restoring native vegetation on ungulate winter range in and near yellowstone national park, u.s.a....

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Restoring Native Vegetation on Ungulate Winter Range in and near Yellowstone National Park, U.S.A. Case Study: Restoration Strategy for Yellowstone National Parks North Entrance area The area immediately north of Yellowstone National Park, known as the Gardiner Basin, was deemed essential for elk and pronghorn winter range and acquired for the park in the 1920s and 1930s. The U.S. Forest Service (Gallatin National Forest) similarly acquired adjacent lands in the Gardiner Basin during the 1990s. Due to previous agricultural land use, semi-arid conditions, altered hydrologic regimes and soil conditions, and increased exotic weeds, these acquired lands support relatively low amounts and quality of forage for wildlife. Recent unsuccessful attempts at restoration demonstrated that additional expertise from diverse disciplines was needed to effectively restore the degraded ecosystem to native vegetation and provide higher quality habitat for wintering ungulates. The National Park Service, Gallatin National Forest, and the Center for Invasive Plant Management at Montana State University convened a facilitated workshop in April 2005 with state, federal, academic, and practicing restoration and reclamation specialists to develop feasible, ecologically-based restoration and management strategies for these former agricultural lands. During the workshop, invited restorationists were oriented to the sites, identified driving forces to address during the restoration process, listed and described values to be achieved through restoration and the desired vegetation condition necessary to realize those values, created restoration strategies, and assessed the feasibility, cost and timing necessary to implement the strategies. Driving Forces Sodium flocculated surface soil and possible salt accumulation due to past land uses (irrigated agricultural fields, now dominated by annual and perennial exotic weeds) Semi-arid climate (less than 254 mm precipitation/year) Soil (wind) erosion Heavy winter ungulate use Site Restoration Goal: Restore functioning water, soil, and energy cycles; soil properties; and a sustainable native shrub-grassland plant association similar to the site potential. Restoration Strategy 1. Characterize soils: conduct soil analysis to assess the type, amount and fine-scale location of soil amendments needed Determine where to sample: transects by gradient, changes in soil surface & vegetation, include reference sites Sample at soil depths of 0-6, 6-12, 12-24 inches Analyze soils for pH, ESP, organic matter, presence/depth of clay pan, % particle size separation, Na, salt accumulation 2. Repair soil properties. If soils are sodic, apply gypsum to reduce ESP to