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NSN seed logoIf data is available, this is where you find Ecoregion Descriptions, Plant Communities of that ecoregion, and Species Lists/Recommendations for both.  If you know the community types at your project site, use community recommendations as the species will be more appropriate and more specifically geared to your site.  
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Northern Basin and Range Ecoregion

This ecoregion contains arid tablelands, intermontane basins, dissected lava plains, and scattered mountains. Non-mountain areas have sagebrush steppe vegetation; cool season grasses and Mollisols are more common than in the hotter-drier basins of the Central Basin and Range where Aridisols are dominated by sagebrush, shadscale, and greasewood. Ranges are generally covered in Mountain sagebrush, mountain brush, and Idaho fescue at lower and mid-elevations; Douglas-fir, and aspen are common at higher elevations. Overall, the ecoregion is drier and less suitable for agriculture than the Columbia Plateau and higher and cooler than the Snake River Plain. Rangeland is common and dryland and irrigated agriculture occur in eastern basins.
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Northern Basin and Range Plant Communities

Alkaline Wetlands and Depressions and Salt Desert Playas

This generally graminoid dominated system is found in the Columbia Plateau and Northern Great Basin, and is very similar to Western Great Plains Closed Depression Wetland type. However, strongly saline soils cause both the shallow lakes and depressions and the surrounding areas to be more brackish. Salt encrustations can occur on the surface in some examples of this system, and the soils are severely affected and have poor structure. Species that typify this system are salt-tolerant and halophytic species such as saltgrass, alkali grass, wildrye and muhly. During exceptionally wet years, an increase in precipitation can dilute the salt concentration in the soils of some of examples of this system which may allow for less salt-tolerant species to occur. Communities found within this system may also occur in floodplains (i.e., more open depressions), but probably should not be considered a separate system unless they transition to areas outside the immediate floodplain. (PLAYAS) These are barren and sparsely vegetated playas (generally<10% plant cover) found in the intermountain western US. Salt crusts are common throughout, with small saltgrass beds in depressions and sparse shrubs around the margins. These systems are intermittently flooded. The water prevented from percolating through the soil by an impermeable soil sub horizon and is left to evaporate. Soil salinity varies greatly with soil moisture and greatly affects species composition. Characteristic species may include iodine bush, black greasewood, spiny hopsage, saltbush species, alkali grass, wildrye, and saltgrass. (New name: ALKALINE WETLANDS AND DEPRESSIONS)
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Arid West Freshwater Marsh

This widespread ecological system occurs throughout much of the arid and semi-arid regions of western North America. Natural marshes may occur in depressions in the landscape (ponds, kettle ponds), as fringes around lakes, and along slow-flowing streams and rivers (such riparian marshes, are also referred to as sloughs). Marshes are frequently or continually inundated, with water depths up to 2 m. Water levels may be stable, or may fluctuate 1 m or more over the course of the growing season. Marshes have distinctive soils that are typically mineral, but can also accumulate organic material. Soils have characteristics that result from long periods of anaerobic conditions in the soils (e.g., gleyed soils, high organic content, redoximorphic features). The vegetation is characterized by herbaceous plants that are adapted to saturated soil conditions. Common emergent and floating vegetation includes species of sedges, tule, cattail, buckwheat, reed-canary grass, and floating plants.
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Aspen Forest and Woodland

This widespread ecological system is more common in the southern and central Rocky Mountains, but occurs throughout much of the western US and north into Canada, in the montane and subalpine zones. Elevations generally range from 1525 to 3050 m (5000 to 10,000 feet), but occurrences can be found at lower elevations in some regions. Distribution of this ecological system is primarily limited by adequate soil moisture required to meet its high evapotranspiration demand, and secondarily is limited by the length of the growing season or low temperatures. These are upland forests and woodlands dominated by quaking aspen without a significant conifer component (<25% relative tree cover). The understory structure may be complex with multiple shrub and herbaceous layers, or simple with just an herbaceous layer. The herbaceous layer may be dense or sparse, dominated by graminoids or forbs. Associated shrub species include snowberry, serviceberry, and rose.
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Black Greasewood Shrublands and Playas

This ecological system occurs throughout much of the western U.S. in intermountain basins and extends onto the western Great Plains. It typically occurs near drainages or may form rings around playas. Sites typically have saline soils, a shallow water table and flood intermittently, but remain dry for most growing seasons. This system usually occurs as a mosaic of multiple communities, with extremely open to moderately dense shrublands that are always dominated or codominated by black greasewood. Some other salt desert shrubs (Four-wing saltbrush or spiny hopsage) are occasionally present to codominant. Occurrences are often surrounded by mixed salt desert scrub. The herbaceous layer, if present, is usually dominated by graminoids, such as alkali grass or saltgrass where water remains ponded the longest.
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Low, Black and Rigid Sagebrush Steppe

Found extensively in the northern Great Basin, this is a widespread, matrix dwarf-shrubland system. It is characterized by occurring on shallow soils, stony, or poorly drained clays which result in the dwarf-shrub steppe habitat. Sites range from valley margins to montane ridges, with elevations from 1000 to 3000 meters. Dominated by low sagebrush and close relatives (early sagebrush, black sagebrush), it occurs occasionally with big sagebrush, juniper, or mountain mahogany. The grass and forb component are often taller than the shrubs, and are quite diverse, ranging from Sandberg bluegrass in the areas with the shallowest soils, Idaho fescue in the higher elevation or moister sites, or bluebunch wheatgrass or needlegrass species in warmer sites with patches of exposed soils. (RIGID SAGEBRUSH, SANDBERG BLUEGRASS, BUCKWHEAT SCABLANDS) Similar to the low and black sagebrush steppe found in the northern Great Basin, this scabland system dominates the Columbia Basin of eastern Washington, north-central and eastern Oregon and adjacent Idaho. Unlike some of the other types, it occurs as large or small patches, rather than a matrix type. Sites are either dominated by rigid sagebrush or a buckwheat species, or occasionally only by grasses and forbs. Sandberg bluegrass is always present, characteristic and a dominant species, although it dries up so early that can only be seen in the early spring. It is found almost entirely on shallow basalt flows, both at very low elevations (100 meters) and moderately high in the mountains (1000 meters). (New name: LOW AND BLACK SAGEBRUSH STEPPE)
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Lower Montane Riparian Woodlands and Shrublands

This system is found throughout Intermountain west within a broad elevation range from approximately 900 to 2,800 m. This system often occurs as a mosaic of multiple communities that are tree dominated with a diverse shrub component. This system is dependent on a natural hydrologic regime especially annual to episodic flooding. Occurrences are found within the flood zone of rivers, on islands, sand or cobble bars, and immediate stream banks. They can form large, wide occurrences on mid-channel islands in larger rivers or narrow bands on small, rocky canyon tributaries and well-drained benches. It is also typically found in backwater channels and other perennial wet, but less scoured sites, such as floodplains swales and irrigation ditches. Dominant trees may include cottonwood and juniper with occasional conifers. Dominant shrubs are mountain alder, western birch, red-osier dogwood, hawthorn and willows. Exotic trees or shrubs include Russian olive or tamarisk. Generally, the upland vegetation surrounding this riparian system is different and ranges from grasslands to forests.
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Montane Mixed Conifer Forest and Woodlands

This ecological system is composed of highly variable montane coniferous forests found in the interior Pacific Northwest, from southern interior British Columbia south and east into Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana. This system is associated with a submesic climate regime with annual precipitation ranging from 50 to 100 cm. Elevations range from 460 to 1920 m. Most occurrences of this system are dominated by a mix of Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine, with lesser amounts of grand fir. Forests include many sites once dominated by Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine, which were formerly maintained by wildfire. Pre-settlement fire regimes were characterized by frequent, low-intensity ground fires that maintained relatively open stands of a mix of fire-resistant species. With vigorous fire suppression, longer fire-return intervals are now the rule, and multi-layered stands of grand fir provide fuel "ladders", making these forests more susceptible to high intensity, stand-replacing fires. This system also includes montane forests along rivers and slopes, and in mesic "coves" which were historically protected from wildfires. They are very productive forests which have been priorities for timber production.
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Mountain Big Sagebrush Steppe and Shrubland

This ecological system includes sagebrush communities occurring at montane and subalpine elevations across the western U.S. from 1000m in eastern Oregon and Washington to over 3000 m in the southern Rockies. This system primarily occurs on deep soiled to stony flats, ridges, nearly flat ridge tops, and mountain slopes. In general this system shows an affinity for mild topography, fine soils, and some source of subsurface moisture. It is composed primarily of mountain big sagebrush, and characterized by dense grass and forb cover.
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Mountain Mahogany Woodlands and Shrublands

This system occurs in hills and mountain ranges throughout the intermountain west. It occurs from 200 to 2500 meters, usually on rocky outcrops or escarpments. Most stands occur as shrublands on ridges and steep rimrock slopes, but it may occur as a small tree in steppe areas. Mountain mahogany is always dominant, often found with sagebrush, bitterbrush, or moist shrubs, and usually with bunchgrasses. Mountain mahagany is a slow-growing, drought-tolerant, species that generally does not resprout after burning and needs the protection from fire that rocky sites provide, although it is expanding in some areas as fire suppression increases.
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Ponderosa Pine Woodlands and Savannas

This very widespread ecological system is most common throughout the western US, from the Colorado Plateau, west into scattered locations in the Great Basin, and north into southern British Columbia. These woodlands occur at the lower treeline/ecotone between grassland or shrubland and more mesic coniferous forests typically in warm, dry, exposed sites. Elevations range from less than 500 m in British Columbia to 2800 m in the New Mexico mountains. Occurrences are found on all slopes and aspects, however moderately steep to very steep slopes or ridge-tops are most common. Ponderosa pine is the predominant conifer, but Douglas fir, pinyon pine or juniper may be present in the tree canopy. The understory is usually shrubby, but grasses are also characteristic. Mixed fire regimes and ground fires of variable return interval maintain these woodlands, depending on climate, degree of soil development, and understory density.
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Sand Dunes and Badlands

This ecological system occurs in the intermountain basins and the Columbia Basin and is composed of unvegetated to moderately vegetated (<10-30% plant cover) active and stabilized dunes and sandsheets. Species occupying these environments are often adapted to the shifting, coarse textured substrate (usually quartz sand) and form patchy or open grasslands, shrublands or steppe composed of sagebrush (thin-leaf sagebrush, big sagebrush), bitterbrush, Indian ricegrass, needle-and-thread, four-wing saltbrush, rabbitbrush or horsebrush species. (COLUMBIA PLATEAU ASH AND TUFF BADLANDS) This ecological system of the Columbia Plateau and northern Great Basin region is composed of barren and sparsely vegetated substrates (<10% plant cover) typically derived from highly eroded volcanic ash and tuff. Landforms are typically rounded hills and plains that form a rolling topography. The harsh soil properties and high rate of erosion and deposition are driving environmental variables supporting sparse dwarf shrub and herbaceous vegetation. Characteristic species include spiny hopsage, big sagebrush, needlegrass, buckwheat, black greasewood, and bitterbrush. (New name: INTERMOUNTAIN BASINS ACTIVE AND STABILIZED DUNES)
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Semi-Desert Grassland

This is a widespread ecological system occurring throughout the intermountain western US on dry plains and mesas, generally between 1200 to 2000 m in elevation. These grasslands occur in lowland and upland areas and may occupy swales, playas, mesa tops, plateau parks, alluvial flats, and plains, but sites are typically xeric. Substrates are often well-drained sandy or loamy textured soils derived from sedimentary parent materials, but are quite variable and may include fine-textured soils derived from igneous and metamorphic rocks. The dominant perennial bunchgrasses and shrubs within this system are all very drought resistant plants. These grasslands are typicially dominated or codominated by Indian ricegrass, three-awn, needle-and-thread, blue gramma, muhly, or James' galleta, and may include scattered shrubs and dwarf-shrubs of species of sagebrush, saltbush, Mormon-tea, sheepfat, or snakebush.
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Silver Sagebrush Steppe

This ecological system includes sagebrush communities occurring from lowland to montane elevations in the Columbia Plateau - northern Great Basin region, east almost to the Great Plains. These are generally depressional wetlands or non-alkaline playas, occurring as small or occasionally large patch communities, in a sagebrush or montane forest matrix. Climate is generally semi-arid, although it can be cool in montane areas. It occurs in poorly drained depressional wetlands, the largest characterized as playas, the smaller as vernal pools, or along seasonal stream channels in valley bottoms or mountain meadows. Silver sagebrush is always dominant, although mountain or big sagebrush can occasionally be co-dominant. Understory graminoids and forbs are characteristic, with bluegrass, muhly, wildrye, tufted hairgrass, sedge and spikerush most commonly found.
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Spiny Hopsage - Budsage Desert Shrubland

This system, often known as Great Basin Xeric Shrubland, is a mix of sagebrush species (generally big sagebrush, black sagebrush or low sagebrush) occurring with spiny hopsage or budsage, with the later occasionally being completely dominant. It is found on ash flows, on the margins of playas, dry flats, alluvial fans, rolling hills, rocky hill slopes, saddles and ridges between 1000-2600 meters. and large basins. Sites are dry, often exposed to desiccating winds, typically shallow, rocky, only moderately saline soils. Grasses and forbs are sparse but characteristic.
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Western Juniper Woodlands

This woodland system is found along the northern and western margins of the Great Basin, from southwestern Idaho, along the eastern foothills of the Cascades, south to the Modoc Plateau of northeast California. Elevations range from under 200 m along the Columbia River in central Washington to over 1500 m. Generally soils are medium-textured, with abundant coarse fragments, and derived from volcanic parent materials. In central Oregon, the center of distribution, all aspects and slope positions occur. Western juniper is generally the only tree, forming woodlands generally, although historically many sites had been savannas. Big sagebrush is the most common shrub, although bitterbrush or other shrubs are often found. Grasses are usually present, with Idaho fescue, Bluebunch wheatgrass and Sandberg bluegrass most common. These woodlands are generally restricted to rocky areas where fire frequency is low. Throughout much of its range, fire suppression and removal of fine fuels by grazing livestock has reduce fire frequency to allow Western Juniper (Juniperus occidentalis) seedlings to colonize adjacent alluvial soils and extend into the shrub steppe and grasslands.
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Wyoming Big Sagebrush Steppe and Shrubland

These are widespread matrix-forming ecological systems that occur throughout much of the Intermountain west. Soils are typically deep and non-saline often with a microphytic crust, although they often can be stony. This shrub-steppe is dominated by perennial grasses and forbs, which usually make up more than 25% of the cover. Degraded areas become a shrubland, having lower grass or forb cover, and generally higher shrub cover. Wyoming big sagebrush is the most dominant shrub, but in valleys and deeper soiled areas, basin big sagebrush can dominate. The system includes areas with Wyoming or basin big sagebrush occurring with or around bitterbrush and three-tip sagebrush. (BIG SAGEBRUSH STEPPE AND SHRUBLAND)
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