fields of...
A Chinook salmon swimming in water.
New research is helping understand the past and more accurately estimate future salmon recovery potential. Archival “index” redd counts and contemporary redd census data from Central Idaho’s Middle Fork Salmon River (MFSR) offer a glimpse of historical Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) spawning and rearing habitat.
Historically, racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are not as likely to recreate or work in the country’s natural lands as are racial whites. Data from the Forest Service’s National Visitor Use Monitoring program indicate disproportionate utilization of National Forest System recreation opportunities by the nation’s minority racial and ethnic groups. Past individual case studies conducted of regional areas have addressed constraints...
Cover of Exotic Brome-Grasses in Arid and Semiarid Ecosystems of the Western US – Causes, Consequences, and Management Implications
Invasive annual brome grasses are resulting in altered fire regimes and conversion of native arid and semi-arid ecosystems in the western United States to annual grass dominance. The problem is particularly acute in sagebrush shrublands where cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has resulted in annual grass fire cycles that are placing numerous native species such as greater sage-grouse at risk and threating ecosystem services such as livestock forage,...
landscape shot of beetle killed forest
Forest restoration, resilience, and wildfire are major issues of contemporary forest management. Integral to these issues is the destruction, understanding, and management of mountain pine beetles. This is the story of 115 years of mountain pine beetles, associated organisms and the people that study them in the Black Hills. It reads much like a film-noir. This research informs forest policy and management throughout western North America.  
Bark-peeled ponderosa pine
Native peoples throughout the northern hemisphere have made use of the nutritious inner bark of pine trees.  Bark-peeling creates distinctive scars on trees, a permanent indicator of this cultural modification.  Like any historical artifact, laws and regulations protect these culturally modified trees (CMTs).