E-Newsletter February 2008

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    February 2008  
Headlines:

News from the Policy Research Program:

News from the Information Program:

INR Staff Notes:

News from the Policy Research Program:

Ecosystem services marketplaces

Ecosystem services (ES) is the name given to the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, which include clean water and air, carbon sequestration, biodiversity, habitat and species protection, and others. The wide-ranging importance of these services, and their potential for helping landowners to gain revenue from their lands while providing benefits to society as good land stewards, is drawing attention around the country and in Oregon. The widely-shared objective of Oregon participants is to develop integrated, conservation-driven markets for ecosystem services, through which markets for such services as carbon sequestration, water quality, and wetlands are integrated into land management plans. Current markets for these services are operated as separate plans, each with their own set of regulations. INR is working with a number of groups to help phase out the fragmented approach that generates competition among resources and failure to manage holistically.

The Institute has convened a faculty forum drawing on OSU and UO faculty involved in ecosystem services research, to help familiarize these researchers with each other’s work, and also to respond to research questions developed by a Portland ES research roundtable group. With Willamette Partnership and Defenders of Wildlife, INR has also convened the first of two policy work sessions aimed at clearing the way for effective marketplace development. INR is helping plan an ES business-to-business conference in May 2008 to advance the development and acceptance of these markets as a tool for protecting the environment. INR has also participated in formation of an Ecosystem Services Council which will provide guidance and certification services as the ES marketplace develops.

For more information, contact Sally.Duncan@oregonstate.edu.

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Director’s Note:

2008 has been busy with new projects for all of us at INR.  With my new responsibilities as Chair of the Oregon Transportation Commission, Lisa Gaines, Associate Director, Sally Duncan, Policy Program Manager and Jimmy Kagan, Information Program Manager, are all assuming greater leadership at INR.  INR is in good hands and I will continue my role as Director.  For my part, I also hope to build even stronger ties between ODOT and the Oregon University System, particularly on climate change and sustainability issues.

Our advisory board met in Corvallis on January 16, 2008.  We had a spirited discussion about the key upcoming natural resource issues for Oregon to which they believed INR could make a significant contribution.  The top six were: (1) Ecosystem Services Marketplaces; (2) Economic Development and Job Opportunities in Natural Resources and Rural Areas; (3) Setting and Integrating Conservation Priorities; (4) Climate Change; (5) Integrated Monitoring and Database Systems; and (6) Land-use and Water Planning. 

We are working actively on all these issues now.  You can read more about what we are up to on Ecosystem Services in this newsletter.  Expect more in coming months as we work with the new Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (climate change), the BioEconomy and Sustainable Technology Research Center (economic development and job opportunities), the Core Team for the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds (integrated monitoring and data systems) and the Institute for Water and Watersheds and the Institute for Metropolitan Studies (land and water planning).

- Gail Achterman, Gail.Achterman@oregonstate.edu

 

Featured Links:

 


At the Crossroads conference presentations available online (Link)

In November 2007, INR led a two-day conference in Corvallis, Oregon that focused on sustaining the health of Oregon’s forests in the midst of regional, national, and global change. With the goal of engaging a broad spectrum of political, social and economic stakeholders and decision-makers in Oregon’s forests, the conference attracted more than 220 people. Mike Cloughesy, Oregon Forest Resources Institute Director of Forestry, and a member of the conference steering committee, said the conference sparked dialogue about important new forestry topics including developing ecosystem services markets, increasing active management of federal forestlands, and linking forest markets to green building standards. Conference presentations are now available as PDF files. While it is still too early to speculate about the outcomes of the conference, several individuals expressed interest in having a conference or small forums on East-side forest issues.

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News from the Information Program:

Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center completes an eight-year effort to evaluate effects of training at the Oregon Military Department’s Biak Training Center near Redmond

In 1999, ORNHIC began a three-year study to evaluate how National Guard training at the Oregon Military Department (OMD) Biak Training Center east of Redmond might be affecting wildlife and habitats.  Working with researchers from Colorado State University, the program sampled vegetation throughout the area.  The study was to establish a baseline and to evaluate training, fire and livestock effects on the >90,000 acre Central Oregon Training Site named to commemorate the 41st Infantry Division's main World War II battle on the island of Biak, part of the New Guinea complex.  The initial plan was to resample the area after 5 years to see if there were long term changes.

In 2006, ORNHIC began a two-year study to resample Biak, to develop the information necessary for OMD to address returning fire to the site and to develop a fire management plan.  Half of the original area had been lost for training, due to development of a golf course resort, and new training lands about 20 miles east, closer to Prineville, were added to the center.  The new study established long-term vegetation monitoring plots in the new area and a fire history study of the old-growth western juniper savanna found at the site.  David Schuhwerk, a foreign exchange intern from Germany and Charles Carter, a retired Geology professor from the University of Akron and a Heritage volunteer, helped heritage program ecologist Arne Buechling and spent hours coring hundreds of junipers, sanding the cores and counting the tiny rings.

The data will be analyzed over the winter, and a final report on both vegetation changes, wildlife use and fire history will be completed.  Initial results indicate that the juniper trees are much older than thought, and the historic fire return interval is fairly long in these open, sandy soiled juniper savannas.  The vegetation sampling shows significant declines in native bunchgrasses over the eight-year study, and increases in introduced annual grasses – although these changes are not occurring as a result of training activities. 

For more information, contact Jimmy.Kagan@oregonstate.edu.

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Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center coordinates interagency snowy plover monitoring effort

The Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center, in cooperation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is gearing up to coordinate snowy plover monitoring along Oregon’s central and south coast for the 18th year. The 2007 monitoring field season report is now available online. The western snowy plover is a state and federally threatened shorebird that has suffered declines in recent years due to habitat loss, human disturbance, and increased predation. The goal of this work is to move the population towards recovery so it can be removed from the list of threatened species while gathering information to scientifically support management decisions. ORNHIC’s monitoring efforts have focused improving nest and fledging success through management of habitat, predators, and human traffic; banding and monitoring broods to determine movements and fledging success; and providing information to cooperators and the public during the field season. The Oregon coastal population is unique in that it is almost entirely banded, allowing a total count. Accurate population monitoring is a key requirement for this species to reach its recovery goals. In the coming year we plan to compare our total population counts with methods used by neighboring states to estimate population, in an effort to identify the most effective population monitoring methods.

For more information, contact Eleanor.Gaines@oregonstate.edu.

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Oregon Wildlife Explorer makes wildlife data available

In January, INR, Oregon State University Libraries and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife launched the Oregon Wildlife Explorer. The Web portal allows users to find out about the Oregon Conservation Strategy and access current and historic wildlife distribution maps, wildlife photos, local wildlife plans and other information. And like the rest of Oregon Explorer Natural Resource Digital Library series, it does so in an interactive and visual way that brings those elements to life.

The portal includes a “Wildlife Viewer” that allows users to both create species lists for different places in Oregon and learn about individual species. INR’s Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center developed the wildlife data which currently includes information for more than 400 birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians in Oregon. The ODFW’s State Wildlife Grants program funded the project. The grant funds are provided to states by Congress through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

For more information, contact Jimmy.Kagan@oregonstate.edu.

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INR Staff Notes:

Renee Davis-Born begins a job rotation focused on information management

Renee Davis-Born, a policy analyst and project manager for INR, began a job rotation with the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) in September 2007.  Working in the Monitoring and Reporting Program, she is responsible for assembling, maintaining, and distributing information that supports implementation of the Oregon Plan for Salmon and Watersheds

Before starting the job rotation, Renee served as project manager for the Oregon Explorer program.  In this capacity, she coordinated work by the Explorer team to build several Web sites, ranging from the Umpqua Basin Explorer to the Oregon Imagery Explorer.  In 2006, the Explorer program initiated a collaborative project with OWEB on Phase 1 of the Oregon Explorer, which Renee managed.  This partnership highlighted the shared priorities of OWEB and INR to improve information management and to make natural resources data more readily available and accessible to decision-makers.

In her new capacity at OWEB, Renee gathers, analyzes, and synthesizes data, particularly focusing on distributing data currently unavailable at both the local and statewide levels.  During her three-month tenure, Renee already has worked on a variety of projects to facilitate data analysis and integration including an online submission form for the Oregon Watershed Restoration Inventory, a Web based data submission tool for water-quality data with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and OWEB’s annual progress report on Key Performance Measures.  She also is responsible for facilitating the Data and Information Subcommittee of the Oregon Plan Monitoring Team.  Renee looks forward to the remaining 18 months of the job rotation, which will continue to provide professional development opportunities and allow her to work with OWEB staff, watershed councils and Soil and Water Conservation Districts, and Oregon Plan partner agencies to identify and address needs for better information management.

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Hello from the INR “Bandon Field Station”

Well, that’s what we like to call it!  What is “The Bandon Field Station” and why have you never heard of it?  We are writing to introduce ourselves and the “field station”, and hopefully bring you up to speed on a somewhat little known INR project that has actually been functioning for 18 years now.  My name is David Lauten, and together with my long time partner Kathleen Castelein, we make up the staff at the “field station”.  The “field station” is actually our house, which is about five miles north of Bandon on Seven Devils Road, just down the road from the now famous Bandon Dunes Golf Resort.  We have one major project that we conduct from the “field station”:  monitoring the western snowy plover on the Oregon coast. 

The western snowy plover is a small shorebird that lives and breeds on the west coast of the U.S. from Washington to Baja California, and also breeds at inland locations in the Great Basin.  The coastal population of snowy plovers is listed as Threatened under the Federal Endangered Species Act, and is also protected under the Oregon State Endangered Species Act.  In 1990, Mark Stern of The Nature Conservancy, where the natural heritage program was at the time, began a long term monitoring program for the snowy plovers breeding on the Oregon coast.  When Mark started surveying, he found that only 30-50 plovers were left on the coast of Oregon, and that they were having very poor breeding success.  Mark, in cooperation with a number of state and federal agencies, began to protect the nesting plovers by using nest exclosures to increase nest success.  The project quickly grew, and in 1993 the plovers were listed as threatened, which further improved protection of the plovers.  Due to the improved nest success because of exclosure use, the plover population reached about 100 plovers by 1995. 

In 1997, Mark hired Kathy and me as field monitors.  Kathy and I had been living in the Seattle area after I finished my Master’s Degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Kathy and I grew up in New Jersey, not far from New York City.  We both majored in Biology at Rutgers University, where we met when we were freshmen (and women!).  After undergraduate studies we lived and worked in Wisconsin before moving west. 

In 1997 we were excited to move to the Coos Bay area and begin work with the heritage program and plovers.  We both have a love of birds, and shorebirds have always been something special to us.  After our first season we continued to work with Mark, managing and editing the large dataset that Mark began in 1990.  We came back in 1998 because we loved the area, the project, and the plovers.  After two field seasons, we became even more attached to the program, and to the south coast, and now, 11 years later, we still find ourselves loving the plovers and the south coast. 

In 1998 we moved to the Bandon area partly due to the relative easier access to the nesting areas, and partly because we love small towns and Bandon was just right for us.  After working with the plovers for a couple of years and editing and analyzing data, we began to understand better the problems that the plovers were facing.  We began to make better recommendations, but as with many projects, both funding and certain law required processes slowed some of the implementation of the recommendations.  We persisted and stayed focused on our job, which was to give the best biological data and opinions that would help the plover population move towards recovery goals.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service wrote a recovery plan for the plovers, which set goals of 200 breeding plovers in Oregon.  The plover population had stalled at about 100 plovers.  By 2001, one of our main recommendations, to begin a predator management program, was implemented.  By 2004 all plover nesting areas had predator management programs.

The data indicated that the predator management program was having a positive effect.  By 2004 the plover population had begun to increase again, and the reproductive parameters have improved greatly.  In 2007, we reached a population estimate of 162 breeding plovers and plovers produced a record number of fledglings – 123.  Prior to predator management, the best years for fledgling numbers were about 50, but often only in the 30 range.  Since 2003, fledgling numbers have not been lower than 60, and three of the past four years over 100 fledglings have been produced. 

After 11 years of work, we now find ourselves as busy as ever, but still at times struggling for funding, especially in the winter months.  We have a huge dataset to manage and edit each year, and the data is in need of continual analysis.  We write annual reports and we have several other documents we are working on including several that will hopefully be published in the near future.  We have become an important part of the Western Snowy Plover Working Team, and the Oregon project has become a model for many other areas to look to for advice.  We are involved in several other projects that have impacts on plovers including the New Carissa removal project, the proposed Liquefied Natural Gas plant in Coos Bay, the proposed container facility in Coos Bay, and the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department’s Habitat Conservation Plan for the Snowy Plover.

We look forward to the 2008 nesting and hope that the plovers had good overwinter survival.  We are looking forward to the day that plovers reach recovery goals, and we are very proud that the Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center played a significant role in improving the plovers chances for survival. 

Cheers,
David Lauten and Kathleen Castelein

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© 2008 Institute for Natural Resources
(541) 737-9918, inr@oregonstate.edu