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Science You Can Use, 2019

Delivering scientific information to those making and influencing land management decisionsPhoto array of covers of the Science You Can Use Bulletin

The bimonthly Science You Can Use Bulletin and our NEW Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes) are Rocky Mountain Research Station publications providing synthesized scientific information for high-priority management needs. The publications on this page synthesize research conducted by station scientists and collaborators in 2019 and deliver key science findings and management implications to people who make and influence decisions about managing land and natural resources. 

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Contact the editor, Nehalem Clark, with questions, comments, or suggestions.

The bulletin is distributed electronically to resource professionals, partners and collaborators throughout the Intermountain West and beyond.

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes) | Science You Can Use bulletins

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes) from 2019

A horizontal rig for drilling and hydraulic fracturing is surrounded by trucks and equipment in a grassy field. Grassy hills rise up behind it.

In the pipeline: A new report on the effects of oil and gas development on the biggest National Grassland

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes)

September 2019

Recent advances in horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (since 2000) have greatly increased oil and gas development in the West. In a new General Technical Report (RMRS-GTR-384) titled Biological Assessment of Oil and Gas Development on the Little Missouri National Grassland, scientists describe the actual and potential effects of oil and gas development on the largest designated National Grassland in the United States located in western North Dakota.

An RMRS scientist is pictured standing in dense underbrush in a pine forest. He's wearing an orange vest for visibility.

The big picture: New perspectives on restoring landscapes

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes)

August 2019

Faced with limited funds and resources, how do land and resource managers prioritize restoration efforts that cover millions of acres of public and private land? It’s a question that’s been asked repeatedly in the southeastern United States, where the U.S. Forest Service and its partners have committed to restoring millions of acres of longleaf pine ecosystems. These ecosystems, which are home to dozens of species of conservation concern, cover less than 5 percent of their historic range.

The photo shows a tractor-like machine used for mastication. It is located in a forest

A go-to guide for your mastication questionsDownload

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes)

June 2019

Mastication, a method once used almost exclusively by utility companies to reduce vegetation beneath power lines, is now also regarded as a useful treatment for preparing a site for planting, releasing sapling-sized trees, or reducing surface fuels in fire-prone forest ecosystems. However, not all mastication treatments are the same. Land managers must consider a number of factors when designing a mastication project. 

The photo shows a grazing black cow closer to the camera with other cows grading in the field behind it. Houses are visible in the background.

Homes on the range: Helping to understand residential development of U.S. rangelandsDownload

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes)

May 2019

When the words to the classic folk song “Home on the Range” were written in 1872, U.S. rangelands were much more extensive than they are today. Over the past three centuries in the coterminous United States, one-third of rangelands — once covering a billion acres — have been modified or converted to other land uses. This shift is projected to continue, because privately owned rangelands, which are the most likely to be converted to other uses, represent more than 60 percent of America’s rangelands.

Two researchers crouch at the base of a tree to collect soil samples. The are they are in is densely vegetated.

The organic truth: What 22 years of monitoring reveals about forest soil resiliency on the Kootenai National ForestDownload

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes)

April 2019

It is impossible to avoid disturbing the forest when harvesting timber. Trees are felled, and soil is compacted beneath heavy equipment during harvest operations. Yet on many sites, the landscape recovers. A year later, a future forest may already be growing, with saplings and shrubs reclaiming the open ground. Even the soil recovers, as the results of a 22-year monitoring study in western Montana have shown.

Fishers and martens and lynx, oh my! Multiregional, goal efficient monitoring of mesocarnivoresDownload

Science You Can Use (in 5 minutes)

February 2019

North American mesocarnivores don’t all get the recognition you might expect. If a typical American had to describe a fisher, a marten or a wolverine, the responses might include an angler, a civil rights leader or a superhero with retractable claws. People are unlikely to know much about these often elusive creatures, such as the fact that fishers (forest-dwelling members of the weasel family) are one of the few animals that will actually go to the trouble of hunting a porcupine.

Science You Can Use bulletins from 2019

Dead and dying trees on a hill

Of woodpeckers and harvests: Finding compatibility between habitat and salvage logging

November/December 2019; Issue 38

The western United States is home to many woodpecker species that are strongly associated with recently disturbed forests, including post wildfire and post-beetle outbreaks. These types of landscapes are favored habitat because the dead and dying trees provide nesting and foraging substrates. When managing these landscapes, managers must balance providing habitat for woodpeckers considered species of conservation concern with conducting salvage logging sales that generate economic revenue for the surrounding communities. Until recently, managers couldn't be certain where suitable woodpecker habitat was located and whether the salvage logging would negatively impact the population.

Photograph of aspen with yellow leaves along the edge of a pond, with the reflection of the yellow aspen in the water.

Everyone in: A road map for science-based, collaborative restoration of western quaking aspen

October/November 2019; Issue 37

With concern over the health of aspen in the Intermountain West, public and private land managers need better guidance for evaluating aspen condition and selecting and implementing actions that will be effective in restoring aspen health. The Utah Forest Restoration Group collaboratively synthesized a step-by-step approach for aspen restoration that was applicable to western U.S. forests. In a successful case study in shared stewardship, these restoration guidelines were applied to a challenging real-world setting.

Infographic showing coniferous trees during a fire with text describing types of injuries and coniferous trees after fire and what those injuries look like.

Is that tree dead? Quantifying fire-killed trees to inform salvage and forest managementDownload

September 2019; Issue 36

Wildfires are natural disturbances in the western United States. Managing the resulting stands of dead and dying trees requires balancing conflicting priorities. Although these trees provide wildlife habitat and salvage logging revenue, they also pose public safety hazards.

A screenshot showing what the Climate-Smart restoration tool looks like, with the tool settings on the left of the image and the mapping element on the right side.

Getting climate-smart with seeds: How a new software tool helps prepare landscapes for expected future conditionsDownload

July/August 2019; Issue 35

Sagebrush ecosystems are a major component of western U.S. landscapes and they provide vital habitat to a wide array of wildlife species, including greater sage-grouse and pygmy rabbits. However, in recent decades, sagebrush ecosystems have been reduced or degraded by a wide range of disturbances, including human development, overgrazing, severe fires, and encroachment by cheatgrass and pinyon-juniper woodlands. These factors are expected to continue or worsen with anticipated climate change.

Sagebrush ecosystems vary greatly over the biome, with different species of sagebrush and other plants. Photo shows mountain big sagebrush/mountain brush type with relatively cold and moist soils characterized by high resilience and resistance.

Sage advice for managers: A new, collaborative science framework for conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biomeDownload

March/April 2019; Issue 34

The USDA Forest Service Rocky Mountain Research Station (RMRS) has published a two-part guide to managing sagebrush ecosystems across the West called the “Science framework for conservation and restoration of the sagebrush biome: Linking the Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy to long-term strategic conservation actions.” This Science Framework provides a new, multi-scale approach to management that uses science on ecosystem resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive annual grasses along with information on the distributions and habitats of sagebrush-obligate species to improve conservation planning and help prioritize management actions.

Winter sports and wildlife: Can Canada lynx and winter recreation share the same slope? Download

January / February 2019; Issue 33

When enjoying a beautiful day out snowmobiling or skiing in the backcountry of the Rocky Mountains, you’re probably not spending a lot of time wondering if you are chasing the wildlife out of the area. But, based on what we know about recreation impacts, many wildlife species respond negatively to winter recreation. Human use of winter backcountry is on the rise in Colorado and all over the western United States, owing to both population increases and technological advancements in motorized and non-motorized recreation equipment. Consequently, it is important to know at what point recreational use of an area makes it unusable for wildlife, and sensitive wildlife species, in particular.