Interagency Clearinghouse of Ecological Information

Ecology News

Draft agenda for joint silviculture/ecology meeting November 2013


Monitoring Process for Collaborative Landscape Projects

The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Projects (CFLRP) receive special funding to accelerate and focus restoration over a 10 year period.  Each of the five collaboratives in the Region (Lakeview, Southern Blue Mountains, Deschutes Skyline, Tapash, and Colville) submitted carefully crafted proposals which were reviewed regionally before going before a national panel representing a diverse set of interests.  By definition, all the collaboratives feature strong networks of involved federal and non-federal partners.

During FY12 progress was made on developing the monitoring strategies for the CFLRP.  Working with the Lakeview collaborative in July, we developed a monitoring process that ensures the involvement of all interested parties, focuses on reporting promptly on outcomes, involves line officers in developing the monitoring questions, and seeks to reduce the number of monitoring questions to a core set of key questions within practical limits of personnel and funding.

With the full participation of collaborative members, an initial list of monitoring questions is developed.  Just as important is a list of criteria, also developed with full participation, to screen the questions and end up with a relatively short list that is carefully refined, defensible, practical, and has the full ownership of the collaborative.

Using Lakeview as an example, a workshop was held in July to develop the criteria.  We selected the following criteria to screen the questions (list provided by Amy Markus, lead on the lakeview monitoring team):

  • Does the question provide potential answers that have a good chance to influence future decisions?
  • Does the question address the goals of the CFLRP?
  • Can cost-effective monitoring techniques be developed to answer the question?
  • Can multi-party monitoring efforts be included?
  • What degree of rigor is needed to influence future decisions, and can this be attained?
  • Can monitoring by different agencies and other sources be tapped?
  • Will the learning involved build trust with stakeholders and potential funding sources?
  • Use a matrix of existing (legacy) questions compared with CFLR objectives.
  • Insure socioeconomic questions are included, involving both direct and indirect factors.  Precede this by adequate discussion and ownership, to develop bins of ideas (through a workshop).
  • Was the question developed involving stakeholders and multiple disciplines?
  • Is there a question answering how we are changing the risk of uncharacteristic wildfire across landscapes (a core CFLRP objective)?
  • Is there a need to consider areas outside the Forest boundary (All Lands concept)?
  • What metrics/methodology will you use to answer the question?
  • Assess whether ecosystem services are adequately covered in the questions.

One of the immediate effects of this workshop was that the group collectively realized that monitoring to date at the local scale had been very good, but that there was a need for

developing some key landscape monitoring questions in order to meet core CFLRP objectives. Moreover, the group realized they needed socioeconomic monitoring questions as well.  To this end they are engaging Emily Jane Davis and Cass Moseley of the University of Oregon for a workshop on socioeconomic monitoring.

At this writing the Lakeview collaborative has gone through successive refinement and is nearly a final list of monitoring questions.  Although this may seem to be a slow process, it is critical that the collaborative work through the process and avoid the syndrome of isolated monitoring with a weak understanding and ownership by the larger group.

The Tapash collaborative has also embraced the monitoring process and is developing their own list of questions.  Starting with the Lakeview’s set of criteria, they made some modifications based on their local situation.  This emphasizes another key quality of the monitoring process: it is locally controlled and “bottom up” rather than “top down.”

Communication and an initial meeting have been initiated with the Blue Mountains Collaborative.  It is hoped that all collaboratives eventually become aware of the process outline and use it to learn from each other as they develop practical, effective monitoring strategies with the ownership and support of all interested parties.

Terrestrial Condition Assessment Pilot on the Mt. Hood National Forest

To accompany the aquatic-centered Watershed Condition Framework, completed in 2010, a companion Terrestrial Condition Assessment is being developed nationally.  In FY12 several pilot National Forests across the country were identified for developing and testing the methods. Through mutual agreement with the Washington Office, the Mt. Hood National Forest (NF) in our region was selected as one of the pilots.

The pilot effort was a model of Forest-Regional Office-research teamwork, and ecology was heavily involved.  A team led by soils scientist Karen Bennett and ecologist Tom DeMeo included botanist Mark Skinner and wildlife ecologist Kim Mellen-McLean.  For the Mt. Hood, silviculturist Nancy Lankford, ecologist Jeanne Rice, and GIS specialist Jaimie Bradbury completed the core team.  Other support came from John Dodd, soils scientist, Chris Ringo, GIS contractor (Oregon State University/ecology program), and others.  Keith Reynolds, a research scientist with the Pacific Northwest Station, provided significant assistance by incorporating Ecosystem Management Decision Support (EMDS) techniques as a way to combine the outcomes of the various attribute ratings.

In brief, the TCA consists of a set of 13 attributes (10 national standard attributes and three we added Regionally that have been tentatively accepted nationally), covering the range of terrestrial conditions.  (A complete final report on our work is available on request, or electronically at O:/NFS/MtHood/Program/Ecology/TerrestrialConditionAssessment/Final Report/Mount Hood Columbia River Gorge TCA Report FINAL.docx.)  The attributes can then be combined into a final terrestrial score, or any combination of attribute scores, by use of the EMDS process.

Results showed more needs for terrestrial restoration occurred on the Mt. Hood east of the Cascade crest.  We presented our results to Regional leadership in November 2012 and officially transmitted our report to the Washington Office in December.  Results have been well received, although there is now a “wait and see” attitude as we look to the Washington Office for further direction on how to complete the work Region-wide.

During our work on the pilot from June to December, we had to put in significant work on developing attributes so that they were meaningful and practical.  Staying in touch with the Washington Office at all times, we took some innovative approaches that should significantly streamline and decrease the workload as the assessment is applied to other National Forests, both within the Region and across the nation.

Towards an Integrated Strategy for Inventory, Mapping, LiDAR, and Monitoring

We are caught in the midst of several trends affecting our ability to provide information to inform resource management decisions: declining budgets and workforce capacity, ever-changing technology, a blizzard of existing and potential information, and a pressing need to accelerate restoration across our landscapes in a changing fire environment, affected by climate change.  This is true of both the natural resource profession in general and the Forest Service in the Pacific Northwest.  The new Planning Rule and ongoing/upcoming plan revisions also call for a more strategic look at  how we acquire, manage, and pay for data.

To this end, we are assembling a small team to look at the key questions related to how we can better integrate and implement the data sources needed for strategic and tactical planning into the future.  The initial focus will be on terrestrial vegetation.  These data management needs can be summarized as falling within inventory, mapping, LiDAR (light direction and ranging, users laser technology to measure vegetation structure with great accuracy), and monitoring.

Some of the issues we plan to tackle are:

  1.  Updating the Regional LiDAR strategy.  How do we best allocate limited LiDAR acquisition dollars?  What is the core set of attributes we want summarized?  Who will maintain LiDAR datasets, and in what format?  What is the best strategy to collaborate with our partners to reduce costs?
  2. The future of vegetation mapping.  For existing vegetation, what are the short- and longterm strategies to maintain a landscape-scale layer?  For local-scale mapping, as FSVeg Spatial nears full implementation, is there value in a coordinated strategy for maintaining and enhancing its use?
  3. How can the CVS/FIA dataset be better summarized and made available to users?  What training/tech transfer opportunities are there?
  4. Monitoring.  Make a review of past monitoring efforts to discern lessons learned.  Is there value in an integrated short list of monitoring questions we can implement Region-wide consistently, cost-effectively, and report on in a timely manner?  What are the monitoring needs for the new Planning Rule (developed in cooperation with RPM), and for the CFLRP projects (developed in collaboration with TNC and Sustainable Northwest)?

Your input on these issues is welcome.  We have already received some feedback from the silviculturists, and plan to use that in shaping our work.  In addition, we are considering how best to involve the field.  Perhaps we should have one eastside and one westside representative from the Forests on the team, and rotate these among the Forests over time.  Let us know what you think.

Upcoming Events

Next ecologists’ call is Tuesday, January 8 at 1 PM.  Agenda topics include finalizing the annual report, training in ecosystem services, and the data management for Plan revision workshop.

National meeting of Regional botanists, ecologists, and invasive species program managers, week of March 18, 2013 at the Chicago Botanical Garden.

Mixed conifer summit, April 15-16 at the Hood River Best Western.  The Fire Science Consortium, Sustainable Northwest, and the Ecology Program are co-sponsors.

Collaborative landscape workshop, April 17-18, also in Hood River.

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