This is the sixth report produced by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) for the Wyoming Landscape Conservation Initiative (WLCI) to detail annual activities conducted by USGS for addressing specific management needs identified by WLCI partners. In FY2013, there were 25 ongoing and new projects conducted by the USGS. These projects fall into 8 major categories: (1) synthesizing and analyzing existing data to describe (model and map) current conditions on the landscape; (2) developing models for projecting past and future landscape conditions; (3) monitoring indicators of ecosystem conditions and the effectiveness of on-the-ground habitat projects; (4) conducting research to elucidate the mechanisms underlying wildlife and habitat responses to changing land uses; (5) managing and making accessible the large number of databases, maps, and other products being developed; (6) helping to integrate WLCI outcomes with future habitat enhancement and research projects; (7) coordinating efforts among WLCI partners; and (8) providing support to WLCI decision-makers and assisting with overall evaluation of the WLCI program. The two new projects initiated in FY2013 address (1) important agricultural lands in southwestern Wyoming, and (2) the influence of energy development on native fish communities. The remaining activities entailed our ongoing efforts to compile data, model landscape conditions, monitor trends in habitat conditions, conduct studies of wildlife responses to energy development, and upgrade Web-based products in support of both individual and overall WLCI efforts.
Milestone FY2013 accomplishments included completing the development of a WLCI inventory and monitoring framework and the associated monitoring strategies, protocols, and analytics; and initial development of an Interagency Inventory and Monitoring Database, which will be accessible through the Monitoring page of the WLCI Web site at http://www.wlci.gov/monitoring. We also completed the initial phase of the mountain shrub-mapping project in the Big Piney-La Barge mule deer winter range. Finally, a 3-year survey of pygmy rabbits in four major gas-field areas was completed and used to validate the pygmy rabbit habitat model/map developed earlier in the project. Important products that became available for use by WLCI partners included publication of USGS Data Series report (http://pubs.usgs.gov/ds/800/pdf/ds800.pdf) that compiles our WLCI land cover and land use data, which depict current and historical patterns of sage-grouse habitat in relation to energy development and will be used to pose “what-if” scenarios to evaluate possible outcomes of alternative land-use strategies and practices on habitat and wildlife. Another important FY2013 product was a journal article (http://aapgbull.geoscienceworld.org/content/97/6/899.full) that describes the Mowry Shale and Frontier formation, which harbors coalbed methane and shale gas resources in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, for use in future scenario-building work. We also produced maps and databases that depict the structure and condition of aspen stands in the Little Mountain Ecosystem, and then presented this information to the Bureau of Land Management, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, and other interested entities for supporting aspen-management objectives.