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!

Susan M. Wheatley said at 12:22 p.m. on 16 February 2006 ,

Firstly, I'm speaking as a private citizen typing this on a break rather than as a Forest Service employee. It is my own opinion and does not represent the Forest Service as an agency. Having spent 14 years working on the Modoc where goshawks will try to nest every 2 miles if there is anything like suitable habitat, I disagree that goshawks are a priority species for study. The study group should discuss the goshawk situation with Brian Woolbridge, one of the goshawk experts in California.
Right now the Mountain yellow legged frog seems to be experiencing population declines and yet the apparent solution from what research tells us, restoring habitat by removing fish from high mountain lakes where the fish are not native and which might save the species is apparently not being done to any degree.
If adaptive management is to be meaningful, it won't result in just research studies but action by the agencies and not just the Forest Service.

Design, data collection, and analysis -- experiments need to be designed to take advantage of multiple ownerships. Private industrial landowners are doing data collection and experiments; we have data collection occuring on selected national forests, and we have experiments going on the Blacks Mountain and Blodgett Experimental Forests. My perception is that all of these efforts are not fully coordinated.

Most species of interest are very high on the food chain (owls, fisher, . . .) and thus are probably more affected by availability of prey than they are nesting habitat. Yet, since 1990, we seem to think that more set-asides is the answer. We know that in the Sierra Nevadas that is a mgt. plan that will simply lead to insect, disease and eventual catastrophic wildfire. We need "experiments" that change canopy cover and enhance prey habitats within known home ranges of the species of interest to observe how they respond.

If we're truly interested in "adaptive management", then we should be focused on providing opportunities to do "experiments" outside of the standards and guidelines of current management direction and to do it at multiple scales. The current Blacks Mountain and Blodgett Experimental Forests are two small to address landscape or bioregion scales. We need one or more Experimental Forests whose boundaries would be an entire national forest.

One of the problems with current research efforts is there's nothing for the bioregion scale. I recommend consideration of making an entire national forest an Experimental Forest. The two existing Experimental Forests (Blacks Mountain and Blodgett) are ok for the stand level. Their boundaries could easily be expaned to include an entire national forest. Then all the research effort could be focused within the boundaries of 1 or two national forests and provide the opportunity to answer research questions at multiple scales.

Be sure that the County Boards of Supervisors, FireSafe Councils, and local Chambers of Commerce are alerted to this Workplan. Focus attention on the local elected officials; they were elected by the people in the rural counties that are directly affected by the Sierra Nevada Framework.

Responses to the Comments Above

The objectives of the water component study are to: i) measure changes in water quality and water budget in representative areas subject to Framework/SPLAT’s treatment, ii) estimate the impact of forest treatments on water quality and water budget at fireshed/watershed, forest, and bioregion levels, and iii) provide a basis for continuing operational assessment of how Framework treatment will impact streams, water cycle and forest health. Because there is considerable emphasis on aquatic systems we will focus on representative catchments with 1st and 2nd order streams. Areas under consideration are in the , Tahoe, El Dorado, Sierra and Sequoia National Forests; all have roads in the watershed/fireshed.

The response variables include indicators of both water quality (temperature, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity) and water budget (stream stage/discharge and soil moisture). Response of flow timing and peak flows will also be considered. Additional variables will be measured to assist system analysis of changes in water quality and quantity, including meteorology, erosion, soil temperature, snowpack and precipitation. Soil moisture is a key response variable to forest disturbance and significantly affect portioning of rainwater and snowmelt and thus crucial for evaluation of erosion, sedimentation, water yield and water quality.

The elevation band is determined based on where treatments are planned and the scientific criteria that the MOU partners developed. The critical mixed conifer zone for treatments crosses the rain-snow transition, and is in the 1200-2100 m (4000-7000’) elevation range in the Central Sierra and the 1500-2400 m (5000-8000’) band in the Southern Sierra. While we will focus intensive field measurements on 1-km2 headwater catchments, spatial analysis will be conducted at larger scales using spatial data to understand and model the impact of the treatments on larger areas. Available spatial data include topography, canopy characteristics, roads, fire history, past management actions and other characteristics.

We understand that effects of the treatment on water quality and quantity, particularly erosion and sedimentation, may be remarkable at the beginning of the treatment and become gradually lessened over time. We will measure response variables before and after the treatment. We also measure those variables in a control basin parallel to the treatment. In selecting the study sites, physical, historical and management factors will be definitely considered to account for watershed variability. Placing our measurements in a longer-term context will rely on the few historical data available in the region.

Most of the 25 comments received fell into the following three categories:

  1. criteria for site selection
  2. clear specification of terminology
  3. scope and integration of the investigation

Criteria for site selection During initial discussion with the technical team (representatives from USFS, PSW, Natural Resource Agency, and UC), we agreed on the following eleven criteria. These criteria address the conditions deemed necessary to accomplish the underlying objectives of adaptive management and the scientific uncertainties associated with land management. The criteria include (see SN_AMMP_Work_Plan_agreement.pdf on the documents page of this website):

  1. Old forest habitat for species at risk
  2. Potential for recruiting large tree structure
  3. Wildland urban interface
    1. Fixed traditional communities
    2. Growing communities
  4. Adjacent to significant amounts of private land eligible for State grants, cost sharing, and regulatory streamlining for fuels management
  5. Fireshed/watershed is the unit of study (e.g., CalWater planning watersheds about 10,000 acres nested inside larger watersheds ~50,000 to 100,000 acres)
  6. Representative of typical Sierran landscape (e.g. including large drainage, forest type, include large elevational gradient, precipitation regime, topographic diversity subject to frequent fire and thus fuels management attention)
  7. Organizational capacity of National Forest
  8. Presence of existing data/studies/infrastructure
  9. History of land and resource management agencies involving community interest in forest management
  10. Potential for positive and detectable changes leading to desired forest conditions
  11. Costs of development and implementation of treatments

These criteria were not ranked and even the best sites will be compromises among these eleven criteria. In consideration of several comments received at the Dec 9 public meeting, we have limited our search to the most fire prone sectors of the National Forest. Specifically we are only considering forests within the mixed conifer vegetation type that presents risk of catastrophic crown fires. Typically these are forets that have not been intensively managed nor been the location of a major fire in the last 100 years. This decision supports our fundamental goal to examine the efficacy of the planned treatments at modifying fire behavior and to quantify the impact of these treatments on key ecosystem attributes (i.e., water, wildlife, and forest health).

Terminology Based on the comments received, we are making an extra effort to define our terminology and to make explicit the linkages between the proposed UC Science team effort and ongoing research to support science-based, policy-based, and regulatory-based investigations in the Sierra Nevada forests.

Scope and integration of the investigation The scope of our investigation was determined by the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding signed by the MOU partners (see MOU_Sierra_Nevada_AMMP.pdf on this website). We were charged to consider the four research areas: forest ecosystem health, water, wildlife, and public participation. Clearly there are other relevant and important aspects that should be considered as part of an adaptive management plan (e.g., economic impact were suggested in the comments) but we do not have the latitude to include them in this process.

As noted by several commentators, a major challenge to the success of this project is the tight integration between research areas internal to the project and linkages with ongoing research. We are working among ourselves to integrate the diverse objectives of each research theme. The final result will necessarily be a compromise for any particular focal area but we will try to produce the best overall integrative work plan. As suggested, we are working to formalize the contributions of ongoing research both to avoid duplicative efforts and to obtain the best information possible.

Most of the comments fell into the following four categories:

  1. How did you determine when to bring the public into the process?
  2. Why is there no socio-economic module?
  3. Will feedback from stakeholders be used in the research?
  4. How will feedback from stakeholders be gathered?

Q: How did you determine when to bring the public into the process? A: We believe that it is necessary to bring stakeholders and public into the process as early as possible. Our first public meeting was held within 3 months of the formal initiation of the workplan development process. Prior to that, it was necessary to better define who was to be involved in the project from our end, and to come to agreement on the science team about how to proceed with public participation and workplan development.

Q: Why is there no socio-economic module? A: Socio-economic studies have been conducted by the Forest Service and other agencies and were not requested by the MOU. We will look into community characteristics as we research and attempt to explain the effectiveness of participatory techniques.

Q: Will feedback from stakeholders be used in the research? A: We will make sure that all feedback is carefully considered, and if we cannot make direct use of it we will explain why.

Q: How will you measure participatory success? A: One of the first things we proposed doing is working with stakeholders to develop measures of participation success. A variety of things have already been suggested, including “reduction in appeals to the plan”, follow-through from feedback, being able to show how feedback was used or changed things, direct contact with people, developing constructive relationships with people, and developing broader understanding of the planned treatments and the tradeoffs involved in the choices that need to be made.

Q: How will feedback from stakeholders be gathered? A: In addition to this website, we plan to use public meetings, interviews, and a variety of participatory techniques to involve as many different points of view as possible. Documents including iterations of the workplan will be posted to this website and can be mailed as paper documents upon request.

Scott Stephens said at 1:17 p.m. on 19 January 2006 ,

We will work to provide concise definitions for such terms as forest health, landscapes, watershed, and fireshed to make sure that everyone reading our proposal will understand these terms. We will review information from other studies such at the Quincy Library Administrative Study to see what is applicable to this proposal.

We will strive to include fire and forest health, wildlife, and water in our definition of forest health. Quantitative of forest health should integrate the modules (wildlife, water, fire and forest health) of the study. Our definition of forest health will include all aspects of a normally functioning ecosystem such as dead trees, insects, and disease.

We are working with our partners in the US Forest Service to select areas that would have a high probability of success in terms on SPLAT installations during the length of this study. This will also influence the size of the area that will propose to work in. The intensity of the treatments within a give SPLAT is an interesting question but will not be explored in this study. The characteristics of the treatments will solely be in the US Forest Service jurisdiction. The UC team will not influence treatment characteristics.

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