July 2008

Surveillance | Land Management | Education | Research | Conservation Management

New on the ESER Website

2007 Third Quarter Surveillance Report

2007 Fourth Quarter Surveillance Report

Newspaper in Education Ask a Scientist website


Desert Species of the Month

An Animal of the High Desert-Golden Eagle

Desert Species of the Month Archive


Land Management:  Focus on  INL Bird Species List

The INL provides important breeding and nesting habitat for many species of raptors 
and songbirds.


Environmental Education

Rocky Mountain Adventure for Teachers and Adults

ESER staff members are available for presentations to groups and classrooms in southeastern Idaho. Presentations are adapted to grade-level and are free of charge.

Presentations available
Schedule a presentation:
Alana Jensen


Contact Us
Contact us:
ESER Program
S. M. Stoller Corp.
120 Technology Drive
Idaho Falls, ID 83401



New Vegetation Map for the INL

Accurate classification and mapping of vegetation communities have become increasingly important tools for conservation management.  By understanding the distribution and condition of plant communities on a landscape, a number of conservation goals can more easily be met including:

  • Determining which community types are intrinsically rare or have been severely degraded

  • Identifying the best remaining occurrences of natural communities across their geographic ranges

  • Development of habitat suitability models for predicting species occurrences, and

  • Classifying areas for their importance in conservation management planning.

1989 INL Vegetation Map

Previous vegetation maps of the INL are inadequate to serve these conservation management planning goals because they are outdated.  The most recent effort was almost twenty years ago and does not capture important changes that have occurred since that time including fires, sagebrush die-off and invasion by non-native plants.  Also, methodologies for vegetation classification and mapping have been refined and standardized since those earlier maps and will allow for continuity between classification on the INL and on neighboring lands managed by other agencies.   

Goals and Objectives

The overall goal of vegetation community classification and mapping is to assess the distribution of plant communities on the INL. Specific objectives are to:

  • Determine the communities types present on the INL

  • Determine the distribution of those communities types on the landscape, and

  • Conduct an accuracy assessment of the resulting map.

The final products of this effort will be a GIS database of plant communities on the INL at a geographic scale suitable for use in Candidate Conservation Agreements and the Conservation Management Plan. This GIS database will be used as the basis for assigning conservation strategies.

Approach and Accomplishments

The proposed approach to plant community classification and mapping will be done in a three step process.

  • The first step is to classify the plant communities on the INL. The classification system chosen is the U.S. National Vegetation Classification system. It is a hierarchical system developed by the Federal Geographic Data Committee.

    Using pre-existing data, a preliminary vegetation community classification, necessary for the field data collection, was completed in May 2008.  Field data collection will be conducted in June, July and August of 2008.  Data analysis to define community classification is expected to begin in the fall of 2008.

  • The second step is to delineate the mapping units. The mapping units are derived through aerial photo interpretation. On June 15, 2007, color-infrared digital imagery was collected at 1 meter ground sample distance across the entire INL.   The next step will be assigning the relationships between mapping units and plant association.

  • The third step will be to ground truth the map and conduct an accuracy assessment. This will be done by surveying randomly selected points from the draft map. Linking the plant community classification to the delineated map is expected to occur in winter of 2009 with field accuracy assessments to occur in spring and summer of 2009. The final report and project completion is expected in 2010.

Benefits to Department of Energy

Understanding the distribution and condition of plant communities on the INL will:

  • Support conservation management through habitat mapping

  • Aid the development of Habitat Suitability Indices

  • Guide surveys for sensitive species

  • Guide revegetation and weed management efforts

  • Increase the efficiency of assessing environmental impacts of siting new facilities

  • Serve as an important background database for research on the National Environmental Research Park and ecological monitoring at the INL.