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The United States Forest Service promulgated new planning regulations under the National Forest Management Act in 2012 (i.e., the Planning Rule). These new regulations include the first requirements in U.S. public land management history for National Forests to evaluate, protect, and/or restore ecological connectivity as they revise their land management plans. Data and resource limitations make single-species, functional connectivity analyses for the myriad species that occur within the 78 million ha the Forest Service manages implausible. We describe an approach that relies on freely available data and generic species, virtual species whose profile consists of ecological requirements designed to reflect the needs of a group of real species, to address the new Planning Rule requirements. We present high-resolution connectivity estimates for 10 different generic species across a 379,000 ha study area centered on the Custer Gallatin National Forest (CGNF) in Montana and South Dakota under two different movement models. We identify locations important for connectivity for multiple species and characterize the role of the CGNF for regional connectivity. Our results informed the Plan Revision process on the CGNF and could be readily exported to other National Forests currently or planning to revise their land management plans under the new Planning Rule.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.