National Elk Refuge (NER), near Jackson, Wyoming, recently partnered with Grand Teton National Park to collect high-resolution lidar elevation data. This cooperative project with Grand Teton, which shares a boundary with the refuge, was jointly planned and successfully implemented by a contractor in the fall of 2014.
Refuge personnel intend to use the newly acquired lidar data for a variety of natural resource applications; chief among these are to develop canopy height and density models for woody vegetation communities, especially the riparian community along the Gros Ventre River. In addition, the staff will evaluate the ability to discriminate height and density of sagebrush communities on the refuge. By better understanding sagebrush communities and their distribution, managers can achieve more efficient implementation and evaluation of objectives in the Comprehensive Conservation Plan for the refuge. Robust sagebrush ecosystems benefit sage-grouse and other sagebrush obligates.
The staff also plans to use micro-topography created from the Digital Elevation Model (DEM) for two main studies. First, although Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) has not been found on the refuge, research in other locations indicates small topographic depressions may harbor the prions that are responsible for spreading the disease. FWS researchers will use the micro-topographic map to design sampling strategies for proactively detecting the presence of prions in the landscape. Secondly, the refuge will use the micro-topographic data to better understand surface water flow dynamics across the refuge.
Canopy height model (CHM) developed using first return data for an area along the Gros Ventre River on the north end of the National Elk Refuge.