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College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

University of Wyoming

Department #3354

1000 E. University

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-4133

Fax: (307) 766-4030

Email: agrdean@uwyo.edu

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Research / Outreach Partner - 2019

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association

Outstanding research partner furthers conservation strategies in Thunder Basin

Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association

The meeting of three groups the fall of 2014 in Laramie sowed the seeds of the Thunder Basin Research Initiative (TBRI).

Those groups included the University of Wyoming, USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association (TBGPEA).

Five years later, TBGPEA continues to be a great supporter of agriculture and natural resource research and is being recognized as the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture’s Outreach Partner of the Year.

The association was formed in 1999, with a focus on black-tailed prairie dogs. Since then, TBGPEA works with property owners and other groups to investigate, implement and promote conservation strategies.

“Research is a very important component for what we do and certainly from the standpoint as an association, we look at those places that we can get applied research, so we actually end up with something that is valuable for on-the-ground management efforts,” said Dave Pellatz, executive director and conservation coordinator for TBGPEA.

Focus on sagebrush steppe, short-grass prairie

It is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. The group focuses on two ecotypes, the sagebrush steppe and the short-grass prairie found predominately in northeastern Wyoming.

Working with a variety of groups, TBGPEA has invested over $2.6 million to enhance sage and shortgrass habitats. About 35,000 acres have been treated for cheatgrass and provided 3,900 acres of enhanced nesting cover in sage grouse core areas.

“The association has been involved for about two decades, and we have been able to work with our partners to put a lot of good conservation on the ground and to set strategy and policy,” said Pellatz.

As a result of TBRI, UW graduate students, like master’s candidate Lauren Connell and doctoral candidate Courtney Duchardt, have been able to conduct field-based research in the Thunder Basin. Undergraduate students, like Justin White, are able to gain hands-on experience in rangeland management and research.

“They are a critical piece with facilitating research because they assist with student housing, financial support, logistics and coordination with ranchers,” said Derek Scasta, UW assistant professor and extension range specialist.

Association multitasks

Scasta noted TBGPEA establishes a need for student involvement, serves as the local sponsor and contact for collaboration with landowners, energy companies and state or federal agencies, creates the coordination of seed money from partners to facilitate research, and provides support such as summer lodging for students and technicians.

Catherine Estep, pursuing a master’s of science in ecosystem science and management, has been using the Thunder Basin region to study prescribed fire impacts on sagebrush and forage. Estep is assessing how fire affects sagebrush survival, forage for livestock and plant communities.

According to Pellatz, prescribed fire is not used much in the northeast area of the state, and this study will provide a look at the detrimental or beneficial impacts it would have on plant communities.

“One of the hopes is to get a better understanding, locally, of how fire at a fairly small scale impacts those plants, and that includes sagebrush,” said Pellatz.

Scasta said TBGPEA has brought vision and resources together for long-term research in the Thunder Basin. This partnership will provide a better understanding of how to manage this region in Wyoming.

Pelletz, along with board members Frank G. Eathorn, Jr., Laurel Vicklund, Jewell Reed, Lona Nachtman, Joan Neumiller and John Riehle, said they are honored to be recognized as the Outreach Partner of the Year.

“As I shared that information with the board, they were very pleased to be honored and they felt the work we have done with the university has been very beneficial, and we have appreciated the efforts of UW as we work to better understand this area,” Pelletz said.

Contact Us

College of Agriculture and Natural Resources

University of Wyoming

Department #3354

1000 E. University

Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-4133

Fax: (307) 766-4030

Email: agrdean@uwyo.edu

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1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
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