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Baseline Synthesis

  • Application of Comprehensive Assessment to Support Decisionmaking and Conservation Actions

    This is a collaborative, two-part project to compile and analyze resource data to support WLCI efforts. Part 1 entails directing data synthesis and assessment activities to ensure that they will inform and support the WLCI LPDTs and Coordination Team in their conservation planning efforts, such as developing conservation priorities and strategies, identifying priority areas for conservation actions, evaluating and ranking conservation projects, and evaluating spatial and ecological relations between proposed habitat projects and WLCI priorities. In FY2014, we helped the Coordination Team complete the WLCI Conservation Action Plan and BLM’s annual report, and we provided maps and other materials to assist with ranking FY2015 WLCI conservation [...] (Read More)

  • Assessing Energy Exploration/Development Impacts on Biogeochemical Cycling in the Muddy Creek Watershed

    The Muddy Creek watershed, part of the Upper Colorado River watershed, is a semi-arid catchment in a sagebrush steppe ecosystem. A synoptic watershed assessment was conducted in 2010 to identify areas within the watershed that are more susceptible to mobilization of trace elements that occur in soils forming on marine shale. Samples of soil, stream sediment, and water were collected and assayed for major elements and a suite of trace elements. Formation waters discharged from two wells within the watershed were sampled in 2011 to evaluate their potential contribution of organic carbon, nitrogen (N) species, and trace elements to surface waters. In FY2012, analyses of the soil, rock, and water samples collected in 2010 and 2011 were [...] (Read More)

  • Assessing Energy Resources

    The USGS Energy Resources Program assesses coal, oil and gas, and uranium resources, as well as environmental effects of energy resource occurrence and use. To identify the regions where energy resources are most likely to be developed, we apply a geologic understanding to emerging patterns of extraction for each energy commodity and assess the potential for undiscovered resources. Our studies include (1) maintaining a compilation of public and proprietary information on subsurface petroleum (wells installed) for the Greater Green River Basin, (2) developing new geographic information system products that portray geologic studies of energy resources, (3) automating updates of the database on oil and gas development in the WLCI area, [...] (Read More)

  • Assessing Mineral Resources

    Many mineral deposits (excluding coal and other energy minerals, with the exception of uranium) are located within the WLCI area. The mineral extraction industry is yet another factor to be considered in the development of southwestern Wyoming. Although Wyoming has had a rich mining history, with a few notable exceptions, currently the industry is mostly dormant in the WLCI study area and has been for the study’s duration. Despite hundreds of open claims and leases, there are only a few exploration projects and even fewer active mining operations; a major exception, however, is the increased demand for uranium by in situ recovery, which is imposing new demands on the landscape. Understanding the extent of mineralization and historic [...] (Read More)

  • Assessing Rancher Perceptions of Energy Development in Southwest Wyoming

    Energy and other forms of development can have significant effects on ranching and farming communities. Jobes (1987) characterizes these communities as small, isolated, stable, interdependent, and independent of outsiders, and argues that energy development can devastate such communities because the informal institutions that hold them together (for example, community meetings) are disrupted and replaced by formal institutions. Many people may begin to feel like outsiders in their own communities as the population grows and changes rapidly. This causes some people to feel less satisfaction with their lives and move away. The lack of current research on how energy development affects ranching communities provides an opportunity for [...] (Read More)

  • Assessing Socioeconomics: Oil and Gas Development Literature Review and Case Study

    Understanding the socio-political and economic context of energy development is crucial for an accurate portrayal of the true tradeoffs of energy development. In addition to the bio-physical effects, development of oil and gas has an effect on and is affected by the surrounding communities and the region as a whole. Synthetic literature reviews can elucidate what is already known about these effects, create a common understanding of the social and economic context for energy development and habitat conservation, and provide a basis for dialogue with the public through the entire adaptive management process. For this task, literature produced prior to and during the current energy-development booms in Southwest Wyoming was reviewed [...] (Read More)

  • Assessing Wildlife Vulnerability to Energy Development

    As extensive energy development continues throughout Wyoming, extraction of natural gas and development of wind turbine farms are increasing the footprint of energy development on the native landscape. This development has the potential to impact numerous species designated as Wyoming’s SGCN (Wyoming Game and Fish Department, 2010). This study, completed in FY2012, was established to help prioritize the management, monitoring, and research of Wyoming’s SGCN relative to energy development across the WLCI landscape. The primary goal of this work is to focus conservation attention on SGCN that are most likely to be impacted before the species actually become imperiled. This was accomplished by first making geospatial estimates of exposure [...] (Read More)

  • Climate Change and Simulating Potential Future Vegetation

    Climate change has the potential to affect ecosystems across the WLCI region. Future changes in seasonal temperatures, and the timing and amount of rain and snowfall, may result in significant ecosystem shifts that affect wildlife species. Information on the magnitude and rate of potential changes in climate are needed for understanding and developing responses to the potential future impacts of these changes. For example, Wyoming land managers require future climate information to inform the development of adaptive management plans for the species and ecosystems they manage. The goal of this project is to develop datasets of potential future climate and vegetation changes for southwestern Wyoming that can help to address these management [...] (Read More)

  • Developing a Soil-Quality Index

    The severe disturbance that surface mining often causes has the potential to drastically alter a soil’s physical, chemical, and biological properties (Insam and Domsch, 1988). In particular, metals associated with mining deposits present obstacles to ecosystem recovery (Nielsen and Winding, 2002), as their residence time in soils can be quite extensive (Brookes, 1995). Quantifying soil quality can be useful for evaluating the impact of such disturbances and can improve the understanding of the mechanisms behind ecosystem processes. Definitions of soil quality generally involve soil function [for example, a soil’s ability to support vegetative diversity and biomass or to sustain itself through nutrient cycling (Doran and Parkin, 1994)]. [...] (Read More)

  • Developing Conceptual Models to Inform Long-Term Monitoring and Selection of Monitoring Indicators

    Initial conceptual models were developed to organize and document current knowledge about key ecosystems in Southwest Wyoming. The goal of this work was to provide a scientific means for identifying potential indicators of ecosystem change to be used in a long-term monitoring program. Models pertain to the atmospheric systems and human systems, and the focal ecosystems identified by WLCI partners: aspen foothill woodlands, mixed mountain shrubs, sagebrush steppe, riparian, and aquatic. Additional models were developed to illustrate the effects of disturbances on wildlife habitat and populations. A hierarchy of models was used to illustrate key components and processes of native systems and how systems respond to human-mediated stressors. [...] (Read More)

  • Developing Methods for Assessing Element Mobility in Soils of the Greater Green River Basin

    The Green River Formation that characterizes much of the Green River Basin hosts thick sequences of organic carbon-rich shale (oil shale), extractable pockets of natural gas, and bedded trona (Na3[CO3][HCO3] × 2H2O), the extraction or mining of which can mobilize elements that could potentially affect the function and health of ecosystems in the basin. In an ongoing effort to develop methods for assessing element mobility in the basin, the USGS has sampled soils from the three main members of the Green River Formation (Laney Shale, Wilkins Peak, and Tipton Shale), and contracted with XRAL Laboratory, Canada, to conduct mass spectrometry analyses of the soils for bulk and trace elements. Soils were extracted by using a method that best [...] (Read More)

  • Developing Remote Sensing Applications for Geologic, Vegetation, and Soil Investigations

    Regional-scale studies, such as those being conducted for the WLCI, are well suited for the use of remote-sensing techniques. Derivative products from remote-sensing instruments, such as Landsat, have been used successfully for decades in studies of geology, vegetation, environmental change, and many other types of scientific research. The continuous coverage of Landsat data since 1972 makes it possible to establish baseline conditions in areas affected by renewable and nonrenewable energy development. In this study, various Landsat datasets are being used to map current and pre-development conditions in the WLCI study area for a selected set of scientific interests. Landsat scenes have been mosaicked to produce a composite map of [...] (Read More)

  • Development of Regional Curves Relating Bankfull-Channel Geometry and Discharge to Drainage Area for the Rocky Mountain Hydrologic Region in Wyoming

    Regional curves are statistical models (one-variable, ordinary least-squares regressions) that relate bankfull discharge, bankfull cross-sectional area, bankfull width, and bankfull mean depth of streams to drainage area in settings that are expected to have similar runoff characteristics. Equations describing the regional curves can be used to estimate the discharge and dimensions of the bankfull channel when the drainage area of the watershed is known. These equations are useful for identifying the bankfull channel in areas with similar runoff characteristics. Regional curves also are used to determine channel departure from reference conditions and to plan stream restoration when using Natural Channel Design techniques (Rosgen, [...] (Read More)

  • Important Agricultural Lands in Southwestern Wyoming

    Agriculture is important to the historical identity of and current economic activity within the WLCI region. Understanding the social and economic values derived from agriculture helps policy planners and decision-makers to better assess the effects of landscape planning and conservation efforts in a broader (societal) context. Our study seeks to add more value to the WLCI Integrated Assessment (IA) by providing insights on the productivity and historical, ecological, and socioeconomic importance of agriculture across the WLCI landscape. Overall, this project will add another dimension to the WLCI IA’s inventory of integrated data and the WLCI data clearinghouse as a whole. In FY2014, scientists with the USGS, the Wyoming State Engineer’s [...] (Read More)

  • Modeling Land Use and Cover Change

    The goal of this project is to develop and use a simulation approach to portray patterns of future oil and gas development and assess its potential effects on wildlife habitat in Southwest Wyoming. This entails using existing energy build-out specifications to locate new oil and gas well pads, wells, and roads on the landscape at annual time steps. Based on results of published species’ responses to well pad, well, and road densities, we map simulated infrastructure to assess potential effects on wildlife species. To evaluate the potential for reducing surface disturbance and minimizing the effects of future development on wildlife, we simulate alternative build-out designs, such as increased use of directional drilling, and compare [...] (Read More)

  • Western Energy Citation Clearinghouse

    Addressing concerns about the types and development of energy and a secure energy future is a high priority for the current United States administration, the Department of the Interior (DOI) in particular. The BLM and other land management agencies within the DOI are charged with balancing energy development with other land uses and values. Decision-making about land uses is often controversial and complex; this necessitates easy access to useful data, literature, and other informative resources that facilitate a better understanding of how energy development affects natural resources, ecosystems, economics, and society. Although there are several valuable on-line resources that provide information about energy development and associated [...] (Read More)