The Middle Rockies Ecoregion—characterized by steep, high-elevation mountain ranges and intermountain valleys—is a disjunct ecoregion composed of three distinct geographic areas: the Greater Yellowstone area in northwest Wyoming, southwest Montana, and eastern Idaho; the Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming and south-central Montana; and the Black Hills in western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming (Omernik, 1987; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1997). The ecoregion covers approximately 90,160 km2 (34,881 mi2), and its three distinct geographic sections are bordered by several other ecoregions (fig. 1). The Yellowstone section abuts the Montana Valley and Foothill Prairies and the Northern Rockies Ecoregions to the north, the Snake River Basin and the Central Basin and Range Ecoregions to the west, and the Wyoming Basin Ecoregion to the south and east. The Bighorn Mountains section lies between the Wyoming Basin Ecoregion to the west and the Northwestern Great Plains Ecoregion to the east, and it abuts the Montana Valleys and Foothill Prairies Ecoregion to the north. The Black Hills section is entirely surrounded by the Northwestern Great Plains Ecoregion. The Continental Divide crosses the ecoregion from the southeast along the Wind River Range, through Yellowstone National Park, and west along the Montana-Idaho border. On both sides of the divide, topographic relief causes local climate variability, particularly the effects of aspect, exposure to prevailing wind, thermal inversions, and rain-shadow effects, that are reflected in the wide variety of flora and fauna within the ecoregion (Ricketts and others, 1999).