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Classification
Scientific Name: Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Steppe
Unique Identifier: CES304.778
Classification Confidence: 2 - Moderate

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Summary: This widespread matrix-forming ecological system occurs throughout much of the Columbia Plateau and northern Great Basin, east into the Wyoming Basins, central Montana, and north and east onto the western fringe of the Great Plains in South Dakota. It is found at slightly higher elevations farther south. Relative to other portions of the distribution, in central Montana this system occurs in areas with more summer rain than winter snow precipitation, more overall annual precipitation, and it occurs on glaciated landscapes. Across the entire distribution of this type, soils are typically deep and non-saline, often with a microphytic crust. This shrub-steppe is dominated by perennial grasses and forbs (>25% cover) with Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata (this is not at all important in Wyoming occurrences), Artemisia tridentata ssp. xericensis, Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis, Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita (Snake River valley in Wyoming), Artemisia cana ssp. cana, and/or Purshia tridentata dominating or codominating the open to moderately dense (10-40% cover) shrub layer. Atriplex confertifolia, Chrysothamnus viscidiflorus, Ericameria nauseosa, Sarcobatus vermiculatus, Tetradymia spp., or Artemisia frigida may be common especially in disturbed stands. In Montana and Wyoming, stands are more mesic, with more biomass contributed by grasses, have less shrub diversity than stands farther west, and 50 to 90% of the occurrences are dominated by Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis with Pascopyrum smithii. Associated graminoids can include Achnatherum hymenoides, Calamagrostis montanensis, Elymus lanceolatus ssp. lanceolatus, Koeleria macrantha, Poa secunda, Pascopyrum smithii, Hesperostipa comata, Nassella viridula, Bouteloua gracilis, and Pseudoroegneria spicata. Important rhizomatous species include Carex filifolia and Carex duriuscula, which are very common and important in the eastern distribution of this system in both Wyoming and Montana. Festuca idahoensis is uncommon in this system, although it does occur in areas of higher elevations/precipitation; Festuca campestris is also uncommon. In Wyoming, both Nassella viridula and Pseudoroegneria spicata rarely occur, with the latter typically found in eastern Wyoming on ridgetops and rocky slopes outside of this system. In Montana, there is an absence of Festuca spp., except Vulpia octoflora. Common forbs are Phlox hoodii, Arenaria spp., Opuntia spp., Sphaeralcea coccinea, Dalea purpurea, Liatris punctata, and Astragalus spp. Areas with deeper soils more commonly support Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata but have largely been converted for other land uses. The natural fire regime of this ecological system likely maintains a patchy distribution of shrubs, so the general aspect of the vegetation is a grassland. Shrubs may increase following heavy grazing and/or with fire suppression, particularly in moist portions of the northern Columbia Plateau where it forms a landscape mosaic pattern with shallow-soil scabland shrublands. Where fire frequency has allowed for shifts to a native grassland condition, maintained without significant shrub invasion over a 50- to 70-year interval, the area would be considered Columbia Basin Foothill and Canyon Dry Grassland (CES304.993).

Classification Approach: International Terrestrial Ecological Systems Classification (ITESC)

Classification Comments: Artemisia cana ssp. cana is listed as a component shrub of this system, but this statement needs a bit of review as to whether it is accurate. In addition, in Wyoming and Montana, Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita associations are not part of this system but occur at higher elevations as components of Inter-Mountain Basins Montane Sagebrush Steppe (CES304.785). Farther west, they are included in this system (CES304.778), but perhaps this should be reviewed by ecologists familiar with the Columbia Basin region.

Similar Ecological Systems
Unique Identifier Name
CES304.083 Columbia Plateau Steppe and Grassland
CES304.777 Inter-Mountain Basins Big Sagebrush Shrubland
CES304.785 Inter-Mountain Basins Montane Sagebrush Steppe
CES304.993 Columbia Basin Foothill and Canyon Dry Grassland
CES306.040 Northern Rocky Mountain Lower Montane, Foothill and Valley Grassland


Component Associations
Association Unique ID Association Name
CEGL001000 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata / Distichlis spicata Shrubland
CEGL001004 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata - Grayia spinosa Shrubland
CEGL001008 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata / Poa secunda Shrubland
CEGL001014 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata / Festuca idahoensis Shrubland
CEGL001015 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata / Pleuraphis jamesii Shrubland
CEGL001016 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata / Leymus cinereus Shrubland
CEGL001017 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata / Pascopyrum smithii - (Elymus lanceolatus) Shrubland
CEGL001018 Artemisia tridentata (ssp. tridentata, ssp. xericensis) / Pseudoroegneria spicata Shrub Grassland
CEGL001019 Artemisia tridentata (ssp. tridentata, ssp. xericensis) / Pseudoroegneria spicata - Poa secunda Shrub Grassland
CEGL001047 Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis / Pascopyrum smithii Shrub Grassland
CEGL001059 Purshia tridentata / Poa secunda Shrubland
CEGL001458 Artemisia tridentata / Leymus cinereus Shrub Grassland
CEGL001492 Purshia tridentata / Carex pensylvanica - Achnatherum occidentale Shrub Grassland
CEGL001494 Purshia tridentata / Festuca campestris Shrub Grassland
CEGL001495 Purshia tridentata / Pseudoroegneria spicata Shrub Grassland
CEGL001498 Purshia tridentata / Hesperostipa comata Shrub Grassland
CEGL001530 Artemisia tridentata / Festuca idahoensis Shrub Grassland
CEGL001534 Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis / Mixed Grasses Shrub Grassland
CEGL001535 Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis / Pseudoroegneria spicata Shrub Grassland
CEGL001536 Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita / Festuca idahoensis Shrub Grassland
CEGL001537 Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita / Festuca campestris Shrub Grassland
CEGL001538 Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita / Pseudoroegneria spicata Shrub Grassland
CEGL001539 Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita / Hesperostipa comata Shrub Grassland
CEGL001545 Artemisia tridentata / Sporobolus cryptandrus - Achnatherum hymenoides Shrub Grassland
CEGL001556 Artemisia cana ssp. cana / Pascopyrum smithii Shrub Wet Meadow
CEGL002674 Purshia tridentata / Festuca idahoensis Shrub Grassland
CEGL002966 Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata / Hesperostipa comata Shrubland
CEGL002994 Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita / Leymus cinereus Shrub Grassland



Classifiers

Land Cover Class: Steppe/Savanna
Spatial Pattern: Large patch
Natural/Seminatural: No
Vegetated ( > 10% vascular cover):
Upland: Yes
Wetland: No
Isolated Wetland: No

Diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Lowland Lowland
Deep Soil  
Aridic  
Xeromorphic Shrub  
Bunch grasses  
Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata  

Non-diagnostic Classifiers
Primary Classifier Secondary Classifier
Lowland Foothill
Woody-Herbaceous  
Plain  
Plateau  
Sideslope  
Temperate Temperate Continental
Alkaline Soil  
Forb  
Graminoid  

At-Risk Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
NatureServe Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status
Allium constrictum
  (Constricted Douglas' Onion)
G2G3  
Amsinckia carinata
  (Malheur Valley Fiddleneck)
G2  
Artemisia tridentata ssp. xericensis
  (Foothill Big Sagebrush)
G5T1T3  
Astragalus amblytropis
  (Challis Milkvetch)
G3  
Astragalus applegatei
  (Applegate's Milkvetch)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Astragalus aquilonius
  (Lemhi Milkvetch)
G3  
Astragalus atratus var. inseptus
  (Mourning Milkvetch)
G4G5T3  
Astragalus cusickii var. packardiae
  (Packard's Milkvetch)
G5T1  
Astragalus jejunus var. articulatus
  (Hyattville Milkvetch)
G3T1  
Astragalus mulfordiae
  (Mulford's Milkvetch)
G2  
Astragalus scaphoides
  (Bitterroot Milkvetch)
G3  
Astragalus sinuatus
  (Whited's Milkvetch)
G1  
Astragalus yoder-williamsii
  (Mud-flat Milkvetch)
G3  
Centrocercus urophasianus
  (Greater Sage-Grouse)
G3G4  
Cryptomastix hendersoni
  (Columbia Oregonian)
G1G2Q  
Driloleirus americanus
  (Giant Palouse Earthworm)
G1  
Eriogonum chrysops
  (Golden Buckwheat)
G2  
Eriogonum ochrocephalum var. calcareum
  (Ocher-flower Buckwheat)
G5T3  
Eriogonum soliceps
  (Railroad Canyon Wild Buckwheat)
G3  
Galium serpenticum ssp. warnerense
  (Warner Mountain Bedstraw)
G4G5T2T3  
Hackelia cronquistii
  (Cronquist's Stickseed)
G3  
Hackelia hispida var. disjuncta
  (Sagebrush Stickseed)
G4T3  
Lomatium suksdorfii
  (Suksdorf's Desert-parsley)
G3  
Lupinus cusickii ssp. cusickii
  (Cusick's Lupine)
G1T1  
Mustela nigripes
  (Black-footed Ferret)
G1 LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population
Oreohelix sp. 1
  (Chelan Mountainsnail)
G2  
Oreohelix sp. 2
  (Yakima Mountainsnail)
G1G2  
Oxytropis besseyi var. salmonensis
  (Challis Crazyweed)
G5T3  
Penstemon acaulis
  (Stemless Beardtongue)
G2  
Penstemon acaulis
  (Stemless Beardtongue)
G3Q  
Penstemon barrettiae
  (Barrett's Beardtongue)
G2  
Penstemon deustus var. variabilis
  (Hot-rock Penstemon)
G5T1T2  
Penstemon eriantherus var. whitedii
  (Crested-tongue Beardtongue)
G4G5T2  
Phacelia lenta
  (Sticky Phacelia)
G2  
Physaria didymocarpa var. lyrata
  (Salmon Twin Bladderpod)
G5T1  
Physaria dornii
  (Dorn's Twinpod)
G1  
Polemonium pectinatum
  (Washington Polemonium)
G2  
Stanleya confertiflora
  (Biennial Prince's-plume)
G2  
Stephanomeria malheurensis
  (Malheur Wire-lettuce)
G1 LE: Listed endangered
Thelypodium brachycarpum
  (Short-pod Thelypody)
G3  
Trifolium barnebyi
  (Barneby's Clover)
G1G2  
Trifolium leibergii
  (Leiberg's Clover)
G3  
Trifolium thompsonii
  (Thompson's Clover)
G3  
Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus
  (Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse)
G4T3  
Urocitellus washingtoni
  (Washington Ground Squirrel)
G2  
Xanthoparmelia idahoensis
  (Idaho Rock-shield Lichen)
G1  

Vegetation Composition (incomplete)
Species Name Rounded Global Status Growth Form Stratum Char-
acter-
istic
Domi-nant Con-stant
Cover Class %
Con-
stancy
%
Artemisia tridentata ssp. tridentata T4 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Artemisia tridentata ssp. wyomingensis T5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Artemisia tridentata ssp. xericensis T2 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Artemisia tripartita ssp. tripartita T5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Purshia tridentata G4 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Shrub/sapling (tall & short)    
 
 
Eriogonum soliceps G3 Broad-leaved deciduous shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Artemisia cana ssp. cana T5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling    
 
 
Cercocarpus montanus G5 Broad-leaved evergreen shrub Short shrub/sapling      
 
 
Allium constrictum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Ammannia robusta G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Amsinckia carinata G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Argemone munita G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus amblytropis G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus applegatei G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus aquilonius G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus atratus var. inseptus T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus calycosus G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus cusickii var. packardiae T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus grayi G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus jejunus var. articulatus T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus mulfordiae G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus scaphoides G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus sinuatus G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Astragalus yoder-williamsii G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Brickellia oblongifolia G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Camissonia andina G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cryptantha propria G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Cymopterus purpurascens G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Dalea ornata G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Eriogonum chrysops G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Eriogonum ochrocephalum var. calcareum T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Galium serpenticum ssp. warnerense T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Hackelia cronquistii G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Hackelia hispida var. disjuncta T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lomatium suksdorfii G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Lupinus cusickii ssp. cusickii T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Malacothrix torreyi G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Mentzelia congesta G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Nicotiana attenuata G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Oenothera caespitosa ssp. caespitosa T5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Oxytropis besseyi var. salmonensis T3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Penstemon acaulis G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Penstemon acaulis G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Penstemon barrettiae G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Penstemon deustus var. variabilis T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Penstemon eriantherus var. whitedii T2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Phacelia lenta G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Phacelia tetramera G4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Phlox hoodii G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)    
 
 
Physaria didymocarpa var. lyrata T1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Physaria dornii G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Polemonium pectinatum G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Stanleya confertiflora G2 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Stephanomeria malheurensis G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Thelypodium brachycarpum G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Thelypodium sagittatum ssp. sagittatum T4 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Townsendia florifera G5 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Trifolium barnebyi G1 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Trifolium leibergii G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Trifolium thompsonii G3 Flowering forb Herb (field)      
 
 
Achnatherum hymenoides G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Achnatherum speciosum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Achnatherum thurberianum G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Carex duriuscula G5 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Elymus lanceolatus ssp. lanceolatus T5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Festuca idahoensis G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Hesperostipa comata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Leymus cinereus G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Nassella viridula G5 Graminoid Herb (field)      
 
 
Pascopyrum smithii G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Poa secunda G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Pseudoroegneria spicata G5 Graminoid Herb (field)    
 
 
Xanthoparmelia idahoensis G1 Lichen Nonvascular      
 
 


Animal Species Reported for this Ecological System
Scientific Name
  (Common Name)
Global Status U.S. Endangered Species Act Status Charact-
eristic
Exotic
Amphispiza bilineata
  (Black-throated Sparrow)
G5      
Artemisiospiza belli
  (Bell's Sparrow)
G5      
Asio flammeus
  (Short-eared Owl)
G5      
Athene cunicularia hypugaea
  (Western Burrowing Owl)
G4T4      
Brachylagus idahoensis
  (Pygmy Rabbit)
G4      
Centrocercus urophasianus
  (Greater Sage-Grouse)
G3G4      
Coluber constrictor
  (North American Racer)
G5      
Crotalus viridis
  (Prairie Rattlesnake)
G5      
Cryptomastix hendersoni
  (Columbia Oregonian)
G1G2Q      
Driloleirus americanus
  (Giant Palouse Earthworm)
G1      
Empidonax wrightii
  (Gray Flycatcher)
G5      
Heterodon nasicus
  (Plains Hog-nosed Snake)
G5      
Lampropeltis triangulum
  (Milksnake)
G5      
Mustela nigripes
  (Black-footed Ferret)
G1 LE, XN: Listed endangered, nonessential experimental population    
Numenius americanus
  (Long-billed Curlew)
G5      
Oreohelix sp. 1
  (Chelan Mountainsnail)
G2      
Oreohelix sp. 2
  (Yakima Mountainsnail)
G1G2      
Oreoscoptes montanus
  (Sage Thrasher)
G4      
Perognathus parvus
  (Great Basin Pocket Mouse)
G5      
Pituophis catenifer
  (Gophersnake)
G5      
Pooecetes gramineus
  (Vesper Sparrow)
G5      
Progne subis
  (Purple Martin)
G5      
Rhinocheilus lecontei
  (Long-nosed Snake)
G5      
Sceloporus graciosus graciosus
  (Northern Sagebrush Lizard)
G5T5      
Sceloporus graciosus
  (Sagebrush Lizard)
G5      
Sorex merriami
  (Merriam's Shrew)
G4      
Spizella breweri
  (Brewer's Sparrow)
G5      
Thomomys idahoensis
  (Idaho Pocket Gopher)
G4      
Thomomys talpoides
  (Northern Pocket Gopher)
G5      
Tympanuchus phasianellus columbianus
  (Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse)
G4T3      
Tympanuchus phasianellus
  (Sharp-tailed Grouse)
G5      
Urocitellus mollis
  (Piute Ground Squirrel)
G5      
Urocitellus washingtoni
  (Washington Ground Squirrel)
G2      


Distribution
Color legend for Distribution Map
Nation: United States
United States Distribution: CA, CO, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, WY
Nation: Canada
Canadian Province Distribution: BC
Global Range: This system occurs throughout much of the Columbia Plateau, the northern Great Basin, central and southeastern Montana, and Wyoming, and is found at slightly higher elevations farther south.

Biogeographic Divisions
Division Code and Name Primary Occurrence Status
304-Inter-Mountain Basins C: Confident or certain
306-Rocky Mountain C: Confident or certain

The Nature Conservancy's Conservation Ecoregions
Code Name Occurrence Status
10 Wyoming Basins Confident or certain
11 Great Basin Confident or certain
20 Southern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
26 Northern Great Plains Steppe Confident or certain
4 Modoc Plateau and East Cascades Confident or certain
6 Columbia Plateau Confident or certain
8 Middle Rockies - Blue Mountains Confident or certain
9 Utah-Wyoming Rocky Mountains Confident or certain

MRLC 2000 Mapzones
Code Name Occurrence Status
1 Northern Cascades Confident or certain
2 Oregon Coastal Range Reported but false
4 Southern California Coastal Range Confident or certain
6 Sierra Nevada Mountain Range Possible
7 Cascade Mountain Range Confident or certain
8 Grande Coulee Basin of the Columbia Plateau Confident or certain
9 Blue Mountain Region Confident or certain
10 Northwestern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
12 Western Great Basin Confident or certain
16 Utah High Plateaus Confident or certain
17 Eastern Great Basin Confident or certain
18 Snake River Plain Confident or certain
19 Northern Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
20 Missouri River Plateau Confident or certain
21 Middle Rocky Mountains Confident or certain
22 Wyoming Basin Confident or certain
28 Southern Rocky Mountains Predicted or probable
29 Wyoming Highlands Confident or certain
30 Northwestern Great Plains Possible
33 Western Great Plains Predicted or probable

National Mapping
ESLF Code (Ecological System Lifeform): 5454
ESP Code (Environmental Site Potential): 1125
EVT Code (Existing Vegetation Type): 2125

West Landfire Legend: Yes
East Landfire Legend: No

Authors/Contributors
Element Description Edition Date: 29Aug2015
Element Description Author(s): G. Kittel, M.S. Reid, K.A. Schulz

Ecological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).


References
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