Fish, Wildlife, and Plants
Our Nation’s forests and grasslands provide some of the most important habitats for wildlife and fish. They provide countless benefits—ecological, recreational, economic, and cultural—to both nature and society. Existing and emerging threats, such as habitat loss, climate change, and invasive species, affect the ability of our Nation's forests and grasslands to support healthy wildlife and fish populations for future generations.
Plants are also crucial to the maintenance of healthy ecosystems. Native plants provide natural beauty and help fend off invasive plants. Native plants also support wildlife, often serving as a source of food and shelter. Invasive plant species have the potential to permanently change a native plant community by taking over and outcompeting native plants.
Forest Service scientists study fish, wildlife and their habitats in order to inform land management and address existing and emerging threats, such as climate change and habitat fragmentation. Their work focuses on restoration and conservation of wildlife habitats and connectivity across large landscapes; effective management of terrestrial wildlife and their habitats under future climate scenarios; development of innovative protocols for inventory and monitoring of wildlife populations and habitats; and strategies to meet growing demands for water, energy, and other forest‐ and grassland-based commodities while ensuring the sustainability and diversity of wildlife and fish.
Between 2008 and 2015, the U.S. Forest Service and partners removed or upgraded over 1,000 culverts and road-stream crossings for Aquatic Organism Passage (AOP) across the country courtesy of the Legacy Roads & Trails Program. One of the best investments our agency can make to help aquatic ecosystems respond to the stresses of a changing climate is to restore the ability of fish to move freely, including beneath our expansive road system. Fish need to be able to access many different parts of a stream network to find cold water during the summer, to spawn, and to feed so they can grow larger. Come explore this story map to see some examples from around the country of some of the outstanding partnership projects that helped the US Forest Service achieve this milestone for fish, aquatic health, flood resiliency and protection of local transportation infrastructure.
Sage Grouse: The elaborate plumage and courtship dances of the male Greater Sage-Grouse were once a common sight in the sagebrush landscapes of the American West. However, a variety of factors, including rural development and invasive species, have contributed to the loss and deterioration of sagebrush habitat. As a result, Greater Sage-Grouse populations have decreased dramatically. The Forest Service is working with the Bureau of Land Management and other agencies to maintain and restore key habitats for the Greater Sage-Grouse and other sagebrush-associated species. Learn more about Sage-Grouse conservation.
How are we helping plants?
Forest Service scientists work to preserve and protect native and rare plants through observation and research, and emphasize studies of non-native invasive species and plant pathogens that threaten native species. By outcompeting native species, invasive non-native plants jeopardize the health and sustainability of forest and rangeland ecosystems, as well as urban forests. Forest Service scientists study pathogens, such as sudden oak death, white pine blister rust, and thousand canker disease, that significantly affect U.S. forests and the many forest functions that people value, including clean air, water, timber, aesthetics, and recreation. The scientists develop tools and provide information to managers to help them manage invasive plants and restore impacted landscapes.
Invasive non-native plants, also known as weeds, threaten native species and ecosystems. Removed from their natural enemies, invasive plants are able to establish and thrive in their new surroundings, leading to sometimes drastic changes in native plant communities.
Plants are considered rare if there are just a few individuals left of the species or there are very few places where they can still be found. The rarest plants are those that have few individuals and a narrow geographic range. The Forest Service protects rare plants and their habitats by carefully managing activities on public lands where these special plants occur.
Leafy Prairie-Clover: This plant is located in only three areas: central Tennessee, north-central Alabama, and north-eastern Illinois. Leafy Prairie-Clover populations are being lost due to poor management skills as well as competition from invasive species, rock quarrying, and over-collecting. But thanks to a partnership between the Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Leafy Prairie-Clover is making a comeback.