U.S. Sheep Experiment Station Announces Collaborative Effort

by Colter Brown

The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station in Dubois, Idaho, has announced the formation of a new collaborative effort called The U.S. Sheep Station Rangeland Collaboratory, which aims to develop a new participatory experiment addressing rangeland stewardship for multiple ecosystem services on U.S. Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service lands in Montana and Idaho.

“This new collaborative effort includes ranchers, conservation groups, agency staff, and university extension and researchers,” said USSES Lead Researcher and Supervisory Scientist Dr. Bret Taylor.

Throughout 2024 – the first year of the project – the collaboratory will be focused on developing a baseline assessment of social and ecological conditions. Dr. Hailey Wilmer and her team are currently reaching out to stakeholders to conduct interviews about their views, goals and research needs. In addition, a collaborative adaptive management plan will be developed, inclusive of diverse land management and social goals.

“We welcome participation from all stakeholders with an interest in rangeland management issues as we brainstorm, scope, discuss and create this effort,” said Wilmer, the rangeland program lead scientist at the station.

The collaboratory will host a series of in-person meetings this spring and summer, with its spring meeting on May 23 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. at the University of Montana, Western (Dillon, Mont.).  The second meeting is planned for Aug. 8-9 at the USSES. This event will include a tour and campout at the summer range.

The first meeting to gather public input was held in Dillon on Jan. 18 and had broad attendance from around the region. More than 40 people attended in person and more than 30 individuals joined online. After being introduced to the station’s scientists and collaborators, attendees received a high-level overview of ARS goals for the collaborative process and the rangeland research, and were given the opportunity to discuss their vision for the social and ecological system.

For more information about the project goals and timeline, for a copy of meeting recordings, or to provide feedback and input, contact Bret Taylor or Hailey Wilmer.

In other news, USSES has recently hired Dr. Jonathan Spiess as a research rangeland management specialist. Spiess has expertise in disturbance and grazing ecology. His research interests include fire and grazing interactions, rangeland management for biodiversity, and forage nutritive values and soil nutrients and microbes.

“Hiring Jonathan is an exciting opportunity for our unit to expand our research capacity on rangelands across the intermountain region,” said Taylor.

The USDA-ARS Range Sheep Production Efficiency Research Unit at USSES also recently announced that its five-year project plan recently submitted to the USDA-ARS Grass, Forage and Rangeland Agroecosystems National Program has been approved. The project, entitled Adaptive Capacity and Ecosystem Service Provisioning on Intermountain Range Sheep Systems Under a Changing Climate received a “no revisions” score, and was tied with one other project for the highest score in the agency.



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