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An Approach to Landscape Scale Aspen Inventory and Assessment: Applications for the
Annie Loosen, Teton Science Schools, Jackson, WY, Steve Kilpatrick, Wyoming Game and Fish, Jackson, WY, Don DeLong, US Forest Service, Afton, WY, Morgan Graham, Teton Science Schools, Jackson, WY, and Brenda Younkin, Teton Science Schools, Jackson, WY
Aspen loss is widely documented across the West. In the Great Basin states, aspen loss has been estimated at 50% since European settlement. This decline is often attributed to a severe reduction in disturbance events, long-term over browsing, and disease. Aspen is widely noted for high understory productivity and diversity, high water yield, recreation, aesthetics and quality forage preferred by domestic and wild ungulates. Aspen communities are second in biodiversity only to riparian areas and consequently of great ecological significance. Aspen managers generally agree that treatment and wildfire management are necessary to maintain aspen health and distribution across the landscape. Furthermore, managers agree that time is of the essence for aspen communities in advanced successional status.
Working with a private entity, Wyoming Game and Fish and USFS developed a rapid aspen community inventory and assessment protocol for the Greys River Ranger District (GRRD) (484,752 acres). Technicians classified aspen stands according to community type, over and understory dominance, browse level, and risk factor (Bartos and Campbell 1998). Forty eight percent (48%) of the total stands were classified as Highest priority for treatment (27,419 acres), thirty three percent (33%) of the stands were classified as Moderate-High priority (14,742 acres) and five percent (5%) were classified as a Candidate for Properly Functioning (2,140 acres). This protocol resulted in a GIS based “road map” to aspen assessment and inventory that can be used by current and future GRRD managers to prioritize and implement treatments across an entire Ranger District. Opportunities exist for the protocol developed for the GRRD to serve as a useful template for managers across the Great Basin and much of the West to implement similar protocols to prioritize restoration efforts and future treatment options on their home districts.