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UW Bulletin Introduces Rogers Research Site, Post-Fire Studies

August 15, 2017

A decorated U.S. Army officer quietly bequeathed his 320-acre mountainous property to the University of Wyoming in 2002. Since then, UW faculty members and students, in an equally quiet manner, have been conducting studies relating to the improvement of forestry and wildlife resources in Wyoming and beyond.

Several of the research teams are now in the final stages of completing peer-reviewed bulletins detailing their investigations, including the restoration of ponderosa pine forest following a high-intensity wildfire in 2012.

Their studies are being conducted on land that was willed to UW by Col. William C. Rogers, who retired to southeast Wyoming’s rugged Laramie Mountains after his distinguished career in the military, which took him to the Western Front during World War II.

An overview of the research, a story about the most interesting Rogers and details about the land he donated to UW -- now called the Rogers Research Site (RRS) -- are in RRS Bulletin 1, “Introduction to the University of Wyoming’s Rogers Research Site, north Laramie Mountains, Wyoming,” the first publication in the RRS series. In the coming weeks and months, additional bulletins will be released to the public that showcase early planning efforts and studies at the property near the prominent Laramie Peak northwest of Wheatland.

The land is under management of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) and one of its four research and extension centers, the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center (SAREC) near Lingle.

“We are grateful to the estate of Col. Rogers for providing the university with the resource to learn more about forested lands in southeast Wyoming and to conduct research relating to our state’s wildlife and forest resources,” says SAREC Director John Tanaka, professor of rangeland ecology and watershed management in the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

“We also are appreciative of the many UW faculty, staff and student researchers, in collaboration with others, who have participated in the restoration of the property and data collection,” Tanaka says.

When Rogers bequeathed his property to UW, the site and surrounding public and private lands were covered predominantly by ponderosa pine, which provided habitat for a rich array of resident and migratory wildlife species, including elk, mule deer, bighorn sheep and wild turkey.

“Upon the start of collecting baseline information from the site, including vegetation and soils mapping, the Arapaho Fire swept through and killed most of the trees, changing the research focus to what we can learn about post-fire restoration on these kinds of sites,” Tanaka says.

The thick-barked ponderosa pine has evolved to survive low-intensity ground fires, but the high-severity Arapaho Fire, which occurred during a significant drought, killed the majority of ponderosa across the nearly 100,000 acres it burned.

One study at RRS is testing the best management practices for a post-fire ponderosa pine restoration site, while another is investigating whether changes in soil following wildfire affect the regrowth of ponderosa pine and other vegetation.

“WAES is very thankful to Dr. Steve Williams for leading the establishment of the restoration treatments and initial data collection, and to Robert Waggener for seeing the multiple publications come through to fruition,” Tanaka says.

Williams, a professor emeritus in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and Waggener, a part-time editor for WAES, co-wrote RRS Bulletin 1.

“The Rogers property was an unusual gift to the state and to UW. The site becoming a part of WAES was timely, in that interest at local, state, national and international levels has become more and more focused on forest health and fire control,” Williams says. “In our country, the Western forests have become, in many places, decimated by pine bark beetle infestations. As summers have become longer and drier, forest fires have become apparent and devastating.”

Williams adds, “The donation of the Rogers property to UW and the state was an unparalleled generous and timely gift. Our challenge is to use the property wisely for the people of the state and, in doing so, honor the desires of Col. William C. Rogers.”

In addition to bequeathing his Triple R Ranch to the university, Rogers gifted about $4 million to UW to benefit a variety of programs, departments and causes, among them theater, dance, social justice, campus beautification and forestry/wildlife research.

Rogers was born in 1906 in Newport News, Va.; earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from the Virginia Military Institute, Lexington, Va., in 1927; and was called to active duty with the U.S. Army in 1942. He served in Europe, Africa, Iran and Korea, overseeing such missions as keeping railroad supply lines open to Russia.

After retiring from the military in 1962, Rogers spent much time on his property in the Laramie Mountains, on a farm in Nebraska and in Mexico, where he researched the Tarahumara Indians. He would spend the last years of his life in Carmel, Calif., where he died in 2003, at age 96.

Bulletin 1 and upcoming publications in the series can be viewed or downloaded by going to www.uwyo.edu/uwe and typing “Rogers Research Site” into the search bar.

A limited number of hard copies of the first two bulletins will be available to those attending the SAREC Field Day (2753 State Highway 157 near Lingle) from 4-8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24.

For more information about the SAREC event, research at RRS and the bulletins, call (307) 837-2000 or email sarec@uwyo.edu.


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