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!

Study area issues by Linda Blum, at 5:40 p.m. on 1 December 2008,

Thanks to the Owl Team for their responses.

If it were important to identify private landowners, one could easily get ownership information from the El Dorado County Tax Assessor's Office by looking up parcel numbers and tax information. I agree, though, that the more important point is recognition that the private lands in the checkerboard of the "control" owl sites are not "no action" control sites.

Accounting for habitat changes on those lands in the interpretation of study results may not be as problematic as first thought. Didn't Seamans, Bond, and/or others already classify timber strata in the study area for the 2004 paper on modelling nesting habitat? Using aerial photos and LIDAR, can't both public and private lands be roughly classified remotely?

Response to Owl Team Response of November 5 by Steven Self, at 8:00 a.m. on 1 December 2008,

It is good to see that the owl team has become aware of their mis-information regarding private land ownership within the Eldorado Demographic Study Area (EDSA). However, in this response, there is no mention of the need to obtain permission from landowners in order to access private land. This is an important issue to Sierra Pacific Industries and other private landowners. Other than use of public roads, access to private land is by permission only. To date In the EDSA, this has not been a large issue for SPI as we own very little land within the study area, Hopefully, as landowners are contacted for information regarding forest management activities during the SNAMP study period, permission to access the lands will be obtained, as needed.

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

November 5 Spotted Owl Conversation by Linda Blum, at 11:01 a.m. on 9 November 2008,

I'd like to correct a misimpression that was cast in last Wednesday's SNAMP meeting in Sacramento. It was reported that the Eldorado Spotted Owl Density Study Area includes a "checkerboard" land ownership pattern that intermixes national forest and Sierra Pacific Industries timberlands.

I came home from the meeting and checked with a QLG member who works for SPI, and he confirmed that the private lands in the Eldorado density study area do not belong to SPI, except perhaps 2,000 acres in the northeast corner of the 87,000-acre Density Study Area.

I find it odd that the "control" owl sites in this study lie on the checkerboarded lands, where literally half the landscape is and has been actively harvested for a long time.

The premise of the SNAMP owl study is that habitat alterations caused by 2004 Framework timber harvests/fuels treatments will be detrimental to spotted owls. Yet the "control" landscape is one that has a population of owls spread across it, studied by Dr. Gutierrez and his bands of itinerant wildlife biologists (and I salute you all!) for two decades or more, checkerboarding and timber harvests included.

During last Wednesday's discussion circle, someone asked how the study would account for the effects of activities that have been or are occurring on the private timberlands in the checkerboard. I would suggest that Doug Tempel's slideshow map of owl treatment territories and owl control territories offers a starting point for the answer: the cumulative effects so far have resulted in a well-distributed breeding population spaced such that individuals are capable of intermixing.

Maybe I don't understand the control concept in this application. Can someone please clarify?

Fuel build-up in the main control study area by Marek Jakubowski, at 4:27 p.m. on 29 October 2008,

N37 26 13.9 W119 34 34.0 in WGS84 Corresponding to photo "" on the photo page.

This shows an area of lots of downed fuel, encountered while approaching an FFEH plot.

More On SPLAT Issue by Linda Blum, at 9:49 p.m. on 10 October 2008,

Sorry to be so long in acknowledging Susie Kocher's response to my and George Terhune's critiques of SPLATs and the Last Chance Project design.

I appreciate and agree with the reply. But my comment was made more to try to head off what I believe would be an error in just accepting that the project design really reflects what the 2004 Framework directs.

As the Forest Service has taught me repeatedly over the years, there are three kinds of monitoring: implementation, effectiveness, and validation. One's conclusions about the effectiveness of any given treatment are contingent on first determining the extent to which the treatment has been implemented.

So please, UCST, monitor away. I'd just like to have everyone bear in mind that the SPLAT strategy was never described as several contiguous treatments on a ridgetop, surrounded by no other vegetation management.

Indeed, the Last Chance project design looks more like the three-tiered landscape concept advocated in the first Sierra-wide DEIS to follow the CASPO Interim Guidelines, the so-called Cal Owl DEIS. The three-tiered concept might be more effective than strategically scattered treatments in the deeply incised topography of the American River drainages, but such qualifications should be clearly stated. Thanks.

Splat Implementation - Sep 10, 2008 by Susie Kocher, at 1:21 p.m. on 10 September 2008,

Hi Linda and George,

I am emailing to respond to your email comments of several weeks ago that brought up the issue of the current design of the Strategically Placed Area Treatments on the American River District that are being studied by SNAMP. At that time, I made the commitment to you by email that the UC Science Team would consider your comments and respond to them.

The UC Science Team discussed the issue of SPLAT implementation on our conference call on September 4th, 2008. The Science Team concurred that this is an important issue, however, they reaffirmed that it is not appropriate for the researchers to comment or give input to the USFS on treatment design. A key element of our experimental design is to evaluate the impact of forest management treatments as they are implemented by the districts. One agreed upon foundation of the SNAMP project is that project design and implementation is the exclusive role of the Forest Service while evaluating the effects of these projects is the domain of the UC Science Team.

Although we are not able to address your comments about the strategic rationale of the treatments, or whether or not they truly qualify as SPLATs, UC researchers will most definitely be evaluating the spatial pattern of the treatments. Specifically, the Fire and Forest Health Team will be evaluating how the spatial arrangement of the treatments, as implemented, will affect fire behavior at the landscape scale. Results of the effectiveness of the treatment's strategic placements will be reported on by the science team after project implementation and post project data collection.

I believe that the Principle Investigators will also personally respond to your comments now that they have been posted on our website - http://snamp.cnr.berkeley.edu/.

I'd also like to thank you again for your constructive comments and involvement in SNAMP. Conducting a research project of this size and complexity with multiple partners and multiple roles is very challenging. Engagement of the public in some of these difficult issues has been important to the evolution of the project and has served to improve the study plan and hopefully the final product,

Sincerely,
Susie

Splat Implementation - Aug 22, 2008 by Linda Blum, at 12:18 p.m. on 9 September 2008,

Back again, Susie:

I just checked the SNAMP website and did not find anything relating to the discussion of Last Chance project SPLAT rationale posted there, so I'm directing this to you again in hopes you'll pass it on.

I came across essentially the same question we were asking in the Last Chance EA's Appendix A, "Scoping Comments and IDT Answer to the Comments," question #8. The USFS response includes the following: "The three SPLATs cover roughly 2,700 acres or 30% of each subwatershed. They were located in areas that were also priority from a density standpoint and designed to connect to and compliment the SPLAT that was created that was created with the Star Fire and follow - up salvage and fuels treatment."

Aside from the fact that the three SPLATs are contiguous rather than being spaced out on the landscape, I'm surprised and bewildered by the phrase "the SPLAT that was created by the Star Fire and follow-up salvage and fuels treatment."

I hope that there will be some sort of occasion within SNAMP to discuss the concept of burned areas becoming and being counted as SPLATs. Would they really produce a Finney Effect? What kind of maintenance and maintenance interval are needed for burned area SPLATs? If adaptive management is to be meaningful, I believe it must also include adaptively learning how to design and plan for future projects.

In addition, later in the same response to scoping comments, Appendix A says, "Not more than 60% of the prescribed fire only areas are predicted to support any burning at all...." This statement raises the question of whether the prescribed burn units already would perform the SPLAT function.

In befuddlement,
Linda Blum

Splat Implementation - Aug 22, 2008 by Linda Blum, at 12:17 p.m. on 9 September 2008,

It's now occurred to some of us that the SPLAT strategy may actually be only a ruse to justify spending whatever money the USFS can get on plantation maintenance. Plantations are scattered across the landscape, especially in the central Sierran forests where clearcuts and 40-year-old fires were lovingly replanted with nursery stock. Even in the HFQLG Pilot Project area, we've had a few notable instances where DFPZ projects turned out to be discontinuous treatments located in plantations.

Part of the Last Chance project is a plantation, as a matter of fact.

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