14 June 2022

Start of The Summer Field Season

Written by: Liam Fressie

Hello my friends! I am once again writing to you from the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest and Pawnee National Grassland (ARP) located in Fort Collins, Colorado. The summer field season is finally here, and things have become very busy here at the ARP supervisors office. As members of the Forest Service, much of the work that is done is conducted outdoors, so the return of warm weather and dry roads indicates the start of our busy season. In my role on the wildlife crew, we’ve begun conducting surveys for various threatened species such as the Northern Goshawk, Burrowing Owls, Leopard frogs, and Swift Foxes.

You might be asking, “what exactly is a threatened species? And how does surveying for them help?”. Here at the Forest Service, we define Threatened Species as a group of animals that is struggling to survive as a result of inaccessibility to resources that have become uncommon or unavailable. When the lack of resources or favorable conditions reaches a point that puts the species at risk of becoming Endangered, we qualify them as Threatened.

So now you know what a Threatened species is, how does Surveying help solve the problem? To assess the degree in which a species is at risk, we survey to determine base line information about how a species is doing on a local level. For example, this last week was spent mapping prairie dog towns in an area that is looking to implement a water delivery system for cattle on the grasslands. Prairie Dogs aren’t a threatened species, but they are what is known as a Keystone species. Keystone species are those that many other animals in the ecosystem rely on for survival. Several threatened species such as the Burrowing Owl and the Swift Fox utilize abandoned prairie dog burrows as areas of shelter that they would otherwise have no way of acquiring. Therefore, by protecting the Prairie Dog Towns, we also protect the various threatened species that share the prairie dog’s home.

In order to survey these locations, we walked the perimeter of the prairie dog town and assessed whether each burrow was active or abandoned. If the burrow is active, we mark it on our maps and search for the next nearest active burrow. We continue in this process until our recorded points form what becomes the defined boundaries of the prairie dog town. Armed with a detailed map of where these animals are occurring, we then make suggestions to the landowner of how they might implement their water delivery system.

The use of this process ensures that landowners are able to utilize their property in the ways they desire, while also having the least impact on local wildlife as possible. This last month has been filled with so many awesome new experiences and new skills that have been so rewarding that its hard to believe I’m lucky enough to do this as a job! The Hispanic Access Foundation and the Forest Service have given me opportunities I never thought I would be able to access, if there’s an area of natural resources that you are passionate about, there is a wealth of people waiting to help you actualize your dreams. Don’t hesitate, as the Forest Service and the Hispanic Access has shown me, you are capable of so much more than you know.

Agency: U.S Forest Service

Program: Resource Assistant Program (RAP)

Location: Rocky Mountain Research Center

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