Got a late start on field work this year. Too much snow to get into sites to sample vegetation. Not too much snow to hoop and holler but it is difficult to identify plants under a foot or two of fresh powder. I have 6 total minions this year, 4 that will be out of the Great Basin Institute in Reno and working in a variety of places in northwest NV. The other 2 are out of the Eastern Nevada Landscape Coalition (ENLC) in Ely and will be working in eastern Nevada. Lots of good habitat restoration projects getting going and I am collecting baseline vegetation data. It is really difficult to report on what you did in terms of habitat treatments, if you have no information on plant species’ cover and abundance. I got all the crews together in Ely this past week for training. Julie at ENLC helped me tweak the particulars of the sampling methods and then we were off to the races…in a data collection way. One of the projects is a post-fire revegetation project on the east side of the Schell Creek Range. Several arson fires and wildfires have left a large chunk of that bench in pretty bad ecological shape with very high cover/abundance of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) and low cover/abundance of the good shrubs, forbs and grasses that our sage grouse, horned larks, mule deer and any number of other animals that need healthy sagebrush communities to thrive. In the photo below you see a boatload of cheatgrass but there are some good shrubs and grasses mixed in. Difficult site to work and controlling the cheatgrass is a huge problem. Can’t ignore these sites.
The BLM with NDOW tried a certain amount of seeding immediately following the most recent fires with limited success. If the spring following the seeding doesn’t have some well timed precipitation, many seedings fail or at best show limited success. As you might imagine, it is impossible to predict…if I had known that spring 2011 was going to be like it is, I would’ve seeded about 15 million acres…give or take. I would’ve looked like a genius. At the east Schell site, I could walk you around and show pockets of needle and thread (Heterostipa comata), Wyoming sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata), Sandberg’s bluegrass (Poa secunda) and others like the sego lily (Calochortusspp) and the cactus (I can’t remember the species right now) in the photos below
I think the field crews had a good time. It is awfully overwhelming when they realize just how diverse and species rich the vegetation sampling sites are. They have numerous plant species to learn in a very short period of time and I am convinced they will get all over it. If nothing else, I really try to get them into some very beautiful parts of the state. The photo is of Sarah and Jeremy sampling the density and size class structure of the pinyon-juniper vegetation type. Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Parkis in the background.