New guide provides tools for ranchers, others in sage-grouse country

Nine brown birds in green field, red hillside in back.
Young sage-grouse congregate along an irrigation ditch in a freshly cut hay field. Photo: Leanne Correll

According to its authors, Landowner Guide to Sage-grouse Conservation in Wyoming: A Practical Guide for Land Owners and Managers is meant to enhance understanding and conservation of sage-grouse in Wyoming.

The new guide, which provides tools and resources, is available as a free download from University of Wyoming Extension at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

“It condenses scientific findings into a practical format that is easy to use and understand,” said Derek Scasta, a UW Extension range specialist and co-author.

In 70 compact pages, the guide covers basic sage-grouse biology, life stages, habitat needs, predator impacts, conservation planning and sagebrush monitoring.

More than 40 original Wyoming photographs and seven state-level maps illustrate the lives of these birds that coexist with cattle, other livestock and approximately 350 vertebrate wildlife species, including songbirds and small mammals.

Full-color photos show males in fall mating displays, the sagebrush shape that provides winter cover for nesting females, and the broadleaf flowering plants (forbs)  and insects that provide protein-rich food for chicks in spring. A wire mesh escape ramp in a livestock tank is presented as a simple alteration to reduce sage-grouse drowning.

“Sagebrush ecosystems are complex, and efforts to conserve sage-grouse are multifaceted,” said lead author and photographer Leanne Correll.

Correll heads an agriculture and natural resources consulting business in Saratoga and earned a master’s degree in rangeland ecology and watershed management from UW in 2017.

Wyoming is a sage-grouse stronghold, encompassing almost a quarter of the range-wide habitat and 37 percent of known male populations – more than any other state.

“Those who own or manage sage-grouse habitat play a critical role in conserving this umbrella species in Wyoming and the West,” said Correll. “They were the catalyst for developing this guide.”

Landowner Guide to Sage-grouse Conservation in Wyoming co-authors with Correll are Rebecca Burton and University of Wyoming professors Scasta and Jeffrey Beck.

Contributing support and expertise were local ranchers and conservation experts, other UW faculty members, and representatives of county, state, and federal agencies, including the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The guide is one of many free publications available at  bit.ly/UWEpubs, covering sage-grouse, sagebrush, grasslands, grazing, conservation, and ranch economics.

For more information, contact Scasta at (307) 766-2337 or jscasta@uwyo.edu.

Why are these teens all smiles?

Bright-faced teens outside, 3 males in back, three females in front.
Gavin Simmons, Ian Siegusmund, Morgan Sanchez, Lukas Simmons, Mishelle Frame, and Torree Spatig of Uinta County are among the first enrolled in ANSC 1009. The UW course is open to all Wyoming 4-H’ers in high school.

They’re honing their animal production skills (and earning college credit) in a new University of Wyoming course, Introduction to Animal Science (ANSC 1009), which connects high school students with UW via field experiences, extension workshops, online content, and Zoom conference calls with animal science professors. To read more and learn ways UW Extension connects with Wyoming, see CONNECT 2017.

New publication shares path to UW research near Laramie Peak

Researcher uses hand-held GPS tool outdoors.
Larry Munn, now retired from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, uses GPS as part of habitat studies at the Rogers Research Center.

How 320 acres in the Laramie Mountains came to be a field site where University of Wyoming students and faculty members conduct forestry and wildlife research is the subject of a new publication about the Rogers Research Site (RRS) northwest of Wheatland.

Ranchers, farmers, cabin owners and other area residents, along with UW, state and federal employees, played a role in the direction of the UW-owned site, according to RRS Bulletin 2, Wide constituency guides early activities and research at Rogers Research Site, north Laramie Mountains, Wyoming.

Their recommendations and a summary of current and completed studies are detailed in the bulletin, available for downloaded at bit.ly/UWEpubs. Enter Rogers Research Site into the search bar.

In 2002, U.S. Army Col. William C. Rogers (1906–2003) bequeathed his land near Laramie Peak to UW with the stipulation that it be used, in part, for research relating to the improvement of forestry and wildlife resources in the Laramie Mountains and across Wyoming.

RRS 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 R&E Center (SAREC) near Lingle.

“WAES is dedicated to serving the people of Wyoming with relevant research,” said UW professor John Tanaka, director of SAREC and associate director of WAES. “As we began planning for RRS, having field days at the site was important for framing the questions we wanted to address.”

Robert Waggener, WAES editor and author of this second bulletin in the RSS series, said that 70 people at a field day in 2005 were asked to rank their priorities for the site.

“Their input provided an important stepping stone for early planning and research,” Waggener said. “Among their top recommendations were forestry and wildlife habitat research, student education, and studies involving water, range ecology and livestock grazing.”

UW employees, students and representatives from the Laramie Peak Fire Zone, Platte County Weed and Pest Control District, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and other agencies contributed further input during later field days and planning sessions.

Former SAREC director Jim Freeburn oversaw early activities at the site.

“The support and responses from agency personnel have been tremendous, and people from the Laramie Peak area gave insightful comments that were heartfelt and showed a passion for the land and resources,” said Freeburn, now the regional training coordinator with Western Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

“Col. Rogers had a great interest in research in forest environments, and it is my hope that UW will carry that tradition forward and complete research that benefits the area and our knowledge base,” Freeburn added.

A quick research shift followed the high-intensity Arapaho Fire in 2012, which burned nearly 100,000 acres in the Laramie Mountains, including RRS lands.

“While the initial thoughts were to study an intact forested landscape,” said Tanaka, “that focus changed with the Arapaho Fire to one of forest restoration.”

Preliminary findings from the ponderosa pine restoration study, a vegetation mapping survey and pre- and post-fire soils research will be detailed in upcoming bulletins. A limited number of printed copies of the first two bulletins will be available at the annual SAREC open house (2753 State Highway 157 near Lingle), 4–8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 24.

For more information about the free event, research at RRS or the bulletins, call 307-837-2000 or email sarec@uwyo.edu. An open house schedule is at http://www.uwyo.edu/uwexpstn/centers/sarec/.

WAES friends, staff honored with awards, recognition

Award winners holding oversized "Hess buck dollars" and plaques stand on either side of Kathleen Bertoncelj, for whom the award is named. On the end is Bret Hess. All stand against a black background.
Rochelle Koltiska (left) and Joanne Newcomb (right) received the Kathleen Bertoncelj AES Staff Award. Bertoncelj (center), whom the award honors, presented the award with Bret Hess, Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station director.

Shiny belt buckles specially designed for friends of Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES) and a first-time award lit up the ballroom at the University of Wyoming Conference Center in Laramie February 15.

UW President Laurie Nichols and Pepper Jo Six, UW Foundation major gift officer, helped Bret Hess, associate dean of research in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and WAES director, honor two people he said “went well beyond the call of duty to help us celebrate our 125th anniversary.”

Friends of AES Recognized

Leesa Zalesky and David Kruger were each presented a “Friend of AES” belt buckle.

Zalesky helped care for Pistol and Pete, the WAES Haflinger draft horses that made appearances throughout the state in 2016, often pulling the college’s sheep wagon refurbished for the 125th celebration. She launched the pair into celebrity by creating their Facebook page, a factsheet, and traveling banner. Hess credits her for helping Pistol and Pete become “icons and exceptional ambassadors for WAES.”

Kruger documented WAES history in the book 125 Years of the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station. He viewed the project as part of his responsibilities as UW library liaison with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and attended WAES field days and other events to sign the book and share WAES history. Hess acknowledged Kruger as one of WAES’s “best ambassadors.”

Kathleen Bertoncelj AES Staff Awards Presented

Friends and supporters of a former WAES staff associate, led by former WAES director Steve Miller, made gifts to establish the Kathleen Bertoncelj WAES Staff Award. The inaugural award was presented to Rochelle Koltiska, Sheridan Research and Extension Center (ShREC) office associate, and Joanne Newcomb, administrative associate for WAES. Bertoncelj is a former senior office associate in the WAES. She worked at UW for 38 years, the last 16 in the WAES.

Koltiska embodies the spirit of the award by providing outstanding service and commitment to the improvement of WAES and its endeavors, said Hess. He noted when she arrived she was tasked with building an efficiently running office in the midst of great transitions, which included multiple station directors and a change in structure of the ShREC.

She has adapted procedures to meet the center’s expansion and has met the challenges of her own expanding roles, said Hess.

“Our team has complete confidence in her ability to ensure every detail is attended to for any of our public events, as this is an area where she really shines,” he said. He also acknowledged her contributions are helping grow the ShREC internship program.

Newcomb was praised for her professionalism and skill for anticipating needs. Newcomb ensures major programs and initiatives run smoothly and are efficient, effective, and highly professional, said Hess. He called her “the ultimate planner and organizer” and noted her ability to manage details.

“Anybody who has had the pleasure of working with Joanne can rest assured every possible scenario has been thoroughly explored and adjustments made before any possible situation is encountered,” said Hess.

He concluded, “When someone always knows your name and makes you feel as though you are friends, even when she works with hundreds of people, you know she is good at what she does.”

Staff Years of Service, Careers Recognized  

5 years with WAES: Rochelle Koltiska, Joanne Newcomb.

10 years with WAES: Kelly Greenwald, administrative associate at the James C. Hageman Sustainable Research and Extension Center (SAREC); Larry Miller, assistant farm manager at SAREC; Keith Schaefer, assistant farm manager at the Powell Research and Extension Center; and Travis Smith, assistant farm manager at the Laramie Research and Extension Center (LREC).

20 years with WAES: Mike Moore, manager, Wyoming Seed Certification Service.

WAES employees who retired in 2017 are Denny Hall, manager, Wyoming Seed Laboratory; Dale Hill, assistant farm manager, LREC; and David Perry, grants coordinator, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.