Landscape-scale threats to sagebrush-steppe ecosystems will be explored in a Geographic Information Systems-driven course available for free to Malheur County, Ore., land managers in early July.
Extension educators from Oregon State University, the University of Nevada-Reno and the University of Idaho plan to offer the seven-week course this fall. It’s based on the Fine Fuels Management Project, a collaborative among these schools and Boise State University. The $300,000 project is funded by a USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture grant.
Project Director Sergio Arispe, with OSU Extension in Ontario, said he’s offering an earlier version of the course to local land managers in light of several large-scale, public-lands proposals for southeastern Oregon with implications on livestock grazing, recreation and other uses. Instruction is planned via videoconferencing for up to 10 participants.
The fall session will be available to more people. Researchers are developing a fee-based version available to the public.
Arispe said agencies including the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service each use a unique analysis framework and terminology.
“This course is going to teach everyone a science-based framework adopted across the Western states,” he said. It will address “how we can all speak the same language and use the same terminology related to sagebrush-steppe ecological health.”
Instruction will draw on a threat-based land-management framework that the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center at Burns, a partnership of OSU and USDA Agricultural Research Service, developed.
The course and the multi-function tool it uses cover analysis and online mapping of sagebrush landscape by threat types — including invasive annual grasses at lower elevations, juniper encroachment at higher altitudes and wildfire.
“The tool provides the objective framework to identify the health of, and threats to, sagebrush landscapes,” Arispe said.