Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative 2015 Annual Report

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Ucross High Initiative Ucross HighPlains Plains Stewardship Stewardship Initiative Annual AnnualReport—2014 Report—2015



Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative — 2015 Annual Report

This work would not be possible without support from: Mr. Raymond Plank | Plank Stewardship Initiative | Ucross Foundation | Apache Foundation | Apache Corporation | Bauer Land and Livestock | Yale University School of Forestry & Environmental Studies | Google | NASA Goddard Space Flight Center | University of Wyoming | The Nature Conservancy | Sheridan Community Land Trust | Boot Ranch

Questions? ucrosshighplainsstewardship@gmail.com | highplainsstewardship.org | facebook.com/ucrosshighplainsstewardshipinitiative

Raymond Plank – Founder & Chairman Emeritus Apache Corporation | Entrepreneur & Visionary UHPSI is the brainchild of Raymond Plank, Apache Corporation Founder and Chairman Emeritus. Through his life in the West, Raymond established a strong personal connection to the landscape around him and an appreciation for land and water stewardship. The Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative is a manifestation of Raymond’s interest in and affinity for the High Plains region, made possible only through his high-level vision and philanthropy. Raymond tends to think large, and hopes to extend UHPSI’s reach to the rest of Wyoming and beyond, securing a more sustainable future for the High Plains region. Most recently, Raymond has founded a new organization—the Plank Stewardship Initiative, which will work closely with UHPSI to foster land and water stewardship on the high plains of Wyoming. When he isn’t juggling business or developing educational opportunities you might find Raymond enjoying the sounds of the river from his home on Piney Creek.

Cover Photo: Jeff Stoike (PhD 2016) follows the Boot Ranch herd out of summer pasture in the Laramie Mountains—October 2015


About the Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative



he Ucross High Plains Steward-

he UHPSI research group focus-

ship Initiative (UHPSI) is a science-

es on a wide array of issues relating

based research program focused on

to land and water stewardship in-

land stewardship in the American

cluding hydrologic modeling, stream

West. It is the brainchild of Raymond

geomorphology, invasive species

Plank, founder of Apache Corporation

modeling, landscape change monitor-

and the Ucross Foundation. At the

ing through satellite image interpre-

heart of our work is the Ucross Ranch,

tation, avian acoustic monitoring,

a 22,000-acre working cattle and

invertebrate and pollinator research,

sheep ranch in Clearmont, Wyoming.

demographic studies, financial mod-

The ranch serves as a living laboratory

eling, and much more.

where our highly collaborative team of


students, faculty, and alumni from Yale University’s School of Forestry &

findings with Ucross Ranch manage-

Environmental Studies focus their efforts. UHPSI seeks to provide quantitative, science-based solutions to issues of rangeland management, and to share their findings, locally, regionally, and nationally.


he research team shares its

ment and more broadly at conferences and in publications around the country. Recently, UHPSI has begun working closely with the Plank Stewardship Initiative in a collaborative effort to distribute beneficial technical assistance to working lands managers in the high plains.

ur team includes professionals and graduate students with extensive

tics, remote sensing and geospatial analysis. Students and staff bring expe-


rience garnered by research operations around the world, from Oregon to

ming, working with an ever growing network of ranchers, farmers, academ-

Kansas to New England to Chile to Turkey to Nepal.

ics and conservation practitioners.

experience in landscape ecology, wildlife biology, botany, hydrology, statis-


ncreasingly, UHPSI team members can be found on the ground in Wyo-

About the Ucross High Plains Stewardship Initiative


UHPSI Students, Faculty, and Staff


Monthly Highlights


Google Research Awards


Collaborative Mapping Projects


Grad Student Highlights


Landowner Engagement


Outreach in New Haven and Wyoming


Publication and Press



Chadwick Oliver, PhD – Fearless Leader — As the Pinchot Professor of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Chad serves as UHPSI’s fearless leader, ensuring that research remains relevant, timely, and effective. His research has taken him to more than 25 countries, where he has cultivated macro-level perspective that help to situate UHPSI within a larger framework. Outside of UHPSI, Chad teaches and researches forest ecology and silviculture, as well as natural resource management on local, region, and global scales. Chad is currently authoring a new book on global resources.

Charlie Bettigole, MS – Program Director — Charlie serves as UHPSI’s program director, helping to manage day-to-day operations from either the New Haven or Ucross office. Charlie has a hand in most of the projects that the team takes on, but has devoted extra energy towards the cultivation of key relationships with Ucross Partners, generating new student interest in UHPSI research, and assisting with scientific analysis and writing. Charlie and his wife Minna just welcomed daughter Margot, and we can’t wait to have her out in Wyoming!

Henry Glick, MESc, PhD Student – Lead Researcher — Henry provides analytical, spatial, and statistical expertise wherever it’s needed in the UHPSI lab. He is responsible for the development and maintenance of UHPSI’s in-house Geographic Information System, and has spent considerable time creating geographic models of the current land cover across the Ucross Ranch, as well as statistically evaluating the accuracy of those models. Henry loves to use spatial statistics to explore ecological problems, and applies them to UHPSI whenever possible.

Sophie Young - Sophie graduated in 2015 with an M.E.M from F&ES. Originally from California, Sophie has spent time in working landscapes around the world, including China and Spain. Sophie brought her expertise in land use and economic development to UHPSI in the spring of 2015 as she worked on her master’s thesis in collaboration with Mountain Meadow Wool (MMW). Inspired by a set of conversations with Valerie Spanos and Karen Hostetler at MMW, Sophie dove into the world of fiber production, researching a variety of topics and helping MMW design a set of best practices to use with their producers.

Leanne Weiss - Leanne is a second year master’s student at F&ES. Hailing from Oregon, Leanne has spent the last four years working with ocean fishermen off the coast of Oregon to design sustainable fisheries management practices. Leanne spent the summer of 2015 based jointly in Sheridan and Ucross, splitting time working on UHPSI projects around the ranch, while also assisting the Sheridan Community Land Trust with a variety of on the ground projects.


Devin Routh, MA, MFs – Spatial Analyst— Devin spends much of his efforts designing new algorithims and statistical operations on a Google Earth Engine research project investigating the automated detection of invasive species with satellite imagery. Concurrent with his studies and UHPSI work, Devin is in the midst of starting a meadery at his family farm in North Carolina, and sharing his expertise on all things bee with folks in Wyoming and New Haven.

Catherine Kuhn, MESc — After two years of working with the UHPSI team, Catherine graduated in the Spring of 2015 with an MESc from F&ES, and has gone on to pursue a PhD at the University of Washington. A native of Kansas, Catherine spent five years before F&ES in the Bay Area teaching watershed ecology, biology and conservation to high school students as part of the Oakland Teaching Fellows program. She is interested in watershed scale conservation and management with an emphasis on how land use practices can improve community resilience in the high plains.

Lindsi Seegmiller, MESc – Remote Sensing Analyst — Lindsi served as UHPSI’s specialist in the acquisition, manipulation, and analysis of satellite imagery from May 2013 through October 2015. Among other things, she was in charge of using this imagery to identify the distribution and relative abundance of invasive species across the landscape, and of developing webcompatible tools that allow the public to perform complex geospatial analysis.

Ben Hayes - Ben graduated in 2015 with an M.F. from F&ES, where he focused on sustainable ranching and rangeland investment - in particular with maximizing income streams from multiple land enterprises (e.g. ranching, hunting, fishing, hay, forestry). Ben hails from Oregon, and prior to coming to Yale, he worked in the high plains country of Wallowa County - a region remarkably similar to the landscape around Ucross. Ben brings a wealth of experience in natural resource management, having played a role in his family’s timber and land operations for many years.

Megan Brakeley - Megan graduated in 2015 with an M.E.M from F&ES. Her background lies in education, farming, and environmental studies. With these three values guiding Megan’s graduate studies, it was a perfect fit to bring her into the Ucross fold to work with the Clearmont School on designing a set of mapping classes focused on sustainable land management practices. Over Yale’s 2015 spring break, Megan and Charlie traveled to Ucross to work with middle-school students in their science and agricultural classes.

Laurel Williams is a mid career MEM student at F&ES. Before coming back to school, Laurel spent nine years working on public lands issues in the West and Washington, DC. While on the west coast, she worked with diverse stakeholders including Native American tribes, ranchers, and elected officials to craft and pass conservation legislation. Laurel works with Elizabeth, coordinating increased interaction between FES students and western stewardship practitioners. Laurel and her husband just welcomed daughter Adelyn, and can't wait to introduce her to the high plains and mountains of the West.

Bryce Kellog - Remote Sensing and GIS Research - Bryce graduated in 2015 with an MESc from F&ES. As a native of central Oregon, Bryce has a strong connection to rangelands, and purused this interest in project work Spring 2015. Bryce built an ecological model of cheatgrass distribution based on satellite and weather data (essentially predicting its spatial extent and longevity of green-out), and then built a resource allocation model that maximized early season grazing of cheatgrass (when it is still a viable forage crop) with the fewest resources possible.

Becca Shively is a mid-career MEM student with interests in water resources, climate resilience and the American west. She was born and raised in Oregon, and comes to FES after four years in Washington D.C. where she was a political appointee at USDA working on water policy and drought response with NRCS and the US Forest Service. Becca works with the Savory Institute to connect FES students with increased on-the-ground knowledge of holistic management and rangeland stewardship.

Martin Becker – MEM Candidate ’17, Agronomist, and mountaineering enthusiast. A native of Santiago, Chile, Martin has spent the last 4 years working for public agencies and NGO’s promoting public-private partnerships for managing public lands and tourism in Chile’s National Parks. At FES, he is interested in acquiring and applying new GIS skills for managing large-scale conservation initiatives and improving agricultural management practices. Martin will be bringing his enthusiasm and energy for land stewardship as a research analyst for UHPSI this fall. In his free time, Martin enjoys hiking and climbing mountains, drinking coffee or wine and travelling to new places with his wife Josefina.

Elizabeth Domenech is a first-year MEM student from Austin, Texas, interested in large-scale conservation solutions with a focus on the Western U.S. Prior to coming to F&ES, she served as the Director of the Shield-Ayres Foundation, a family foundation supporting natural resource conservation, health and human services, and education and the arts in Central Texas. Elizabeth will be working with UHPSI to bring a diverse set of practitioners (ranchers, managers, conservationists) to New Haven to talk about Western land conservation issues, and connect Yale students with opportunities/ internships on ranches and projects across the west.

Lucyann Murray is a second year MBA/MF candidate at the Yale School of Management and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Sciences. Her studies at Yale are focused on sustainable land management at the intersection of business and the environment. Her interest lies in finding innovative and sustainable ways for a land use and enjoyment. Lucyann will be working with Shane Cross of the Boot Ranch in Douglas, WY—she will be performing market analysis and financial modeling, helping Shane and his family move towards grass finishing and direct marketing of their beef.

Kris Covey—Kris is a PhD candidate at F&ES, studying silvicutlure and biogeochemistry. Kris has assisted the UHPSI team with publication strategy, Catherine Kuhn’s data processing and analysis, and student, faculty and staff engagement. Upon completing his PhD in spring of 2015, Kris is hoping to continue lending his expertise in design, analysis, and publication to UHPSI students and staff. Kris and his wife welcomed daughter Laurel in the fall of 2015.

Jeff Stoike - Jeff finished his PhD at F&ES in January of 2016. His PhD work has been focused on building sustainable relationships in Brazil between landowners, managers, government, NGO’s, and many other stakeholders around issues of conservation and land management. With a sharp eye towards communication and landowner engagement, and a burgeoning interest in the American West, Jeff has been working with Shane Cross, who helps run his family’s ranch outside of Douglas, WY.

Charlie Faires—With a background in farming, ranching, and wildlife biology, Charlie comes to the UHPSI team with a strong skillset for problem solving issues of rangeland ecology. A native of North Carolina, Charlie has been splitting time over 2015 between his work as a science-technician at F&ES and in finishing his undergraduate degree at Warren Wilson College in Asheville, NC.

Kyle Soriano—Kyle comes to UHPSI with a background in environmental chemistry, soil science, and environmental consulting. A native of upstate New York, with a passion for the West, Kyle has been an eager volunteer for UHPSI, lending his expertise in database design and data analysis to various hydrologic, forestry, and rangeland projects.


Monthly Highlights January 2015 

Press following release of 2014 Rangelands article o

Radio show on Australia Broadcasting Corporation


Wyoming Business Report, Washington Post, Capital Press, Yale Daily News

New students sign on to work with Ucross Projects: o

Megan Brakely, Leanne Weiss, Ben Hayes, Sophie Young, Bryce Kellog, Jeff Stoike

Collaboration in WY, CO, NM, NY, CT, MA

February 2015 

Clear Creek research presented to an international conference in Granada, Spain with positive reviews

Google Earth Engine algorithms for leafy spurge detection released to the Google developers community for review

Partnerships with Savory Institute begun

Grant proposal submitted to Google for the development of CVA, a new change-detection algorithm

March 2015


Charlie lectures on Ucross research to community members at Sheridan College

Formal report on MTMF and SAM (leafy spurge detection) submitted to Google Earth Engine

Short course administered by Megan Brakely and Charlie Bettigole at Arvada/Clearmont School

Research on decision support tools continues

Preliminary research and coding for CVA script

Henry begins using the Yale HPC (e.g. “Supercomputer”) for analysis

April 2015 

UHPSI receives second consecutive research award from Google Earth Engine for CVA algorithm development

Henry, Lindsi, and Devin share UHPSI research at the Association of American Geographers meeting, with great success.

May 2015 

Invitation extended to Joseph Mulhausen of Ciel Maps to fly experimental UAV flights at Ucross and TNC’s Ten Sleep Preserve.

Western mapping project formalized with Holly Copeland of TNC Wyoming

Leanne Weiss starts working with Sheridan Community Land Trust (SCLT) at their downtown Sheridan office

UHPSI co- hosted a Grasslands Symposium at Big Red, featuring 11 speakers, and 6 on-the-ground workshops around the Ucross property

Wilderness Watch donates UHPSI thousands of dollars of stream monitoring equipment for ongoing research

Devin, Catherine and Lindsi walk in F&ES graduation!

June 2015 

UAV flights capture custom imagery at Ucross and Ten Sleep Preserve

Leanne begins monitoring work on the Buyok Property with SCLT

Chad Oliver and Devin present the results of our GEE work at Google headquarters in California. Chad delivers a keynote talk on forestry and technology

July 2015 

Henry represents Ucross at the annual ESRI user’s conference – sharing information about UHPSI analysis at Ucross and beyond, with two posters and a presentation

Paper submitted to Photogrammetric Engineering and Remote Sensing on accuracy assessment in rangelands

Maps published in the ESRI Map Book – Volume 30

Monthly Highlights 

Holly Copeland of TNC WY visits Yale F&ES to brainstorm mapping projects

Leanne delivers Buyok monitoring report to SCLT, WY Game & Fish, NRCS, TNC, and Sheridan College

First working version of CVA script completed – Nathan Lindsey helps with calibration

August 2015 

Margot Clementine Bettigole joins the UHPSI team on August 21 st, 2015!!!

Second working version of CVA script completed, allowing charting and increased on-the-fly customization

September 2015 

Lindsi Seegmiller parts ways with UHPSI to move to Peru!

Henry begins the PhD program at F&ES

New students join the UHPSI team for Fall semester projects: o

Lucyann Murray, Elizabeth Domenech, Laurel Williams, Becca Shively, Martin Becker, Charlie Faires, Kyle Sirianno

Third iteration of CVA completed. Charlie works with range consultant Todd Graham on three of his ranch properties to help with calibration

Analysis begins on UAV collected imagery

Clear Creek Watershed report released

November 2015 

Lucyann visits the Boot Ranch to tour their enterprises and visit with neighboring ranches. Her background research and preliminary financial modeling continues

Karen Hostetler of Mountain Meadow Wool visits New Haven to talk about her business, meet with faculty/students, and explore potential business conenctions with Yale start-up companies

Henry completes pilot test for classification of UAV data

Charlie, along with Becca, Lucyann, and Eli attend the annual Quivira Coalition conference, learning new tools for improving rangeland management

October 2015 

Charlie and Jeff visit the Boot Ranch in Douglas, WY to help the Cross family with their fall cattle drive and brainstorm student projects for the 2015-16 academic year Shane Cross visits New Haven to talk about management challenges in the mountain west, and to meet with students, farmers, and restaurants as he begins to think about shifting enterprises at his family ranch Research project begins on forest density and streamflow

CVA script nears completion with latest iteration, incorporating radiometric correction

December 2015 

Brian Kuehl visits New Haven to talk about habitat mitigation banking and strategies for enterprise diversification for western landowners


Google Earth Engine


oogle Earth Engine is an open-source remote sensing plat-

form for which UHPSI has been a trusted tester for the past three years. While GEE is still in early developmental stages, it is a powerful tool, allowing researchers access to over 35 years of satellite imagery from all over the world, as well as a powerful cloud-computing platform for analyzing and processing data.


oogle Earth Engine Research Award 2014 – Mapping In-

vasive Vegetation using Hyperspectral Data, Spectral Angle Mapping, and Mixture Tuned Matched Filtering — Start April 2014, End April 2015. We received our first Google Earth Engine (GEE) research award to undertake the development of algorithms in the GEE platform that would enable both researchers and land managers the ability to easily classify and monitor invasive species at large spatial scales. With many ranches in the high plains managing hundreds of thousands of acres, the ability to rapidly map the spread or control of invasive species is invaluable to management. Leafy spurge (Euphorbia esula) was identified by academics and ranchers as a prime pilot for algorithm development. The final SAM and MTMF algorithms were packaged and delivered to GEE in spring of 2015.


Google Earth Engine


oogle Earth Engine Research Award 2015– Assessing

Historical Rangeland Management Strategies Using Change Vector Analysis — Start May 2015, End May 2016. Following the success of our first GEE award, we received a second round to develop a user-friendly change-detection algorithm for rangelands. Upon completion, this tool will allow researchers and managers the ability to analyze changes in grassland productivity anywhere in North America, across any time-sequence from 1980 onwards, at large spatial scales, in a matter of seconds. We are actively working on field testing of this algorithm with our network of private ranches, NGO’s, and rangeland consultants – we hope to work with 20-30 unique properties in calibrating our CVA algorithm, and answering some bigger picture questions about the long-term effectiveness of holistic planned grazing on grassland productivity (for which there is yet to be consensus in the literature). Finally, we hope to package CVA into a phone/tablet friendly application that can be used by decision makers in the field.


Cheatgrass Mapping


n partnership with the University of Wyoming Exten-

sion (Brian Mealor – Director, Sheridan Extension Center), we are working on a collaborative project, which will investigate the abilities of time-series analysis to map the current and historical distributions of cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) across the western United States. Cheatgrass is an invasive annual grass whose introduction into the American West has had a catastrophic impact on rangeland ecosystems and Western livelihoods. Cheatgrass’ unique phenology, drought tolerance, and adaptation to fire enables the species to outcompete native annual and perennial vegetation and to alter traditional/historic fire regimes.


e have begun preliminary background research

and mapping work, largely working off of UW’s extensive database of cheatgrass density estimates from across the state of Wyoming (n>5,000 points). We ultimately hope to translate the algorithms into a user-friendly tool to aid in management and decision making, and to build upon the successes Dr. Mealor’s team has had in working with state and local governments.


Russian Olive Mapping


HPSI has signed on to assist with a USDA-NRCS RCPP

grant for the Tongue River Initiative led by TNC Wyoming, and in conjunction with Sheridan Community Land Trust, Sheridan County Conservation Commission, NRCS, Wyoming Game and Fish, Trout Unlimited, Sheridan County, and Wyoming DEQ. UHPSI’s contribution will be the mapping of Russian Olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) across the Tongue River and its tributaries. Russian Olive is a woody invasive, historically planted as wind-row and garden trees, which rapidly displaces native vegetation, particularly in riparian areas.


ver 2015, we began to harness the latest in object-based

remote sensing algorithms to map both the current extent of Russian olive and its historical distribution, to better understand patterns of spread. In addition to the work with the Tongue River Initiative on the USDA grant, we hope to provide mapping support to Sheridan County Weed and Pest to aid them in their invasive species management prioritization process. We are actively pursuing additional grants related to this work with the Sheridan Community Land Trust, and based on our analytical results, hope to assist in the implement of Russian olive removal projects in summer 2016.


Master’s Highlight—Leanne Weiss


uyok Monitoring Project – The Buyok ranch is

located approximately ten miles north of Sheridan, Wyoming near the historical town of Monarch and is used primarily for cattle ranching. In 2014, as part of the Tongue River Initiative, two parcels of the property were selected for a water quality improvement project. This project is a partnership among the SCLT, Wyoming Game and Fish Department, Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy, and Sheridan College Department of Agriculture. Two stretches of Dry Creek, an ephemeral tributary of the Tongue River, have been fenced off in order to reduce grazing. Grazing within these fenced areas is allowed only between July 1st and September 30th. UHPSI master’s student Leanne Weiss spent part of her summer 2015 internship designing a monitoring plan, which will set in place annual monitoring to determine the impacts of grazing reduction on the riparian system.


PhD Highlight—Henry Glick


nmanned Aerial Vehicle Mapping – In tandem with UAV start-up Ciel Maps (founder Joseph Mulhausen), we performed a number of

high resolution mapping flights at the Ucross Ranch, and The Nature Conservancy’s Ten Sleep Preserve (Ten Sleep, WY). The flights enabled us to test protocols on the Ucross Ranch for the use of UAV imagery in developing dense point clouds (i.e. complex, fine-scale, 3D models), and aiding in the classification of conventionally difficult to classify land cover types in the high plains (e.g. leaf litter and sagebrush). Henry Glick has been leading the design and implementation of the spatial analysis of this incredibly detailed data. In 2016, we hope to take the dense point cloud and imagery from the Ten Sleep Preserve, and A) better train our classification models, B) potentially find new archeological sites in the 1,000 foot deep canyon (which already hosts some of the region’s most remarkable native cave paintings), and C) develop interpretive materials for the natural history exhibit at the site.


Master’s Highlight—Megan Brakeley


ale F&ES student research assistant Megan Brakeley and UHPSI Co-

director Charlie Bettigole headed to Wyoming in March 2015 to collaborate on a 3-day introduction to GIS and online mapping resources with ArvadaClearmont High and Elementary Schools. They teamed with 5-6th grade teacher, Lauren Eckel, district Science teacher Ross Walker, and Vocational Agriculture teacher, Lynne Latham, and worked with the 5-6th, 9th, and 10th grade classes. Megan and Charlie shared about how online databases like the Natonal Operational Hydrologic Remote Sensing Center’s Interactive Snow Information Tool and US Geological Survey’s StreamStats can serve as free, publiclyavailable tools that support good management practices on ranches.


egan and Charlie also introduced two digital mapping tools that use the

ArcGIS Online platform, and shared information about how we can use simple tools and data to understand more about the world around us. One resource, the Sheridan GIS Web Viewer, shows the local area with the option to view additional layers of data: property lines, county lines, and public resources. 9th and 10th grade students practiced using basic functions of the tool to measure fencelines, estimate the perimeter of Lake DeSmet, and check out how their homes look from space!


Master’s Highlight—Sophie Young


ountain Meadow Wool. As her capstone project, Sophie

Young (MEM ’15) performed research into best practices for sustainable wool production in the high plains of the western US, specifically tailored towards natural colored flocks. Sophie spent Spring of 2015 interviewing sheep ranchers across the west, wool producers, clothing manufacturers, industry groups, and most specifically, the owners and operators of Mountain Meadow Wool — the largest full-service woolen mill west of the Mississippi. Research materials were collated and delivered to partners at Mountain Meadow Wool in Fall 2015.

Source: Scasta: J. Integrated Pest Mgmt



Landowner Engagement—Boot Ranch HPSI staff members and students Lucyann Murray (MF/MBA ’17) and Jeff Stoike (PhD ‘16) have been working with Shane Cross (a 5th gen-

eration rancher from the Boot Ranch, in Douglas, WY) to develop financial and ecological models that aid in his decision making process to transition a portion of his family’s operation from cow-calf (all calves sold at market every year) to a directly-marketed, grass-finished enterprise (mature animals sold at a premium, and marketed as “grass-fed”). This has involved financial modeling, market research, ranch/butcher/restaurant visits, and interviews with Shane and his family (father Richard and sister Jamie).


dditionally, Lucyann will be building financial models and drafting a business plan for the potential development of a mobile slaughter oper-

ation (see photo on opposite page). Ironically enough, in Wyoming, with cattle as the largest ag-based industry, there is not a single USDA certified slaughterhouse. This means that ranchers hoping to sell grass-finished cattle at a premium must transport their livestock out of the state in order to sell their beef commercially. Having proven successful elsewhere in the country, USDA certified mobile slaughter units bring the processing directly to the rancher, reducing transportation, processing costs, and significantly decreasing stress on livestock in the slaughter process.


Landowner Engagement—CVA Testing and CAI


ield testing and application of Change Vector Analysis —

In 2015, we began the initial process of applying the CVA tool (see page

wards soil health, the CAI seek to design ways to effectively increase

11). Thanks to Nathan Lindsey (Apache Foundation), Tony Line

organic soil carbon, and promote beneficial biological activity in the

(Padlock Ranch), Todd Graham (Ranch Advisory Partners), Tre Cates

soil. Following initial conversations in 2015, UHPSI hopes to help CAI

(Savory Institute), and Holly Copeland (TNC), we have had the capaci-

with a) the design of a monitoring protocol, b) providing high-quality

ty to test our mapping algorithms on a variety of properties around

on-the-ground interns to individual CAI ranches and farms, and c)

Wyoming and Montana. As discussed above, the CVA tool allows a us-

mapping and spatial support from our toolkit of analytical tools devel-

er to understand how grassland productivity on a property has changed

oped over the last three years.

over time. During 2016, we are hoping to work with 20-30 additional properties to understand how the abilities of a manager to perceive ecological change match up with our broad quantitative landscape view from space. In the bigger picture, we are hoping to understand the efficacy of various grazing strategies over enormous scales and long time periods—something that has not been possible without our new CVA tool. Very exciting!


ommunity of Agricultural Innovators – Led by rancher Ste-

ve Charter and farmer John Brown of Shepherd, MT, the CAI seeks to unite farmers and ranchers interested in progressive land management practices that can increase yields and profits, while concurrently making their land more ecologically sustainable. With a particular lens to-

Source: blogs.usda.gov


Education at Yale


he larger Forestry and Environmental Studies community benefitted from a three-part

UHPSI speaker series, 'Looking West: Voices from the American Plains’, that came to a close in late November. Driven by student interest in connecting with boots-on-the-ground practitioners in Wyoming (ranchers, producers, energy, conservation) our fantastic first year master’s students Elizabeth Domenech and Laurel Williams helped coordinate and host three well-attended talks . This was an opportunity for students to engage in conversations about western working lands that would not otherwise be possible in New Haven. These talks have opened the doors to potential summer internships, and further Yale engagement in the high plains.


hane Cross (pictured with restaurant owner Jason Sobocinski), a 5th generation ranch-

er in Douglas, Wyoming and attorney for Trout Unlimited, spoke about his experience bridging the gap between ranchers, conservation, and the energy industry, which he illustrated with a case study about recent issues in the Thompson Divide area near Carbondale, Colorado. In November we were lucky to hear from Karen Hostetler who spoke about her work creating transparency in the wool industry through her company Mountain Meadow Wool, a sustainable full-service wool spinning mill in Buffalo, Wyoming. The final speaker, Brian Kuehl presented an overview of developments in mitigation and habitat exchange work in the West, including his work as Director of Federal Affairs for K-Coe Isom.


Wyoming Grassland Symposium


n May 2015, UHPSI co-hosted a Grasslands Symposium

with The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming and the Ucross Foundation, with roughly 100 attendees. With over a dozen presenters, we highlighted the multiple ways in which landowners, ranchers, visitors, and the conservation community interact with grassland environments—touching on economic, environmental, and social issues. Speakers included Frank Goodyear (Writer, Cody, WY), Michael Berman (Photographer, NM), Willy Sutton (Photographer, Regis College, CO), Laura Bell (Writer, WY), Jackie Canterbury (Audubon, WY), Brian Mealor (University of Wyoming Extension), Charlie Bettigole (UHPSI, Yale F&ES), Catherine Kuhn (UHPSI, Yale F&ES), Rick Pallister (TNC WY), Trey Davis (TNC WY), John Heyneman (Plank Stewardship Initiative), and Arthur Middleton (Yale F&ES).


HPSI led field-based workshops (see photo above) for attendees focused on mapping tools for land-management and ecological

monitoring, in addition to an introduction to water quality monitoring methodologies. Brian Mealor took attendees on a plant and weed identification walk, specifically catered to land management and monitoring, while wildlife photographers Berman and Sutton led a field photography workshop


UHPSI Publications 2015


he Clear Creek 2015 Watershed Assessment is a full color 28

-page booklet that summarizes some of our work with the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) led by former UHPSI collegaues Ambika Khadka and Catherine Kuhn. It provides an overview of the Clear Creek watershed, some of the major trends associated with the local hydrologic cycle, and a selection of hydrologic responses that would be caused by changes in specific management practices. In time, we hope to release a more comprehensive series of maps related to the SWAT model results, and a more detailed exploration of the effects of management practices on in-stream flow, ground-water recharge, erosion rates, and sediment yields. Please find a digital version of the report here. Hard copies are available upon request.


UHPSI Press—2015