The Methow Conservancy, in Washington State's Methow Valley
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2010 Methow Conservation Course
Secrets of the Shrub Steppe

Full Course Syllabus with Instructor Biographies

February 1st  - Shrub Steppe Development - From glaciers to butterflies (Dana Visalli & Eric Bard)

    Core Readings:
    1. Report:  ‘Shrub-Steppe Conservation Prioritization in Washington State’ by George Wooten. An interesting and easy to read overview of shrub-steppe natural history; focus mainly on the introduction.

    2. Web-page: ‘Shrub-Steppe: Washington’s Disappearing Sea’ by Joe Rocchio.  This is a well-written blog overview with some good pictures.

    3. Book Chapter:  ‘Columbia River Plateau’ (Chapter 10) from Geology of the Pacific Northwest by W. and E. Orr.  A geological overview with photographs on the geology of our region.

    4. **Handout:  ‘Observing the Methow’s Shrub-Steppe’ by Dana Visalli.

    Additional optional readings:
    1. **Book:  Sagebrush Country: A Wildflower Sanctuary by Ronald Taylor, 1992 is the best popular wildflower book for the Columbia Basin.

    2.  Book: Northwest Dryland Wildflowers: Sagebrush & Ponderosa by Dana Visalli, 2005 is better for the Methow shrub-steppe.

    3.  There is an assortment of geology lectures on DVD at the Methow Conservancy’s library from the 2006 Methow Geology Conservation Course.  Please check them out through Mary Kiesau at the Conservancy.

February 8th - Early People - First contact with people of the Methow ( Jack Nisbet)

    Core Readings: 
    These articles written by Jack Nisbet can be reached at his “Boundaries” column at

    1.  ‘Pismires,’ January 2007.  A fun read about the ecology of thatch ants we see often in the shrub steppe.

    2. Rootfood,’ July 2008.  An account of the spring tribal bands gathering camas, bitterroot, and Lomatium.

    3.  ‘Fish Doctor,’ August 2009.  Revelations about fish bones analyzed from Indian encampments.

    Additional optional readings:
    1.  Book:  The Mapmaker’s Eye by J. Nisbet, WSU Press, 2005.

    2.  Book: Visible Bones by J. Nisbet, Sasquatch Books, 2007.

    3.  Book: The Collector by J. Nisbet, Sasquatch Books, 2007.

February 16th (Tuesday) - Deep Dirt – The varied strategies of burrowing animals ( Kim Romain-Bondi)

    Core Readings:
    1.  Scientific review article:  ‘Pocket gophers in Ecosystems:  patterns and mechanisms’ by Huntley and Inouye, 1988.  BioScience, Volume 38, 7-pages (786-793).  Discusses the importance of burrows and mounding of soils in arid environments.

    2. ** Scientific review article:  ‘A review of burrowing by semi-fossorial vertebrates in arid environments’ by Al Kinlaw in 1999. From the Journal of Arid Environments, Volume 41, 18-pages (127-145).   An overview of fossorial animals around the world, and the ecology of the burrow system in desert ecosystems; skim through for interesting facts about burrowing ecology.

    3.  Article:  ‘Urchins Underfoot: Spadefoot Toads’ by Mary Kiesau, in The Methow Naturalist , Spring 2005 Volume 10, 2 pages (6-7).

    Additional optional readings:
    1.  Scientific review article:  ‘Mounds of the American Badger:  significant features of the North American shrub steppe ecosystems’ by D. J. Eldridge, 2004.  Journal of Mammology, Volume 85, 7-pages (1060-1067).   Scientific and relevant to our shrub steppe environment- see how important badgers and their burrows really are.

February 22th - Animal Survival – Islands of life in a harsh world (Michael Schroeder)

March 1st - Landscape Disrupted – Dramatic forces and subtle shifts (Jerry Benson)

    Core Readings:
    Journal article:  ‘Use of native plants on federal lands:  policy and practice’ by Richards, Chambers and Ross.  1988 Journal of Range Management Volume 51.  7-pages (625-632).   A review and discussion of native seed uses for fire rehabilitation and mining reclamation projects under federal land management agencies.

    **Journal article:  ‘The Effect of Invasive and Noxious Plants on Land Management in Eastern Oregon and Washington’ by Richy Harrod, 2001, in Northwest Science, Volume 75, 6-pages, (85-90).   A local eastern Washington U.S. Forest Service ecologist’s discussion on the key issues associated with invasive species and forest and rangeland health.

    Additional optional readings:
    1.  Book:  Ben Snipes Northwest Cattle King , by Roscoe Scheller.  Available through the Regional Library System or purchased at local and online book stores.

March 8th - Stopping the Decline – Realistic efforts to preserve and restore habitat ( Heidi Newsome)

    Core Readings: 
    1. Scientific review article:  ‘Effective management strategies for sage-grouse and sagebrush: a question of triage?’ by Wisdom et al., 2005.  Found in Transactions, North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, Volume 70, 21-pages (206-227).   This article defines central paradigms for maintenance, restoration, and management of sagebrush habitats.

    2.** Scientific review article:  ‘Countering Misinformation Concerning Big Sagebrush’  by Welch and Criddle, 2003.  From U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station, Report Number RMRS-RP-40.  28 pages.  A controversial article examining the scientific merits of axioms of range or vegetative management pertaining to sagebrush. 

    Additional optional readings:
    1. Report:  ‘Recovery and Rehabilitation of vegetation on the Fitzner-Eberhardt Arid Lands Ecology Reserve, Hanford Reach National Monument, Following the 24 Command Fire: Final Report 2001-2004,’ 254 pages.  A report of how cheatgrass and native plants have responded to fire; read through the Executive Summary for a review of their findings. 

    2. Scientific Review Article:  ‘Big sagebrush: A sea fragmented into lakes, ponds, and puddles’ by Welch, 2005.  From the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. Report Number RMRS-GTR-144.  210 pages.

    3. Webpage/Articles: ‘Ecology and Conservation of Greater Sage-Grouse: A Landscape Species and Its Habitats,’  This webpage is a clearinghouse for a number of scientific articles about the greater sage grouse, sage steppe lands, and restoration activities.  See relevant Chapters 11, 12, and 24.

April 17th – FIELDTRIP:  Plant adaptations and ecology of the shrub steppe (George Wooten & Rob Crandall)




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