Tracking and being involved with Douglas County’s shrubsteppe habitat is a critical component of the Voluntary Stewardship Program (VSP) and one of Foster Creek’s elected natural resource interests and concern. Over the last few months much of staff’s attention has been on the shrubsteppe habitat and how we can work to enhance and protect it. Some projects include wildfire recovery and resiliency, species studies, and more.
Wildfire Recovery and Resiliency
Wildfires have become a seasonal part of life in Douglas County. Fire has important benefits to the ecosystem but if not carefully managed, can have catastrophic impacts to the community. Because of recent large-scale wildfires, FCCD staff have prioritized wildfire resilience and obtained funding through FEMA to conduct site assessments on landowner properties to identify risks and prescribe resolutions. Weed mapping and treatment, Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) assessments and native plant re-seeding are just a few ways our trained staff can assist in making your property and Douglas County more resilient to wildfire.
FCCD staff attended the annual greater sage grouse and sharp-tailed grouse workshops in early November where Ryan Lefler gave an update to the workgroup, showcasing the work that FCCD has been doing that is positively impacting these endangered species. Douglas County has some of the most optimal and reliable habitat in the state for these birds. As a member of both working groups, FCCD hears from leading researchers and biologists on recent news and status updates regarding both the sharp-tailed grouse and sage grouse species and includes that information within VSP long-term studies to track these species and their habitat within the county.
FCCD staff jumped in once again to offer a helping hand with WDFW’s Pygmy Rabbit recovery program. Staff helped round-up the kits in a breeding enclosure to perform overall health assessments, DNA sampling, and inoculation. Pygmy rabbits, like the greater sage grouse, are obligate species that only survive in shrubbsteppe landscape. Habitat loss from development and large-intensity wildfires have greatly reduced Pygmy Rabbit populations, resulting in a federally endangered status. Thanks to a large effort from WDFW staff and other community partners, the Pygmy Rabbit population in our area has hung on despite many challenges and are actively tracked for VSP data for this critical species.