EOARC Newsletter - Fall 2022

A Note from Dave:

This fall has stayed busy for the faculty and staff at the Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center (EOARC).  We have completed, or are about to complete, numerous research projects associated with virtual fencing, mineral supplementation, effects of smoke exposure on cattle stress and production, and horse grazing and sage grouse habitat.  Our scientists presented research results at the Western Section of the American Society of Animal Science in Park City, UT in mid-September and many others will be presented in February at the Society for Range Management meeting in Boise, ID.  Lastly, EOARC faculty will be participating, along with the Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department and OSU Extension, in some educational programming at the Annual Oregon Cattlemen’s Association Meeting in Pendleton this coming January (Beef Quality Assurance; Low Stress Cattle Handling; Meat Grading; Where Subprimals Come from and What Goes in the Box; and Virtual Fence Technology for Strategic Land and Livestock Management).  We hope to see many of you there!!

Other recent outreach projects include:  EOARC Burns had a booth at the Harney County Fair in early-September and sponsored a taco dinner for all youth exhibitors after checking in their projects and after the livestock judging contest on the Wednesday evening of Fair.  Also, OSU faculty, including multiple representatives from EOARC, presented proposed research for funding to the Oregon Beef Council at their annual research meeting in Corvallis, OR in mid-October.  

I am excited to tell you about some updates for EOARC Burns.  First, Vanessa Schroeder was awarded the OSU Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award – a very prestigious university wide award.  More details are provided in a separate section on Vanessa and the award. Second, we were able to improve our internet connectivity by increasing capacity from 10 mb per second to over 1 gb per second (an increase of over 100 times the speed from what we had previously) thanks to support from the USDA-ARS and the College of Agricultural Sciences at OSU for a fiber-optic upgrade.  This has already had a tremendous impact on our productivity and ability to access large data sets, mapping through Geographic Information Systems, and participation in video conferences without connectivity issues.

Beginning in this issue of the newsletter, we will begin providing a “Stakeholder Spotlight”.  This edition features John O’Keeffe, a long-time supporter of EOARC and his story can be found later in the newsletter.  We will be reaching out to additional stakeholders who continue to support and advocate for EOARC Union and Burns in future editions.

If you have any comments or suggestions about what you would like to see in future editions of the newsletter please feel free to contact Shellie Tiller (shellie.tiller@oregonstate.edu) and she will work with us to try get all requests addressed.

I hope you are all well and we have a wet and cold winter!!!

David Bohnert
Director, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center (Burns and Union Stations)
Oregon State University

A Note from Chad:

Greetings from Burns and I hope this fall edition of the newsletter finds you and your families well and in good spirits.  My spirits are climbing as I watch the barometer fall at my home weather station ahead of a fall storm that should bring some much-needed precipitation to the area.  Fingers crossed. 

A month or so ago I had the opportunity to give a talk on fire and fuels management at the annual meeting of the Public Lands Council in Cody, Wyoming.  This is a subject that I’ve written about in past editions of the EOARC newsletter, but I think it is worth re-visiting in light of some research from EOARC and collaborators.

Over the years, EOARC, and particularly Kirk Davies and Jon Bates, has published a multitude of papers defining the role of grass fuels in wildfire.  That work indicates that grass fuels play a pivotal role in promoting fire ignition and spread.  As fire spreads, more and more shrubs become involved and fire behavior intensifies.  Most of the work we have done over the years has been at relatively small scales, which begs the question of whether these same relationships hold at the larger scales involved in fire management planning.  

To help answer that question, we teamed up with the University of Montana and an Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) collaborator and used satellite-derived vegetation/fuels data to model what is driving fire at the scale of the Great Basin Region.  What we found is that the previous two years of accumulated grass fuel was the dominant driver of wildfire probability in the Great Basin…the more grass fuels, the higher the fire probability (see publications here: Where There's Smoke, There's Fuel: Dynamic Vegetation Data Improve Predictions of Wildfire Hazard in the Great Basin - ScienceDirect and Using Dynamic, Fuels-Based Fire Probability Maps to Reduce Large Wildfires in the Great Basin - ScienceDirect ).  

This work is important because it quantifies the idea that fine fuels, and thus wildfire probability vary from year to year and place to place; not only does it quantify these relationships, but the models produce annual maps of fire probability, months in advance of the fire season, that can be used to strategically plan pre-emptive grazing for fuels management.  And with emerging tools like virtual fencing, we can put that grazing right where it needs to be for maximum effect (see Using Virtual Fencing to Create Fuel Breaks in the Sagebrush Steppe - ScienceDirect). 

The punch line for all of the above is that, from a science standpoint, we are now positioned to strategically and defensibly use livestock grazing for fuels management purposes on sagebrush rangeland.

In this edition of the EOARC Newsletter we are featuring one of our customers, John O’Keeffe.  John has been very involved in many manners of the ranching industry and conservation venues.  John has worked tirelessly over the years to elevate the causes of common sense and science-based management in our approach to using and conserving sagebrush rangelands.  Those efforts and his support of EOARC are genuinely valued and appreciated by all of us here in Burns.

As always, feel free to reach out to me at any time and thank you for your support of EOARC.

Chad Boyd
Research Leader, Eastern Oregon Agricultural Research Center, Burns
USDA-Agricultural Research Service

A Note from Cameron: TNC

Hello! For those of you I haven’t met yet, I am a Rangeland Scientist with The Nature Conservancy, stationed at the EOARC in Burns. Prior to beginning in Oregon, I was working as a postdoctoral researcher at New Mexico State University studying current and historic vegetation changes from desert grassland to shrub desert as a result of drought and land use alteration. I obtained my doctorate in Range Science from North Dakota State University studying the effects of various grazing systems on grassland bird communities and floral resources, and a masters degree from Oklahoma State University investigating Northern Bobwhite responses to oil and gas development. 

I have spent much of my scientific career thinking about conserving rangeland ecosystem functioning in the context of working landscapes, and I am thrilled at having been brought on to do the same with The Nature Conservancy and the EOARC.  As part of the Sagebrush Sea program, we will be addressing broad, landscape-scale threats to the sagebrush biome, including annual grass invasion, pinyon/juniper encroachment, and altered fire regimes. Later this week, I will be traveling to the Trout Creek Ranch, an Oregon Desert Land Trust-owned property near Fields, Oregon to discuss adaptive grazing management and invasive annual grass monitoring strategies. 

My work will also continue to benefit from a longstanding collaboration between The Nature Conservancy and our partners at Burns USDA ARS. I am excited to join the ongoing process of developing, testing, and scaling innovative seed restoration technologies to promote perennial bunchgrasses and resilient native rangelands. 

Please feel free to reach out to cameron.duquette@tnc.org with any questions!

Cameron Duquette 
The Nature Conservancy

A Note from Bryan: EOARC Union

Greetings from Union. Summer sure flew by quickly and it is hard to believe the seasons are changing! Fall is a time of transition for us- wrapping up fieldwork and sampling, bringing cows home from summer range, weaning, preparing for winter, and more.  

As we wrap up the summer it’s a great time to reflect on what we have been able to accomplish. Through incredible work and dedication of our staff and a cadre of range riders and collaborators, we have been able to simultaneously maintain two grazing research projects over 60 miles apart: a long-term-experiment on grazing and riparian restoration and management at Starkey Experimental Forest and Range, and a new project at Hall Ranch testing out the efficacy of virtual fence technology to improve riparian grazing management strategies in salmonid-bearing streams. Both studies will provide important information, insight, and hopefully needed tools for land managers and producers.

In September, we also successfully completed a new field-based experiential learning course in collaboration with the OSU Agriculture and Natural Resource Program at Eastern Oregon University and the Department of Animal and Rangeland Sciences. A total of 16 students from Corvallis, La Grande, and beyond spent a very busy week at Starkey Experimental Forest and Range completing an upper-division course on vegetation monitoring and analysis. This is part of our push to provide more hands-on experiences for future land managers and producers. During the week, they learned and implemented a variety of field sampling techniques and designs in addition to approaches to data analysis and interpretation. The students are eager for more types of experiences like this and we are already exploring ways to develop new courses in the coming year.

Earlier this year, EOARC-Union received $250,000 of funding from the state legislature to support infrastructure improvements and experiential learning.  This is an incredible opportunity for the station, and we are completing plans for a facility renewal to support native plant propagation to support rangeland, riparian and forest restoration.  We are really excited about this and will have more to share on this project in the coming year.

Please do not hesitate to reach out at any time,

Bryan Endress
Assistant Director EOARC - Union

Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award - Vanessa Schroeder


Vanessa Schroeder received the OSU Outstanding Faculty Research Assistant Award – a very prestigious University Wide award.  Vanessa was hired as an Extension Faculty Research Assistant in October of 2016 as part of a regional extension cohort to address applied research and outreach needs associated with declining populations of greater sage-grouse and sagebrush habitat management and restoration in Eastern Oregon. Vanessa provides strategic leadership in these areas, helping OSU Extension to become increasingly recognized among our partners and stakeholders. Vanessa excels at stakeholder-driven research and, from direct requests from stakeholders, she has developed an extensive research program centered on two of the dominant ongoing land management practices in the region: juniper management and cattle grazing. She takes a leadership role in these landscape scale research projects and is increasingly becoming known as an expert in sagebrush-obligate songbirds. Her collaborative research with the Bureau of Land Management, ranchers, and other agency partners focuses on developing an improved understanding of linkages between wildlife, grazing, and western juniper management in southeast Oregon. The results of this research have, and continue, to inform and improve management of rangelands and wildlife in Oregon’s sagebrush rangelands. Vanessa provides an integral role in developing and publishing land management guides for the sagebrush ecosystem, and her leadership helped make the Threat Based Land Management approach available to support threat-based ecosystem management and mapping on over 18 million acres of private and public lands across Oregon, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming.  Vanessa is a great asset to OSU, Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, Animal and Rangeland Sciences Department, and EOARC.





I am a lifelong rancher in Lake County Oregon, a longtime member of the EOARC Advisory Board, past Federal Land Committee Chair For NCBA, past President of the Oregon Cattlemen’s Association, past chair of the OCA Public Land Committee, Landowner representative on Oregon’s Sage-Con effort, and currently serving on the USDA Wildland Fire Mitigation and Management Commission.

In 2008 EOARC published a study about the foraging patterns of livestock under the sage brush canopy.  This was in response to concerns I brought to Bill Kruger and Tony Svejcar about nesting cover for Sage Grouse and grazing.  Another effort with a high level of involvement from the center was the Harney County Sage Grouse Candidate Conservation Agreement with Assurances.   These efforts were valid cogs in the wheel of the decision to not list the Greater Sage Grouse.

As I ranched for myself and family and as I served the livestock industry in the leadership roles I have held, I made constant use of the great expertise present at EOARC.  Accurate well applied science has always been one of the keys to improve ranching in the west, whether it in to inform and comment on federal and state land use decisions or to guide the management of our privately held rangelands.

EOARC has always been my go-to place for state-of-the-art science on range, resource and livestock issues. Sage Grouse, annual grass control, fire recovery, carbon storage, rotational grazing strategies, winter livestock nutrition, water quality, just to name a few of the conversations I have had with EOARC personnel over the years.  I expect to draw on their expertise greatly in the coming year as the Wildland Fire Commission grapples with fire issues in the west.

The value of well-done science cannot be overstated, we are faced with many threats, this is what will keep us out there.             - John O'Keeffe


2022 Harney County Fair "Proud of our Past - Poised for the Future"


                   Taco dinner for youth exhibitors

       Shortribs attended the Harney County Fair

 Proud of our Past - Grazing Enclosures at Northern Great Basin Experimental Range

Built in 1936-37 by the Civilian Conservation Corp.

13 exclosures, each measuring 5 acres.

Currently ungrazed for 86 years, while the surrounding areas are moderately grazed.

Our scientists have measured differences between grazed and ungrazed areas.
One example - moderate grazing reduces fire intensity by reducing fine fuels, the continuity of fuels, the height of fine fuels, and accumulation of litter.

Poised for the Future - Virtual Fence Technology 

Virtual Fencing will never replace traditional fencing or range riders.

It is a management tool that can be used to:
 * Keep cattle out of recent burns
* Concentrate grazing to create fire breaks
* Protect riparian or other sensitive areas  

without the cost, time, and labor needed to build traditional fences.


Recent Publications 

A New Perspective and Approach to Ecosystem Restoration: A Seed Enhancement Technology Guide and Case Study
Svejcar, Lauren, V.S. Brown, A.L. Ritchie, K.W. Davies, T.J. Svejcar

Reducing Exotic Annual Grass Competition did not Improve Shrub Restoration Success During a Drought
Davies, Kirk W., J.D. Bates, L. Svejcar


Perth’s Globally Unique Banksia Woodlands, a Threatened Ecological Community in Review
Svejcar, Lauren, A.L. Ritchie
Newsletter of the Australian Flora Foundation

A Sagebrush Conservation Design to Proactively Restore America’s Sagebrush Biome
Boyd, Chad S.,  M. Cahill, et all
Open-File Report 2022-1081




It’s always good to be thinking about preparing for wildfire. Check out the Extension Fire Program’s webinars, readiness checklists, and other resources related to wildfire preparedness here.

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