Gnarly Problems and Innovative Solutions: Scientists and Public Land Managers Working Together to Sustain Ecosystems Long-term

Land management agencies and organizations steward landscapes, home to wildlife and fish species, extending from tundra to tropics. Human population growth has increased stress on ecosystems. Stressors include traditional sources, such as timber harvesting, recreation, grazing, mining, energy development, hunting and fishing, and new sources including invasive species, climate change, drought, disease, changes in fire regimes, new forms of recreational activities, and non-timber extraction. Faced with increasing land uses, agencies and organizations rely on research scientists to help develop management solutions that sustain the ecological integrity of ecosystems. The Wildlife Society and American Fisheries Society are both concerned with management application of scientific knowledge. We will illustrate close collaborations between scientist(s) and land manager(s) that have effectively addressed complex fisheries and wildlife management challenges with new, feasible, and measureable solutions from science. This symposium will: 1) expose participants to the variety of fisheries and wildlife challenges facing managers of public lands and the scientists that support them, 2) provide examples of how fisheries and wildlife science/management collaborations are working across the country, and 3) illustrate the value of fisheries and wildlife research and management professionals working together to solve problems.

8:00AM Mowing Protocols for Pollinator Habitat in Urbanized Landscapes: Bee Conservation Tactics for Householders, Park Managers and Highway Departments.
  Susannah Lerman, Alexandra Contosta, Joan Milam, Christofer Bang
Widespread population declines of bees and other pollinators from habitat loss are a growing concern. Green spaces embedded within the urban matrix, particularly residential yards, city parks, and highway verges, could mitigate negative aspects of urban development, and provide pollinator habitat. Lawns dominate these green spaces, and their management consists of frequent mowing, which subsequently inhibits the growth of weedy species such as dandelions and clover. However, these spontaneous flowers could provide pollen and nectar sources for pollinators throughout the growing season. We experimentally tested whether different lawn mowing frequencies (1, 2, or 3 weeks) influenced bee abundance by increasing lawn floral resources. Lawns mowed less frequently had more lawn flowers yet the lawns mowed every 2-weeks supported the highest bee abundance. Results highlight a “lazy lawnmower” approach to providing bee habitat. Mowing less frequently is practical, economical, and a time saving alternative to lawn replacement or even planting pollinator gardens. The simple solution of mowing less frequently has been adopted by homeowners, highway departments, and city park managers, and demonstrates that both public and private partners can contribute to pollinator conservation.
8:20AM Using Long-Term Research on Large Wood (LW) and Contemporary Basin-Wide Lw Inventories to Address Recreational Conflict in the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River Corridor.
  C. Andrew Dolloff, Craig Roghair, Kevin Leftwich, Keith Whalen, Sheryl Bryan
The upper 34 km of the Chattooga River, the southernmost free-flowing coldwater stream in the United States, is highly valued by the angling community not only for the quality of the trout fishery, but especially for solitude and scenery. The Chattooga also has been described as the premier whitewater destination in the southeast, offering opportunities from beginner to expert, in a remote natural setting. Boaters and whitewater paddlers, historically prohibited from the upper Chattooga and tributaries, petitioned the USDA Forest Service for access, prompting preparation of an impact assessment including inventory of the location, distribution, and amount of large wood (LW) within the river. In 2007 and 2012, National Forest Biologists and SRS scientists designed and conducted an inventory of LW in over 50 contiguous km within the Chattooga Wild and Scenic Corridor. We compared the results to a 1997 research study and baseline inventory of habitat and LW in the West Fork Chattooga. Our inventories revealed: high variability in the size, amount and distribution of LW, and potential for recruitment of LW from Eastern hemlock, the dominant riparian canopy tree, killed by the exotic hemlock wooly adelgid.
8:40AM Mapping Riparian and Aquatic Habitat and Stream Channel Changes to Assess Low-Cost Post-Disturbance Recovery Actions on the Fishlake N.F. Using Remote Sensing Data Collected By an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS).
  Lena Schlichting, James Whelan
In 2010, the Twitchell Canyon Fire burned 47% of the Fish Creek watershed in Utah at moderate to high soil fire severity, causing near-extirpation of the fish population, major channel changes and flooding. The Fishlake National Forest’s (NF) declining budgets for on-the-ground restoration work and ecosystem health monitoring drove the need to develop more efficient monitoring and restoration tools. The Fishlake NF partnered with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) to implement a low-cost restoration project on Fish Creek. The Fishlake NF also partnered with Utah State University and the USFS Geospatial Technology and Applications Center to acquire high resolution 4-band and thermal imagery using an Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) to assess the stream’s aquatic and riparian resources. Using this imagery we analyzed the effect of wood addition, detected erosional and depositional areas and assessed stream bank stability. A riparian land cover map was developed to assess vegetation cover. Water temperature is a concern, so we developed a map showing the effects of vegetation cover on stream temperature. This collaborative approach allowed the Fishlake NF to evaluate low-cost restoration tools and monitoring options within available funding, tied to recent biological sampling data to assess stream recovery.
9:00AM Westslope Cutthroat Trout Conservation in Montana’s Swan River Valley: A Case Study of Science and Collaboration to Find Solutions
  Beth Gardner
Although once the most widespread fish species in Montana’s Swan River Valley, Westslope Cutthroat Trout are now uncommon in their historic habitats and shifted their distribution to headwater streams and mountain lakes. Restoration to their historic distribution is challenging due to non-native fish. Prior conservation work was opportunistic with no clear sense of priority. Focused conservation began in 2010 when agencies, university and nonprofit organizations collaborated to identify remnant Cutthroat Trout populations worthy of conservation. We employed a mix of traditional techniques (such as electrofishing) as well as advancements in conservation genetics to guide our decision making. From 2011-2016 we gathered information on each population’s relative abundance, introgression with rainbow trout or Yellowstone cutthroat trout, genetic heterozygosity, number of breeders, relative abundance of brook trout, spatial extent of the population, connectivity with downstream populations and water temperature. Early results allowed us to implement some restoration activities including intentional isolation, genetic rescue, and brook trout eradication. Now with a completed assessment our next steps are more deliberate. Future management options include fuel reduction and prescribed burning to reduce impacts of wildfire in isolated area, trans-locating fish, selectively moving fish to manage geneflow, and more ambitious conservation of larger areas.
9:20AM Design and Implementation of a Wildlife Corridor in Metropolitan Tucson
  Paul Beier
Rapid urbanization around Tucson Arizona threatens to disrupt connectivity for wildlife populations. This prompted government planners to design a wildlife corridor connecting the Santa Catalina Mountains and the Tortolita Mountains. The corridor was designed to serve the needs of 20 focal species; the optimum design included 3 broad strands. One of the 3 strands – 1 km wide and 8 km long and including 2 highway crossing structures – is being conserved by actions of the Arizona State Land Department, Pima County, the town of Oro Valley, Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Coalition for Sonoran Desert Protection, and the regional and state transportation agencies. The other two strands are being lost to urban development. Science helped lead to a good compromise, but bureaucrats and other non-scientists were the key to successful implementation. In my experience, scientists contribute little to conservation by traditional modes of (one-way) “outreach and communication” to decision-makers. Effective contribution to conservation occurs when scientists engage with managers, policy makers, and other stakeholders over the long term to identify specific decisions to be informed by science, jointly define the research questions, methods, and outputs, and co-produce scientific inferences and strategies for the appropriate use of science.
09:40AM Break
1:10PM Research, Management, and Academia Design Headwater Stream Channel Assessments to Inform Timber Sale Layout on the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests.
  Craig Roghair, Andy Dolloff, Dawn Kirk, Pauline Adams, Kevin McGuire, Carrie Jensen, Kevin Leftwich
The George Washington and Jefferson National Forests (GWJNF) contain a variety of aquatic habitats ranging from lakes, ponds, and wetlands to extensive networks of perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral streams. The GWJNF maintains functional riparian areas for these aquatic habitats by delineating variable width Riparian Corridors and Channeled Ephemeral Zones, as defined in the GWJNF Forest Plans. Central to the delineation of Riparian Corridors and Channeled Ephemeral Zones is the ability to differentiate among perennial, intermittent, and ephemeral channels within timber sale areas. In 2017, novel hydrologic research conducted in Appalachian forested watersheds provided a holistic view of dynamic and spatially variable streamflow intermittency, and spurred us to develop a more accurate, consistent, and efficient protocol for identification and classification of stream channels. We compared results from channel surveys using the new protocol to outputs from both existing and the newly developed research models to refine our channel classification protocols. We then trained and deployed teams of technicians to classify stream channels in advance of timber sale area layout. Since 2017, the refined protocols have been applied to 175 proposed timber sale units, providing a repeatable, defensible, and efficient means by which to achieve riparian habitat management goals.
1:30PM Hard Mast Production: Collaborations to Standardize Regional Indexing Protocols and Forecast Potential Production Using Forest Inventory
  Cathryn Greenberg, Chad Keyser, Anita Rose, Gordon Warburton
Acorns are important as wildlife food and for oak regeneration. Highly variable acorn production challenges forest managers in gauging crop sizes or estimating yield. Until recently, use of different indexing methods confounded crop comparisons among states. Collaborations between State Agency biologists and US Forest Service researchers lead to a ‘toolkit’ of methods to simplify and standardize indexing, and tailor acorn production estimates to landscapes. We developed a simple, rapid visual method to index acorn crop size using the proportion of trees bearing acorns as the independent variable. This replaced labor-intensive, time-consuming acorn crop index methods, and was adopted east-wide by state and federal agencies to standardize indexing for comparable results. Subsequently, we used long-term data to develop acorn production capability models based on oak tree dbh, predicted crown area, and average number of acorns per unit crown area. Production estimates can be tailored to specific stands and different forest management scenarios. These models were implemented into the Forest Vegetation Simulator (FVS-ACORN), the Forest Service’s framework for growth and yield modeling. Models allow forest managers to compute average acorn production for their stands through time considering oak decline, mortality, regeneration, and growth, and to analyze trade-offs in forest management alternatives.
1:50PM Assessing Riparian and Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems to Address the Challenges of Management Plan Revision in the USDA Forest Service Intermountain Region
  Max Smith, Katelyn Driscoll, Steve Warren, Deborah Finch
Given their influence on freshwater and terrestrial habitats, riparian and groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs) have high value for fish and wildlife, including many at-risk species. These ecosystems are exposed to cumulative stressors, forcing National Forests to meet management objectives or face lawsuits filed to protect threatened and endangered species. Under the 2012 Planning Rule, riparian and GDE conditions must be evaluated during forest management planning. This stipulation poses additional challenges when forest resources are overseen by a number of specialists with little time to contribute to assessments. In 2015 the Rocky Mountain Research Station entered a partnership with the Intermountain Region to assess the current distribution and condition of riparian communities and GDEs. Working with National Forests and other research groups, we mapped the distribution of riparian communities, springs, and fens, as well as sensitive fish and wildlife that depend on these ecosystems. We used indices, derived from field and spatial data, to evaluate condition in terms of composition, structure, and function of riparian communities. In most locations, data were too limited to evaluate condition of springs and fens. National Forests are using our results to identify needs for change in the management of critical habitats for fish and wildlife.
2:10PM Reducing Conflict between Winter Recreation and Sensitive Species on Colorado’s Public Lands: Investigating Human and Canada Lynx Movements through the Same Spatial Lens
  Lucretia Olson, John Squires, Elizabeth Roberts, Jacob Ivan, Mark Hebblewhite, Aubrey Miller
Winter recreation on public lands is becoming an increasingly important issue for forest managers. More winter recreation can lead to conflict between recreationists and greater potential disturbance to wildlife. We used GPS devices carried by recreationists, coupled with GPS collars on Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), a threatened species, to study impacts of winter recreation on lynx in heavily recreated areas in Colorado, USA. We logged 2,839 recreation tracks and collared 18 adult lynx over 4 years. We used a modeling technique commonly applied to wildlife to model habitat characteristics selected by recreationists and lynx. We also assessed changes in lynx movement and spatial and temporal patterns in response to recreation. We found that motorized users selected open canopy and shallow slopes, while non-motorized recreationists selected steeper slopes and dense canopy. We also found that lynx and motorized recreation appeared to self-segregate, with lynx selecting distinctly different environmental characteristics than motorized recreation. Interestingly, lynx generally selected areas near non-motorized recreation trails. Lynx avoided high-intensity ski resorts, especially when recreation was most intense. Our work provides managers with spatially detailed insights into terrain characteristics favored by recreationists and lynx, allowing informed management of winter recreation opportunities while reducing impacts to sensitive wildlife.
2:30PM Research Serving Land Management and Species Conservation: Creating Forest Mosaics for Canada Lynx in Multi-Use Landscapes
  John Squires, Lucretia Olson, Joseph Holbrook, Jacob Ivan, Russell Graham, Gary Hanvey, Scott Jackson, Peter McDonald, Randy Ghormley, Rick Lawrence, Shannon Savage
Research plays a central role in addressing the thorniest issues that confront species conservation. Altered disturbance patterns mediated via climate change, such as increased fire and insect-related disturbance, are stressors to forested systems that challenge multiple-use land management. Established management plans for sensitive species, like Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis), can become irrelevant when stressors to forest systems push management into an undefined space. Thus, there is pressing need for research to quickly and efficiently determine how increased stressors to forest landscapes impact species of conservation need. Canada lynx is a forest carnivore with demographic and behavioral responses to changes in forest structure. Although lynx have occupied forests structured by insect and fire disturbance for millennia, the scale of disturbance at the species’ southern range periphery requires land managers to redefine lynx habitat under existing, legally-sanctioned management plans. We established a multi-disciplinary team to investigate how habitat-use of lynx are altered in spruce beetle-impacted forests. In Montana, with a similar team, we investigated how demography and resource-use patterns of lynx responded to forest mosaics created by vegetation management. This research provides new empirically-derived understandings that are critical to updating management frameworks for lynx in increasingly dynamic forests.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Management and Research Collaboration to Address the Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Threat to the US Pacific Northwest Region: The USDA Forest Service Regional AIS Monitoring Strategy
  James Capurso, Rebecca Flitcroft, Brooke Penaluna
The USDA Forest Service manages approximately 10.1 million hectares of land in the Pacific Northwest Region of the US, within the states of Oregon and Washington. The National Forests of the region provide world class water and fisheries resources, including 40,000 km of fish-bearing streams providing 40% of the streamflow in the PNW and more than 50% of the anadromous fish habitat in the Columbia River Basin. As is throughout the world, these incredible water and fisheries resources are threatened by aquatic invasive species (AIS). In an effort to monitor the invasion and spread of these species on National Forest lands throughout the Region, Fisheries Biologists from the management and research branches of the agency collaboratively created the Regional AIS Monitoring Strategy. This strategy supplements existing field survey personnel with site-specific eDNA sampling for a statistically sound network of monitoring sites. In its final year of field testing, this multi-species sampling protocol will be deployed throughout the region in 2020, providing the region with an improved understanding of the invasion and spread of AIS.
3:40PM Integrating Vegetation, Invasive Plants, and Climate Trends to Map Adaptive Management Zones
  Patrick Comer
Land use planners and managers need to cope with past land use legacies, current shifts in vegetation dynamics, and future uncertainty as climate stress emerges unevenly across the landscape. NatureServe has worked to assess resilience of major upland vegetation across the intermountain west given past, current, and near-term future trends in key change agents. In order to address common stressors, such as invasive annual grasses and their interactions with wildfire, one needs to consider the biophysical potential of the landscape, the current patterns of invasive presence and abundance, and likely climate-driven trends over upcoming decades. Using our knowledge of conditions across the region, and spatial models for key components, we have integrated this information to identify practical zones that assist with selecting appropriate management responses. These adaptive management zones are used by public land managers in dynamic decision support tools to evaluate past investments in vegetation treatments, document current needs, and then construct alternative management scenarios for adaptive planning and management. Working in a decision-support environment, planners can then construct land management and conservation scenarios to maximize benefit and reduce risk. Case examples from the NV and UT will be highlighted.
4:00PM Federal Collaboration Using Decision Science to Assess Alternative Strategies for Monitoring Western Snowy Plover Recovery
  Bruce Marcot, James Lyons, Daniel Elbert
Western Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus nivosus) are federally listed as Threatened, occur along the Pacific coastline, and are vulnerable to predation, human disturbance, and habitat destruction. Populations have been monitored since the 1970s for distribution, reproduction, and survival. Since the species was federally listed in 1993 and a recovery plan was approved in 2007, recovery actions have resulted in growing populations with increased distributions. This success has created logistical challenges related to monitoring an improving species and a need for identifying and instituting the best monitoring approach given recovery goals, budgets, and likelihood of success. We devised and implemented a structured decision analysis, involving plover biologists involved in monitoring, to evaluate nine alternative monitoring strategies, whereby they scored each strategy according to a suite of performance measures. Scores were combined across the performance measures for each monitoring strategy, and weights applied to the measures to emphasize recovery objectives. This resulted in identifying strategies that best meet recovery needs. Results are presented to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for implementation to ensure consistent monitoring methods across the species’ range. Our use of structured decision-making could be applied to cases of other species once imperiled but now on the road to recovery.
4:20PM A Strategic, Multi-Scale Science Framework for Conserving and Restoring Sagebrush Ecosystems and Greater Sage-Grouse
  Jeanne Chambers
Exotic annual grass invasions, altered fire regimes, and anthropogenic development are threatening sagebrush ecosystems and the wildlife species that depend on them. A two-part Science Framework for Conservation and Restoration of the Sagebrush Biome has been developed by an extensive interagency team of scientists and managers to facilitate prioritizing management activities across these large landscapes and determining the most appropriate strategies. The framework is underpinned by new research on resilience to disturbance and resistance to invasive annual grasses. Part 1 focuses on the science basis and applications and provides the information needed to apply the concepts of resilience and resistance. It illustrates an approach for mapping and analyzing relative resilience and resistance, high value resources, and stressors to prioritize areas for management. Part 2 focuses on the management considerations and tradeoffs for applying information and decision-support tools in Part 1. Part 2 helps managers and stakeholders refine resource management priorities, step-down priorities to the field, and select appropriate management strategies. Information in the Science Framework was used by the Forest Service in developing fire risk assessments, incorporated into Department of the Interior’s Integrated Rangeland Fire Management Strategy, and used by BLM to develop a multi-year program of work.
4:40PM Sustaining Predator and Prey Habitats: A 25-Year Research and Management Collaboration to Enhance the Goshawk Food Web By Restoring the Composition and 3-Dimentional Structure of Frequent-Fire Forests.
  Richard Reynolds, Douglas Boyce, Russell Graham
A 1990 journal article alleged that Forest Service (FS) management negatively affected goshawk populations. Shortly thereafter several environmental organizations filed 3 petitions to list the goshawk under ESA. The RF proactively established (1991) a Goshawk Scientific Committee (SC) to use “best science” to formulate management recommendations to protect the goshawk. The SC developed an ecosystem-based forest management framework to sustain the habitats of plants and animals in the food web of this prey-limited hawk by providing a fine-scale mix of prey and predator habitats throughout a hawk’s territory. In 1996, the SW Region incorporated the desired forest conditions (DFC) into all their Forest Plans and treated numerous sites to showcase the DFCs. In 2011, one showcase survived the largest fire in Arizona history, causing the crown-fire to drop to the ground, burn through, and return to the canopy on exiting. The RF subsequently requested a refinement of the goshawk management plan into a framework for restoring the composition and structure of ponderosa pine and mixed-conifer landscapes Region-wide. We describe a two-decade FS Research and Management collaboration that began with maintaining goshawk viability and ended in a framework for restoring the resilience and integrity of these frequent-fire forests.

Organizers: Douglas Boyce, Monica Tomosy
Supported by: USDA Forest Service, National Forest Systems and Research and Development

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: October 3, 2019 Time: 8:00 am - 5:20 pm