A new citizen science initiative will be launched this summer to better inform land management decisions in the heavily used Cache Creek drainage. The project is called the.Neighbors to Nature: Cache Creek Study and will establish a 4-way partnership between the U.S. Forest Service’s Bridger-Teton National Forest, Friends of Pathways, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation and The Nature Conservancy’s Wildflower Watch.
Last week, project partners received word from the U.S. Forest Service’s Ecosystem Management Coordination staff in Washington, DC and their Office of Sustainability and Climate that Neighbors to Nature: Cache Creek Study was selected to receive a $25,000 grant from the Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program. Out of a total of 172 proposals received nation-wide, Neighbors to Nature: Cache Creek Study is one of just six proposals to be awarded funding.
The project will recruit a youth crew from Friends of Pathways (FOP), volunteers from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation’s (JHWF) Nature Mapping Jackson Hole program, and volunteers from The Nature Conservancy’s (TNC) Wildflower Watch. These citizen scientists will collect, analyze and interpret plant, wildlife, and trail use data. The information collected will help establish a baseline of observations, as well as an effective and consistent method to gather and process this data over time. Forest Supervisor Tricia O’Connor said that this project will help achieve the goal for the Cache Creek area to serve as an outdoor classroom and deepen the connection between people and nature. She also noted that the project will help local managers by providing an accurate, scientific view of the plant and wildlife populations in the area, as well as improved information about recreation use.
Approximately 10 species of native and invasive plants will be located and monitored by volunteers, and trail counters will be purchased and installed in key locations to observe how the area is being used for recreation. Some volunteers will directly observe and report on wildlife movements in the area, which can be used to evaluate how recreation use may be influencing wildlife behavior and inform management actions such as seasonal restrictions. Phenological observations such as leaf-out, budding, and flowering of plant species will help monitor the effects of climate change on plant communities and track invasive species. Data will then be analyzed and provided to the public at large and the U.S. Forest Service to inform future management decisions in the area.