Discussion

Let us know what you think about any topic related to the Sierra Nevada Adaptive Management Project in the forums below. The Principal Investigators on the UC Science Team cannot answer every post, but they will read all comments in their areas, and respond to comments as a group at each quarterly meeting. We greatly value your input!

Questions for SNAMP Owl Team by Kim_Ingram, at 11:21 a.m. on 20 September 2012,

The following questions have been submitted by Steve Brink in response to the SNAMP Owl team's IT meeting in August 2012:

Q1)Since 1993, the owl team stated that they have surveyed roughly 90% of the DSA each year. This was determined by placing a 1/2 mile buffer around each of the recorded survey points. Would it be possible to determine the % "covered" for each year 1986 through 1992 using the same methodology? If so, can the percentage of coverage be provided?

Q2)Could the occupancy analysis be run on the owl sites that were first found in the study area from ~1986 through 1992? Has the occupancy rate for those owls sites dropped as well? Premise of question: The range -wide high reproductive year of 1992, (most likely due to abundance of prey and very mild spring weather) also lead to a high survival rate (young and adult) and potentially a population that was above the carrying capacity of the landscape. The population in 1993 with nearly 100% occupancy has been slowly adjusting back "down" to the “normal or potential” carrying capacity of this landscape.

Owl team response to questions from Steve Brink by Kim_Ingram, at 11:36 a.m. on 6 September 2012,

The following response is from the SNAMP Owl team to questions submitted by Steve Brink after the IT meeting of 8/23/2012:

Q1:Looking again at the Lambda graph, it’s interesting that the downward slope of the line is nearly constant. I should have thought about the 2001 Star Fire when Pat Ferrell, Eldorado NF Contracting Officer, asked a question about it. The Star Fire burned 16,900 acres in Aug-Sept. 2001, about 2,400 acres of which were on the Georgetown Ranger District. Following the fire, the USFS concluded that the two HRCAS, in which PAC055 and PAC075 were located, were essentially destroyed and recommended deleting both PACs from the Forest plan. Further, about 70% of the total acres burned in the Fire were of high severity. So, how is it that the Star Fire had absolutely no affect on the owls?

Response: First, recall that Doug noted that the estimates for lambda are based on model averaging (the average estimate of several models), which results in the smooth (“constant”) curve to which you refer. As long as the declining trend is not abrupt, it will appear relatively smooth despite slight variation in the annual estimates. Second, the two owl territories affected by the Star Fire were Regional territories, and the lambda analysis only included owl territories on the Density Study Area. Even if the two owl territories affected by the fire had been located on the Density Study Area, the observed impact would not have been dramatic because there are 45 owl territories on the density study area. In addition, we note that about 2,500 acres did burn on the Eldorado Density Study area during the Star Fire. This burn affected 3 owl territories on the density study, but all have been occupied at least once since the fire.

Q2: Because soil site classification could be used as a surrogate for the overall “primary productivity” of a forest, will the samples for the control and “treatment” areas be stratified? The premise being that owls in highly productive forests will perform better under both the control and “treatment” conditions, and likewise owls on less productive forests will underperform under control or treatment scenarios.

Response: This was suggested in the context of including “abiotic” factors as covariates in our analysis, which we think is a good idea. The idea of including soil type is a good one and we will consider that thoroughly for our list of covariates.

Q3: It’s still unclear to me why the Team is not opportunistic and looking to tease out why Owls had very high reproductive success in 1992. Using the 1993 data, and not using 1992, doesn’t seem intuitive given Rocky’s premise that CSO’s live a long time and have an evolutionary strategy that is opportunistic for reproduction. How can that be justified?

Response: The owl team has often wondered why there was such high reproduction in that year. The problem is that there is that there have been no other years such as 1992 to make comparisons. In other words, if you found several factors that were different in this year relative to other years, how would you distinguish which was consistent in terms of its importance to owls? One needs to have multiple examples of unique events to detect a pattern. In addition, 1993 was the first year that we had good aerial photography for the entire study area and adequate sampling effort to have confidence in detecting reproduction and a sufficient number of surveys over the entire study area. We note also, that unlike what was implied in our presentation, we do have air photos prior to 1993 but they are not seamless digitized photos as in 1993. Thus, it is quite time consuming to work with these other photos. It is important for the record to note that all of the effort to create vegetation maps by the owl team for the past dozen years in order to assess impacts has been done, until last year, without funding. That is, we have no allocated money to engage in this activity, but all the owl investigators have devoted their own time to create such maps because we realize the importance of the information. We continue to assess sources of air photographs that are easily used and welcome any help the SNAMP stakeholders are able to offer.

Q4: Given how robust the IPM is, why wouldn’t Doug include ALL of the owl data that the Team has including: 1)The discrepancies related to the 8 birds that were counted in the occupancy but not as part of the population and likewise the other 4 birds that resisted capture? 2)The 1992 reproduction data since it is congruent with Rocky’s premise that the evolutionary strategy of the owl is to be long lived and be opportunistic for reproduction? 3)Running a comparison with and without the 1992 data?

Response: “All” of the birds, including the ones referred to in part 1 of this question, are incorporated into the IPM through the count data. The count data are the number of birds detected each year on the Density Study Area, regardless of whether the birds are marked or unmarked. Doug chose 1993 as the starting year for all of his population trend analyses because that was the first year that we achieved adequate survey coverage of the Density Study Area. As Doug discussed, it is critical that the study area be consistent in size when assessing population trends because the number of birds in the population is a direct function of the size of the study area. The 1992 data are consistent with the hypothesis that spotted owls have evolved a “bet hedger” life history strategy, but so are many other features of their life history (such as long life span, low fecundity). So the 1992 data are interesting but they do not make or break any analysis we do. They are interesting and we are curious, like you, as to why we have not seen similarly high reproduction years since then. However, these data as a single event do not provide insight into changes in owl populations other than to demonstrate that unusually high years of reproduction do occur infrequently.

CA Spotted Owl IT follow up questions by Kim_Ingram, at 1:05 p.m. on 27 August 2012,

The following questions have been submitted by Steve Brink in response to the Owl IT meeting on 8/23/2012:

Q1: Looking again at the Lambda graph, it’s interesting that the downward slope of the line is nearly constant. I should have thought about the 2001 Star Fire when Pat Ferrell, Eldorado NF Contracting Officer, asked a question about it. The Star Fire burned 16,900 acres in Aug-Sept. 2001, about 2,400 acres of which were on the Georgetown Ranger District. Following the fire, the USFS concluded that the two HRCAS, in which PAC055 and PAC075 were located, were essentially destroyed and recommended deleting both PACs from the Forest plan. Further, about 70% of the total acres burned in the Fire were of high severity. So, how is it that the Star Fire had absolutely no affect on the owls ?

Q2: Because soil site classification could be used as a surrogate for the overall “primary productivity” of a forest, will the samples for the control and “treatment” areas be stratified? The premise being that owls in highly productive forests will perform better under both the control and “treatment” conditions, and likewise owls on less productive forests will underperform under control or treatment scenarios.

Q3: It’s still unclear to me why the Team is not opportunistic and looking to tease out why Owls had very high reproductive success in 1992. Using the 1993 data, and not using 1992, doesn’t seem intuitive given Rocky’s premise that CSO’s live a long time and have an evolutionary strategy that is opportunistic for reproduction. How can that be justified?

Q4: Given how robust the IPM is, why wouldn’t Doug include ALL of the owl data that the Team has including: 1) The discrepancies related to the 8 birds that were counted in the occupancy but not as part of the population and likewise the other 4 birds that resisted capture? 2) The 1992 reproduction data since it is congruent with Rocky’s premise that the evolutionary strategy of the owl is to be long lived and be opportunistic for reproduction? 3) Running a comparison with and without the 1992 data?

Steve Brink California Forestry Association

UCST response to George Terhune comments dated 3/18/10 by Kim_Ingram, at 3:04 p.m. on 5 April 2010,

George,

Here is the response from the Fire and Forest Ecosystem Health Team to your comments/questions dated 3/18/10:

George: 1. " If SNAMP is limited to a focus on "the forest management alternative approved in the 2004 Record of Decision," how can it be an example of "adaptive" management? In any case, you've already gone beyond the SPLAT strategy of the 2004 ROD by including a DFPZ example in the meta-analysis, and that is entirely proper, because the 2004 ROD acknowledged and supported the demonstration of the DFPZ strategy mandated by the HFQLG Forest Recovery Act. It's apparent that Congress intended that strategy to be taken seriously as a candidate for wider application."

UCST: The land management alternatives that the USFS is proposing for the SNAMP project is under the 2004 Record of Decision. SNAMP also thought it would be a good idea to work to integrate other studies in some disciplines to produce a broader assessment of the topic. The first such study was on landscape fire behavior and effects. This effort summarized what had been done independently in other areas of the Sierra. We continue to work on the SNAMP fire modeling since this is our present charge but wont work any more on the additional projects.

George: 2a) "I agree that "a more fruitful exercise" can and should be the next step. But it should not be to compare implemented DFPZs to a theoretical SPLAT design. Since it isn't possible to implement both DFPZs and SPLATs on the same ground, the most useful direct comparisons would be theoretical to theoretical, which would not only be a fairer comparison,it would permit manipulation of both DFPZs and SPLATs over a range of conditions and assumptions. For example, what performance is delivered by each theory when different percentages of the landscape have been treated? When the first 10% is treated? Then another 10% added? Then another 10% added?"

UCST: This is a good idea but outside the of the SNAMP study.

George: 2b)" One of the largest differences that could be expected to show up would be how safely and effectively fire suppression would be supported by various implementations of each strategy. There should also be comparisons under strict and less strict rules regarding where and when management activity is permitted. Those comparisons are needed to support management decisions on how best to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, such as climate change and water supply effects, when balances must be established among competing priorities."

UCST: The SNAMP study is focusing on what the Tahoe and Sierra National Forests are proposing related to fuels treatments in their firesheds. We will work to include fire suppression modeling in our evaluations. Other ideas above are outside the present effort.

George: 2c) "Finally, there should be comparisons of economic effects from implementing each strategy, because the amount of treatment that can be done is limited by the cost efficiency of the management activity, and the availability of the workforce and industrial infrastructure to do the huge amount of work required also depends on the economic practicality and efficiency of management decisions."

UCST: Economic analysis has been a topic brought up before regarding the SNAMP study but it is not included in the approved work-plan and is therefore outside of the current effort.

SPLATs vs DFPZ discussion by Kim_Ingram, at 2:36 p.m. on 18 March 2010,

The following was sent to me from George Terhune re. the SPLATs vs DFPZs discussion:

Thank you for responding to my comments, though of course that leads to further comments and questions. 1. If SNAMP is limited to a focus on 'the forest management alternative approved in the 2004 Record of Decision', how can it be an example of 'adaptive management'? In any case, you've already gone beyond the SPLAT strategy of the 2004 ROD by including a DFPZ example in the meta-analysis, and that is entirely proper, because the 2004 ROD acknowledged and supported the demonstration of the DFPZ strategy mandate by the HFQLG Forest Recovery Act. It's apparent that Congress intended the strategy to be taken seriously as a candidate for wider application. 2. I agree that a 'more fruitful exercise' can and should be the next step. But it should not be to compare implemented DFPZs to a theoretical SPLAT design. Since it isn't possible to implement both DFPZs and SPLATs on the same ground, the most useful direct comparisons would be theoretical to theoretical, which would not only be a fairer comparison, but it would permit manipulation of both DFPZs and SPLATs over a range of conditions and assumptions. For example, what performance is delivered by each theory when different percentages of the landscape have been treated? When the first 10% is treated? Then another 10% added? Then another 10% added? One of the largest differences that could be expected to show up would be how safely and effectiviely fire suppression would be supported by various implementations of each strategy. There should also be comparisons under strict and less strict rules regarding where and when management activity is permitted. Those comparisons are needed to support management decisions on how best to adapt to rapidly changing conditions, such as climate change and water supply effects, when balances must be established among competing priorities. Finally, there should be comparisons of economic effects from implementing each strategy, because the amount of treatment that can be done is limited by the cost efficiency of the management activity, and the availability of the workforce and industrial infrastructure to do the huge amount of work required also depends on the economic practicality and efficiency of management decisions. That isn't everything that needs to be done, but maybe it would be a decent start.

re: Challenges of AM by Shasta Ferranto, at 10:35 a.m. on 8 December 2009,

Thank you very much for your question Christine. Your question is astute and to answer fully would take a full report. We have tried to sum up an answer below. Please follow up with us if you would like more information.

Let us start by being clear about our definition of adaptive management. Our definition is posted in SNAMP’s glossary:

‘AM: Adaptive Management is an approach to managing forests that incorporates the uncertainty about the resource and treats management as a deliberate experiment to enhance scientific understanding about those uncertainties. Ideally, it is a participatory process that engages scientists, stakeholders and managers in a long-term relationship grounded in shared learning about the ecosystem and society.’

Here are some challenges we have that are specific to adaptive management:

1) Structuring adaptive management. Involving a university in adaptive management as a third party makes SNAMP unique.
Challenge: This adds yet another perspective to the usual agency-public or within-agency adaptive management dynamic.

2) Focusing on experimentation. Challenge: Experimentation is hard to keep separate from management – mangers want to learn before experiments are complete but in order for us to study SPLATs as they are “normally” conducted by the Forest Service we must not affect their planning or implementation too much. The Science Team works hard to be as transparent as possible but we are not able to make recommendations for management of the study area treatments.

3) Completing the adaptive management cycle. Challenges:
a. Due to the multiparty organization it is unknown if research findings/public input will ultimately feed into future management. SNAMP’s final management adaptation is to occur when the Forest Service plans more SPLAT treatments in the Sierra after the research is complete. However, the Forest Service is legally not able to “promise” it will use Science Team or public input for this final portion of the adaptive management cycle.
b. This project is 7 to 10, to possibly more years long. It will be hard to keep all parties attentive and allow for turn over – we will gain and lose shared knowledge. It is also difficult to assure consistent funding though so far the Forest Service, for their part, have done a great job.

4) Collaborating in adaptive management, conducting an open, transparent communication process where the pubic and agencies would like Science Team data as quickly as possible. Challenges:
a. Sharing data before it is fully used by the researchers is difficult. Also sharing data before data is reviewed by peers or published in journals to confirm validity is awkward and goes against normal academic processes.
b. Quickly sharing data with the agencies and public makes it difficult to avoid affecting the USFS treatments as they are developed and applied.

Please post on this discussion board if you have further question or feel free to contact at: karodrigues@ucdavis.edu.

Thank you very much for your interest in our project,
The Public Participation Team

Challenges with AM? by chschen, at 12:37 p.m. on 25 November 2009,

Hi,

I am researching SNAMP for a school assignment and was wondering if you could tell me about some of the challenges the SNAMP team has faced that are unique to Adaptive Management (versus other approaches).

Thanks, Christine

Should SNAMP have a legal team? by Kim_Ingram, at 11:31 a.m. on 30 April 2009,

At a recent SNAMP presentation, questions were raised if SNAMP science could stand up in court and if SNAMP would benefit from having a legal team working side by side the science teams to ensure this? If the Forest Service fuels treatment projects get sued, doesn't that undermine the entire SNAMP effort which hoped to develop a public process to avoid litigation?

The SNAMP process will clearly document what worked and what didn’t work well for the US Forest Service, the NEPA process and SNAMP itself. However, SNAMP could never guarantee that no lawsuits would ever be filed against the USFS or others. If the USFS is sued over the fuels treatment projects and the science is questioned, SNAMP scientists may be asked to testify. The Principle Investigators for SNAMP were specifically chosen because they are experts in their fields. SNAMP work plans have been peer reviewed by other experts outside of the SNAMP UC Science Team (UCST), so their methods have already been validated. The UCST uses the ‘preeminent rules of science’ – peer review, in all SNAMP research. Because of this, the UCST is not interested in pursuing a legal review. It is also important to remember that the science used in the NEPA process is conducted by the US Forest Service, not SNAMP. The SNAMP teams invite public comments, questions and differing opinions. Disagreement is part of the SNAMP process, it doesn’t stop it.

November 5 Spotted Owl Conversation by Owl Science Team, at 9:39 p.m. on 30 November 2008,

Owl Team Response to Linda Blum's comments of November 9:

  1. PRIVATE LAND OWNERSHIP ON ELDORADO STUDY AREA: There are two aspects of our response. First, private land constitutes about 37% of the Eldorado Density Owl Study Area. The Owl Science Team had been under the mistaken impression that most of this private land was owned by Sierra Pacific Industries (SPI). After being alerted to our possible error by Ms. Blum, our preliminary inquiries indicate that she is correct. Much of the private land may actually belong to Fruit Growers Association. Our assumption that most of the private land belonged to SPI had its genesis by the large land transactions that occurred within this region during the 1990s when the major private landowners were Fruit Growers, MichCal, SPI and others. RJG was told during a field site visit with Fruit Growers that they were in the process, along with MichCal, of liquidating their land to SPI. RJG simply assumed that was true, but apparently the transactions never occurred. We have recently requested detailed information on private land ownership within the Eldorado National Forest from agency personnel, and we will provide an update once we obtain this information. RJG never pursued the veracity of this information because specific land ownership was not of central relevance to our study objectives (see next comment). Second, although we appreciate Ms. Blum’s attention to detail and pointing out our error in terms of land ownership, the topic is not relevant from a scientific perspective or the design of the SNAMP study. In our recollection, we have never noted in any publication the explicit land ownership by a company, corporation, or individual on our study area except perhaps in general statements. Rather, we simply have noted that our study area is 37% private (this percentage may vary slightly in our historical publications because of changing land ownership patterns or as we acquire better information) and that the distribution of public and private land is in a “checkerboard” pattern, which is roughly true, but not geometrically true.

  2. "CONTROL" VS. "TREATMENT" TERRITORIES: When the Owl Science Team refers to “control” and “treatment” territories, it implies the expectation that the owl territory will either experience a fuels reduction treatment executed by the U.S. Forest Service (“treatment”) or not receive one (“control”). This designation has nothing to do with the distribution of landownership or the past harvest or forest conditions (although this can be considered in the modeling of treatment effects). We use this terminology because our stated research questions are directed toward estimating the effects of SPLATs on spotted owls. At the November 5 meeting, DT stressed the importance of documenting private timber harvests within all of the owl territories, regardless of their designation as “control” or “treatment” territories. We stressed this because we recognize the potentially important confounding factor of “control” territories receiving “treatments” by private landowners and of “treatment” territories receiving multiple treatments (both USFS and private timber harvest within an owl territory). Therefore, we are in agreement with Ms. Blum that the effects of private timber harvest on spotted owl habitat represents a potentially important confounding factor, and thus we plan to incorporate data on private timber harvest into our analyses. We plan to contact the actual private landowners on our study area (once we determine their identity) and request information on the locations, size, and types of harvest (clearcut, selective removal, etc.) conducted during the course of our study. If we cannot obtain this information directly from a private landowner, we will obtain the information from Timber Harvest Plans on file with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Our approach will be to model SPLAT treatments so that the treatment will be considered both a categorical (owl territory receives a treatment or not) and a continuous (owl territory receives a specific amount of treatment) effect.

  3. HYPOTHESES/TIME SCALE OF STUDY: The Owl Team does not have a premise that the Framework will be detrimental to the owls. It is one working hypothesis that SPLATs could have a negative effect, but the alternative is also possible given our lack of understanding of owl responses to these treatments at the current time. Finally, we wish to clarify the time scale of the owl SNAMP study, as this may be another source of confusion for Ms. Blum. While current forest conditions on our study landscape have been greatly influenced by historic timber harvests (on both public and private lands), our study objective is not to assess the effects of past activities on spotted owls, but to assess the effects of activities that occur during the course of the SNAMP study (2007−2013). Thus, we will create a habitat map to quantify forest conditions at the beginning of the study. At the study’s conclusion, we will update the habitat map, which will allow us to quantify any habitat change that occurred during the study. Although we are specifically interested in habitat change due to Forest Service SPLATs, we will control for habitat change due to other reasons (private timber harvest, wildfire) as noted above. In addition, we will undoubtedly consider the habitat conditions of each territory prior to their receiving any treatment because owl territories having different starting conditions might respond differently to SPLAT treatments.

November 5 Spotted Owl Conversation by Kim Rodrigues, at 5:58 p.m. on 24 November 2008,

Linda, thank you for this question and your ongoing interest in SNAMP. We apologize for the delay in response from the UCST. Please know that Rocky is working on a response and hopes to get back to you as soon as he is able. Please contact Kim Rodrigues directly with any immediate concerns you may have related to this matter.

Kim Rodrigues
karodrigues@ucdavis.edu

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