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Wyoming Basin Rapid Ecoregional Assessment

April 18, 2017

The Wyoming Basin Rapid Ecoregional Assessment was conducted in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The overall goals of the BLM Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs) are to identify important ecosystems and wildlife habitats at broad spatial scales; identify where these resources are at risk from Change Agents, including development, wildfire, invasive species, disease and climate change; quantify cumulative effects of anthropogenic stressors; and assess current levels of risk to ecological resources across a range of spatial scales and jurisdictional boundaries by assessing all lands within an ecoregion. There are several components of the REAs. Management Questions, developed by the BLM and stakeholders for the ecoregion, identify the regionally significant information needed for addressing land-management responsibilities. Conservation Elements represent regionally significant species and ecological communities that are of management concern. Change Agents that currently affect or are likely to affect the condition of species and communities in the future are identified and assessed. REAs also identify areas that have high conservation potential that are referred to as “large intact areas.” At the ecoregion level, the ecological value of large intact areas is based on the assumption that because these areas have not been greatly altered by human activities (such as development), they are more likely to contain a variety of plant and animal communities and to be resilient and resistant to changes resulting from natural disturbances such as fire, insect outbreaks, and disease.

The Wyoming Basin Ecoregion encompasses approximately 133,656 square kilometers (51,604.87 square miles), including portions of Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Montana. The Wyoming Basin has some of the highest quality wildlife habitats remaining in the Intermountain West. The wide variety of habitats includes intermountain basins dominated by sagebrush shrublands interspersed with deciduous and conifer woodlands and montane or subalpine forests at higher elevations. The Wyoming Basin also supports ranching and agricultural operations that are important to the region’s economy and vital to conserving habitats for wildlife. The region also contains abundant energy resources, including large natural gas reserves and areas of high wind-energy potential. Combined with increased residential and industrial development, fast-paced energy development is resulting in notable land-use changes, including habitat loss and fragmentation.

In the Wyoming Basin REA, we evaluated the following seven communities as Conservation Elements: streams and rivers, wetlands, riparian forests and shrublands, sagebrush steppe, desert shrublands, foothill shrublands and woodlands, and mountain forests and alpine zones. We evaluated a total of 14 species and species assemblages as Conservation Elements: aspen forests and woodlands, five-needle pine forests and woodlands, juniper woodlands, cutthroat trout, three-species fish assemblage, northern leatherside chub, sauger, spadefoot assemblage, greater sage-grouse, golden eagle, ferruginous hawk, sagebrush-obligate birds, pygmy rabbit, and mule deer.

We evaluated Management Questions (Core and Integrated) for each species and community for the Wyoming Basin REA. Core Management Questions address primary management issues, including (1) where is the Conservation Element, and what are its key ecological attributes (characteristics of species and communities that may affect their long-term persistence or viability); (2) what and where are the Change Agents; and (3) how do the Change Agents affect the key ecological attributes? Integrated Management Questions synthesize the Core Management Questions as follows: (1) where are the areas with high landscape-level ecological values; (2) where are the areas with high landscape-level risks; and (3) where are the potential areas for conservation, restoration, and development? The associated maps and key findings for each Management Question are summarized for each Conservation Element in individual chapters. Additional chapters on landscape intactness and an REA synthesis are included.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2015
Title Wyoming Basin Rapid Ecoregional Assessment
DOI 10.3133/ofr20151155
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2015-1155
Index ID ofr20151155
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center