New publication invites you to explore the plant life of Thunder Basin

A profusion of bright pink flowers growing in a short tuft in gra
Tufted milkvetch, a native perennial of the Fabaceae family, scientific name: Astragalus spatulatus

A new checklist of Thunder Basin plant life is for anyone who wants to learn more about the wide-open landscapes where the Great Plains meet the sagebrush steppe.

Free from University of Wyoming Extension, Common Herbaceous Plants of the Thunder Basin Grasslands is available at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

The comprehensive plant list classifies plants according to forbs (flowering plants), shrubs, sub-shrubs, grasses and grass-likes (sedges and rushes). Listed for each is whether it is native or exotic, perennial (long-lived), biennial (two years) or annual, plus its family and scientific name.

For example, soapweed yucca is a native perennial of the Agavaceae family, whose scientific name is Yucca glauca. Woolypod milkvetch is another native perennial, this of the Fabaceae family, scientific name: Astragalus purshii.

Squirrelgrass, sleepygrass, winterfat, pricklypear and fuzzytongue penstemon are among the 195 species included.

According to the authors, the Thunder Basin grasslands in northeastern Wyoming are an ecotone where northern mixed grass prairie, short grass prairie and the sagebrush steppe come together. Ranging in elevation from 3,600 to 5,200 feet, the area is home to a rich array of plants and animals.

The new fact sheet provides a starting point for becoming familiar with the plants of the region’s uplands.

Common Herbaceous Plants of the Thunder Basin Grasslands is the third in a series from University of Wyoming Extension in partnership with the Thunder Basin Research Initiative, area ranchers and energy companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association.

It is one of more than 600 how-to guides from UW Extension (see bit.ly/UWEpubs) that help extend skills in gardening, grazing, pruning, canning, cropping, habitat restoration and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include From the Ground Up, Barnyards and Backyards and Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.

For more information on this publication, contact University of Wyoming Extension range specialist Derek Scasta at 307-766-2337 or jscasta@uwyo.edu.

 

Hello sagebrush birds!

A brown bird, looking but not singing, is perched on a strand of barbed wire.
Sage thrashers, included in the new Thunder Basin Ecology factsheet, incorporate dozens of unique sound fragments into their songs.

A new factsheet on three Thunder Basin bird species gives a quick introduction to inhabitants of the wide-open, wildlife-rich landscapes where the Great Plains meet the sagebrush steppe.

Free from University of Wyoming Extension, Birds of Thunder Basin: Sagebrush Specialists is available at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

The ecology factsheet describes the sage thrasher, Brewer’s sparrow and greater sage-grouse and includes a brief overview of breeding, nesting, migration, and conservation status. Quick ID tips, fun facts and definitions of birding terms round out the introductions.

“Sage thrashers are superb singers,” writes Courtney Duchardt of this sagebrush specialist. “Thrashers are classified as mimids. They incorporate snippets of surrounding noises into their songs, possibly to show potential mates they are familiar with the area and will make good partners.”

Duchardt, a University of Wyoming graduate student in ecology and ecosystem science and management, has spent more than 235 days (and nights) in Thunder Basin camping, photographing and conducting research.

Birds of Thunder Basin: Sagebrush Specialists is the second in a series from University of Wyoming Extension in partnership with the Thunder Basin Research Initiative, area ranchers and energy companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association.

The factsheet is one of more than 600 guides from UW Extension (see bit.ly/UWEpubs) that help extend skills in cooking, canning, calving, conservation and community change, plus gardening, grazing, cropping, habitat restoration and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include From the Ground Up, Barnyards and Backyards and Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.

Welcome to Thunder Basin invites visitors to linger

Sagebrush in foreground, Rochelle Hills in background with large cumulus clouds in pale blue sky.
The Thunder Basin grassland includes state, federal, and privately owned lands on the eastern edge of the Powder River Basin.

A new guide to Thunder Basin supplies a quick orientation for anyone who wants to learn more about the wide-open, wildlife-rich landscapes where the Great Plains meet the sagebrush steppe.

Free from University of Wyoming Extension, Welcome to Thunder Basin is available at bit.ly/UWEpubs.

In four pages and 19 photos, Welcome to Thunder Basin supplies a view of the ecology, wildlife, public lands history, land use and research in the area of northeast Wyoming that includes Thunder Basin National Grassland.

“The grassland doesn’t always make life in the field easy,” writes Courtney Duchardt in Welcome to Thunder Basin. A University of Wyoming graduate student in ecology and ecosystem science and management, Duchardt has spent more than 235 days (and nights) in Thunder Basin camping, photographing and conducting research.

The factsheet is the first in a series from University of Wyoming Extension in partnership with the Thunder Basin Research Initiative, area ranchers and energy companies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service and the Thunder Basin Grasslands Prairie Ecosystem Association.

“This landscape is a patchwork,” writes Duchardt. “It’s a place where…wildlife and cattle coexist and where ranchers, researchers and energy executives share the goals of learning what the grassland has to teach…”

Welcome to Thunder Basin is one of more than 600 how-to guides from UW Extension (see bit.ly/UWEpubs) that help extend skills in cooking, canning, calving, estate planning and community change, plus gardening, grazing, pruning, cropping, habitat restoration and more. YouTube video series from UW Extension include From the Ground Up, Barnyards and Backyards and Exploring the Nature of Wyoming.

UW research finds prairie dogs increase forage quality, acknowledges nuisances

Lauren Connell during an annual vegetation survey at a control site in the Thunder Basin National Grassland.

Ranchers have known prairie dogs can reduce rangeland forage by as much as half, but prairie dogs may significantly increase the quality of forage that regrows, according to research by a University of Wyoming master’s student.

Lauren Connell said forage clipping by prairie dogs maintains a younger plant growth stage, and its palatability is significantly more nutrient-rich.

Her preliminary data is based on forage quality samples collected on and off prairie dog colonies from four sites in the Thunder Basin National Grassland in June, July and August and biomass samples in August.

Her research suggests the prairie dog-livestock relationship mimics the historic prairie dog-bison structure. Perennial rangeland plants evolved with intense, short-term grazing by bison and the grazing leads to new, highly nutritious leaves.

Prairie dogs foraging and associated soil disturbance removes dead plant material, establishes grasses and forbs in a high state of nutrition and maintains that quality for a longer period of the growing season, she said.

“That can be a benefit to cattle,” said Connell, a student in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Continue reading UW research finds prairie dogs increase forage quality, acknowledges nuisances