The Mountain Prairie Information Node (MPIN) is a part of the National Biological Information Infrastructure (NBII) program. The NBII was established by the National Biological Survey in 1993 and is composed of a network of geographic (regional) and thematic information nodes that collectively provide Web-based access to high-quality data, information, and resources about the Nation's biological resources. Mountain Prairie is a key part of the national program, focusing on Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wyoming, and relevant parts of Idaho.
Mountain Prairie's mission is to develop an integrated Web-based program that provides access to information about biological resources in the mountains and prairies of the north-central United States and that contributes to the collaborative conservation of these resources.
Mountain Prairie provides:
- Geographically-based information at regional, state, and other scales.
- Thematically organized information concerning topics of regional interest.
- Tools and processes that facilitate data integration.
The Mountain Prairie Information Node is managed by Montana State University's Big Sky Institute for Science & Natural History (BSI), the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, and the USGS Northern Rockies Mountain Science Center (NRMSC). Together, these organizations have partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks to develop a strategic plan that will guide the program over 2006-2010.
Goals outlined in the strategic plan:
- Build a base level of operational infrastructure, including support staff and technology.
- Develop working relationships with partners and stakeholders in all seven states of the region to identify key issues and to meet identified needs regarding those issues.
- Develop projects that address priority issues of concern.
- Sustain the effort by updating information, marketing the program, and seeking continued financial support.
About the Mountain Prairie Region
Although this region exhibits extremes of landscape diversity, there are physical, biological, and human connections that bridge that variation. The Rocky Mountains create a vast rain shadow over the primarily semi-arid to arid Great Plains, while melting winter snowpack from the mountains fills streams, lakes, and reservoirs out on the plains. Past glaciers left their mark, leaving behind biologically important prairie potholes, chiseled mountain peaks, and U-shaped valleys. Migratory birds cross and utilize plains and mountain habitat throughout the region, while grizzly bears in Yellowstone feast on army cutworm moths that hatched out on the plains. The region is a vast matrix of public and private lands that support everything from wilderness to growing urban landscapes. Agriculture, from livestock grazing to dryland cropping, dominates land use in many areas.
Of course, along with abundant resources, managers of these lands and ecosystems face numerous issues and challenges throughout the region. Drought is a common component of the climate, impacting all species and ecosystems in the region. Fire, a natural ecological process, can pose risks to homes and communities. Diseases such as brucellosis affect both the health of the Yellowstone bison herds as well as local agricultural interests. Although prairie potholes are vitally important wildlife habitat for migratory birds, approximately half have been drained or altered for agricultural use. The region echoes with the question ofhow to balance economic development and sustainability with maintaining biological resources. Addressing these and the many other issues facing the Mountain Prairie region requires that the public, managers, and decision makers have the best available biological information available.