UW Rogers Research Site maintains potential for forestry research after fire
Laramie – The Rogers Research Site (RRS), formerly known as the Triple T Ranch in the Laramie Mountains is a 320-acre property the University of Wyoming (UW) can use in its pursuit of research and education.
After Colonel William Catesby Rogers passed, he donated his ranch to UW with the request it be used for research relating to forestry and wildlife resource improvement.
As of 2005, the property belongs to the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and is managed by the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station (WAES).
RRS was full of ponderosa pine and migratory wildlife before the 2012 Arapaho Fire. Most of the pine trees and surrounding vegetation were completely burned in the fire, while a few aspens did survive. Afterwards, the opportunity to study forest restoration was present at RRS.
“Current research is focusing on post-fire activities, such as restoration of ponderosa pine and grass, soil amendments, microbial community recovery and post-fire changes,” comments Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station Associate Director John Tanaka.
Fortunately for researchers, a soils inventory was conducted prior to the Arapaho Fire and provided a baseline that can be compared to any soils inventory completed after the fire.
In 2014, a forest pathogen inventory was conducted and aids researchers today in understanding the regeneration dynamics of forest pathogens following the fire.
Importance to UW
RRS is the only forestry research site the university fully owns.
“Having full ownership of the property allows research to happen and treatments to be applied that otherwise may not be possible or allowed,” says Tanaka.
Tanaka says full ownership of the land allows researchers to try new methods that might not be successful or profitable, which helps the university fulfill its mission to discover knowledge and make it available without constraints.
Research conducted on public lands faces restrictions on what can be done, which limits the treatments.
On private land, research can be stopped or drastically changed based on the landowner’s discretion.
Another benefit is that forestry research frequently takes many years to complete and get results. Full ownership allows the research to be conducted over a large amount of time, which provides more accurate results and research.
“Our mission is to discover knowledge and make that available to our stakeholders and RRS is the only location where we have full control over treatments and follow-ups,” Tanaka insists.
RRS does encounter a few challenges.
Tanaka comments that the remoteness of the site is challenging for WAES because there isn’t constant onsite monitoring.
“We rely on researchers with studies at the site to keep us informed,” states Tanaka.
Another challenge WAES faces at RRS is maintenance of the site. Current undertakings are rebuilding fences damaged by elk and remaining burnt trees knocked over in the wind.
Dealing with invasive species such as Canada thistle and cheatgrass is also an issue onsite because both weeds crowd out native plants and other desirable vegetation.
Control methods require constant monitoring and repeated applications of either chemical, biological or mechanical control states Tanaka.
WAES plans to continue research following the post-fire restoration activities for as long as funding allows.
They will also continue to accept any future research proposals, consistent with up-to-date forestry and wildlife resource research at RRS, from companies, agencies or other universities.
Heather Loraas is assistant editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.