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USGS Wildland Fire Science Strategic Plan, 2021-26

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The Strategic Plan also defines critical, core fire science capabilities for understanding fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns and informing management decision making. The Strategic Plan is composed of four integrated priorities, each with associated goals and specific strategies for accomplishing the goals:

  • Priority 1: Produce state-of-the-art, actionable fire science.—Provide scientific analyses, data, and tools that inform current and future fire and land management decision making and promote understanding of fire-related and fire-responsive earth system processes and patterns.
  • Priority 2: Engage stakeholders in science production and science delivery.—Use a science co-production approach throughout the fire research life cycle to develop and maintain collaborations with stakeholders who are actively and continually engaged. This ensures that USGS research platforms and science products are relevant and useful for fire and land management decision making.
  • Priority 3: Effectively communicate USGS fire science capacity, products, and information to a broad audience.— Strategically manage communications to effectively build awareness of and access to USGS wildland fire science and decision-support tools among key external and internal stakeholders.
  • Priority 4: Enhance USGS organizational structure and advance support for fire science.—Provide organizational structure and support that improves fire science production, coordination, and cooperation within the USGS and with external partners.
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Sagebrush Conservation Strategy—Challenges to Sagebrush Conservation

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The sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) biome, its wildlife, and the services and benefits it provides people and local communities are at risk. Development in the sagebrush biome, for many purposes, has resulted in multiple and often cumulative negative impacts. These impacts, ranging from simple habitat loss to complex, interactive changes in ecosystem function, continue to accelerate even as the need grows for the resources provided by this biome. This “Sagebrush Conservation Strategy—Challenges to Sagebrush Conservation,” is an overview and assessment of the challenges facing land managers and landowners in conserving sagebrush ecosystems. This strategy is intended to provide guidance so that the unparalleled collaborative efforts to conserve the iconic greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus) by State and Federal agencies, Tribes, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and stakeholders can be expanded to the entire sagebrush biome to benefit the people and wildlife that depend on this ecosystem. This report is organized into 3 parts.

“Part I. Importance of the Sagebrush Biome to People and Wildlife” introduces the biome and a subset of the more than 350 species of plants and animals associated with sagebrush for which there is some level of conservation concern. These include several sagebrush obligates that have been petitioned for listing under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et seq.), including greater sage-grouse, Gunnison sage-grouse (C. minimus; listed as threatened), and pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis). Other sagebrush-dependent species, such as pronghorn (Antilocapra americana) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), have experienced significant population declines.

“Part II. Change Agents in the Sagebrush Biome—Extent, Impacts, and Effort to Address Them” is an overview of the variety of change agents that are causing the continued loss and degradation of sagebrush. Topics covered include altered fire regimes, invasive plant species, conifer expansion, overabundant free-roaming equids, and human land uses, including energy development, cropland conversion, infrastructure, and improper livestock grazing. Climate changes, including warmer temperatures and altered amounts and timing of precipitation, have and will likely increasingly compound negative effects to sagebrush ecosystems from all these threats.

“Part III. Current Conservation Paradigm and Other Conservation Needs for Sagebrush” begins with an overview of how sage-grouse conservation, and the associated efforts and collaborations, may be able to address threats to and restoring degraded sagebrush and habitat for other sagebrush-dependent and -associated species. Meeting conservation goals for sage-grouse, mule deer, pygmy rabbits, and other sagebrush-associated wildlife will require extensive restoration of sagebrush communities already converted or degraded by the change agents outlined in Part II of this report. Concepts, considerations, techniques for restoration, and adaptive management and monitoring are discussed to help set the stage for potential strategies to improve conditions throughout the sagebrush biome. Communication, outreach, and engagement can enhance grassroots conservation efforts and build the next generation of managers, practitioners, scientists, and communicators who will care for the sagebrush ecosystem and stimulate or sustain public participation in sagebrush conservation issues.

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Invasive species in forests and rangelands of the US: A synthesis

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Invasive Species in Forests and Rangelands of the United States is a sector-wide scientific assessment of the current state of invasive species science and research in the United States. Leading experts on invasive pests, climate change, social sciences, and forest and rangeland management contributed to highlighting the science and identifying knowledge gaps on a diverse array of topics related to invasive species. Stakeholders from nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, professional organizations, private corporations, and state and federal agencies representing public, private, and tribal interests also provided input to the assessment. Input from these stakeholders helped to frame the subject matter content and management options presented in this report, ensuring relevance for decision-makers and resource managers.


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Addressing 21st century conservation challenges to benefit our people, economy, and environment

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Today, American conservation confronts the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, a global pandemic, skeptics of these threats, a massive federal deficit, economic hardship, social injustice, and political divisions that threaten our democracy. Yet, at the same time, people continue to explore new ways to work together to use science, collaboration, and innovation to advance efforts to protect our environment, conserve our natural resource legacy, and broaden its benefits for all Americans.

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Identifying and protecting wildfire refugia in a warmer, drier PNW

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The researchers report on creating an unburned area data set for the Inland Northwest from 1984 – 2014 and subsequent analyses using this dataset. Here are some of the key findings for this JFSP project:

  • Unburned area occurrence is consistent or stabilized to-date, with no evidence of increasing or decreasing trends under current climate conditions
  • Unburned areas are utilized by sage grouse and help maintain viable populations when these fire refugia are present
  • Persistent unburned islands are ecologically important areas and are related to specific topography and fuel type characteristics
  • Persistent unburned area attributes differ between forests and rangelands
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Advancing the national fish, wildlife, and plants climate adaptation strategy into a new decade

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In 2009, at the behest of Congress, the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) and the US Department of the Interior (DOI) were asked to develop a national, government-wide climate adaptation strategy for fish, wildlife, plants, and ecosystems. In doing so, the Federal Government recognized the immensity of climate change impacts on the Nation’s vital natural resources, as well as the critical need for partnership among federal, state, and tribal fish and wildlife agencies. More than 90 diverse technical, scientific, and management experts from across the country participated in the development and, in 2012, the National Fish, Wildlife, and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy (Strategy) was published. Designed to “inspire and enable natural resource managers, legislators, and other decision makers to take effective steps towards climate change adaptation over the next five to ten years,” the time has come for the natural resource community to consider the impact of the Strategy, while identifying the necessary evolution of it, to continue to effectively safeguard the Nation’s natural resources in a changing climate.

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Assessment of the need for native seeds and their supply

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Across the United States, millions of acres of land have been so disturbed by human activities or severe climate events that significant portions of their native plant communities have been lost and their ecosystems have been seriously compromised. Restoring impaired ecosystems requires a supply of diverse native plant seeds that are well suited to the climates, soils, and other living species of the system. Native seeds are also in demand for applications in urban land management, roadside maintenance, conservation agriculture, and other restorative activities that take into account the connection between native plant communities and the increasingly urgent need for resilient landscapes. Given the varied climatic and environmental niches of the more than 17,000 native plant species of the United States, supplying the desired seed types and species mixes for this wide range of activities is a challenge.

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Joint Fire Science Program 2019 progress report

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This progress report highlights some of the many contributions and impacts of the JFSP over the past 2 years including:

  • Continued scientific output from wildland fire research through manuscripts, management briefs, decision-support tools, and syntheses.
  • Efficient delivery of wildland fire science to practitioners through the nationwide Fire Science Exchange Network.
  • Incorporation of wildland fire science to improve policy, restoration success, public and firefighter health and safety, and fuels management, among others.
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Forest and rangeland soils of the US under changing conditions: A comprehensive science synthesis

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This open access book synthesizes leading-edge science and management information about forest and rangeland soils of the United States. It offers ways to better understand changing conditions and their impacts on soils, and explores directions that positively affect the future of forest and rangeland soil health. This book outlines soil processes and identifies the research needed to manage forest and rangeland soils in the United States. Chapters give an overview of the state of forest and rangeland soils research in the Nation, including multi-decadal programs (chapter 1), then summarizes various human-caused and natural impacts and their effects on soil carbon, hydrology, biogeochemistry, and biological diversity (chapters 2-5). Other chapters look at the effects of changing conditions on forest soils in wetland and urban settings (chapters 6-7). Impacts include: climate change, severe wildfires, invasive species, pests and diseases, pollution, and land use change. Chapter 8 considers approaches to maintaining or regaining forest and rangeland soil health in the face of these varied impacts. Mapping, monitoring, and data sharing are discussed in chapter 9 as ways to leverage scientific and human resources to address soil health at scales from the landscape to the individual parcel (monitoring networks, data sharing Web sites, and educational soils-centered programs are tabulated in appendix B). Chapter 10 highlights opportunities for deepening our understanding of soils and for sustaining long-term ecosystem health and appendix C summarizes research needs. Nine regional summaries (appendix A) offer a more detailed look at forest and rangeland soils in the United States and its Affiliates.

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Interpreting indicators of rangeland health- Version 5

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The Interpreting Indicators of Rangeland Health (IIRH) protocol is designed for assessing ecosystem function on rangelands and woodlands. The protocol was developed by an interagency cadre of technical experts and has been in use by for two decades. The protocol is well accepted and is a valuable tool for communicating rangeland conditions with stakeholders. Technical Reference 1734-6 Version 4, which describes the IIRH protocol, was published in 2005.

Refinements and improvements identified through 12 years of experience with class participants and field office personnel applying the protocol as outlined in Version 4 are incorporated into Version 5 of the technical reference. Indicators and attributes used in previous versions of the technical reference are largely the same, and following instructions in Version 5 is not expected to result in differing attribute ratings as compared to assessments completed using Version 4 of TR 1734-6 assuming that the same reference information is used.

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