This document presents a long-term research strategy designed to address current and future research
needs for management of Department of the Interior-administered ecosystems in the Intermountain West. Although
the research plan was developed in the context of the Interior Columbia Basin Ecosystem Management Project, the
plan addresses many high-priority issues facing land managers throughout the Intermountain West. These issues
pose management challenges that may be addressed with applied research both currently and in upcoming decades.
Possessing a particular focus on semiarid ecosystems, the plan is a collection of research questions under five categories
of research emphases: 1) restoration; 2) rangeland health; 3) aquatic-terrestrial connections; 4) development
of monitoring and evaluation protocols; and 5) species and habitats at risk.
The goal of the research strategy is to provide ideas for integrating emerging scientific understanding into
future management in order to restore and maintain long-term ecosystem health and ecological integrity; provide
consistent management direction over broad spatial and temporal scales; emphasize adaptive management over the
long term; restore and maintain habitats for plant and animal species; and support economic and social needs of
people, without compromising the above goals. Research questions are prioritized into three categories based on
the immediacy of their need, feasibility of addressing the question rigorously under varying funding budgets, and
magnitude of risk posed by not addressing the issue. The research strategy is intended to support and integrate with
existing management efforts and strategies. As such, it melds observational studies with experimental manipulation,
treating management actions as experiments whenever feasible.
The research strategy focuses on disturbance processes and events that have been the primary drivers of
change, to provide a predictive model for future changes. These drivers include fire, nonnative plants, herbivory,
roads and associated human influences, and climate change. Whereas management in the western United States has
striven to move from an inefficient species-based approach to a habitat-based approach, the plan focuses on
ecosystem function and ecological processes as critical measures of habitat response. Because of the large amount
and contiguity of public lands in the western United States, the region presents both a compelling opportunity to
implement landscape-level science and a challenge to understand a relatively understudied region that is expected
to contribute heavily to national biotic integrity in the future.
Additional publication details
USGS Unnumbered Series
Research Plan for Lands Administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior in the Interior Columbia Basin and Snake River Plateau