Restoring The West Conference 2014


    westconference 2014


    Click HERE for the conference program booklet. 

    Click HERE to be redirected to the Restoring the West website. 


    dmerritt

    The Colorado River: Supply and Demand, David Merritt, Riparian Plant Ecologist, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Fort Collins, Colorado

    The Colorado River, the master drainage of the arid west, provides water to 40 million people and its waters are used to irrigate nearly six million acres of land. The changes to the Colorado River since the European missionaries, trappers and settlers first arrived, include some of the earliest transbasin diversions in the West, storage capacity that surpasses average annual flow in the basin, mainstem dams that are some of the most massive human made structures on Earth, and intensified conflict between ecological processes and growing demand for fresh water for growing southwestern cites.

    Over the past decades, recognition of the ecological costs of human water development have led to major efforts to restore sites and segments within the basin. I will summarize a few of these efforts from the headawaters of the Colorado to the delta in Mexico, sharing common themes and challenges. I will also present a framework for using information from sites across the basin to inform and monitor restoration work and to forecast outcomes of alternative flow management scenarios and riparian response to projected climate change scenarios.

    David Merritt, Riparian Plant Ecologist, Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Fort Collins, Colorado; dmmerritt@fs.fed.us


    Lindsay Reynolds

    Climate Change and Riparian Forest Communities: Implications for Small Streams in the Upper Colorado River Basin, Lindsay Reynolds, Research Scientist, Colorado State University and the US Geological Survey, Fort Collins, Colorado

    Climate change is projected to have an enormous effect on water resources in the western US, with cascading effects on river-dependent organisms. Recent studies show that increasing drought will lead to reduced water in many rivers in the southwestern US. For example, streamflow in the warm season has declined over the last century in the western US and is projected to continue decreasing over the next 100 years. In arid and semi-arid regions of the western US, it is likely that some perennial streams will shift to intermittent flow in response to climate-driven changes in runoff and evapotranspiration. We addressed the following two questions: (1) how will small stream low flows be affected by warmer conditions in the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) and (2) how will riparian vegetation respond? To address these questions we (1) modeled stream low flow metrics on ungaged streams in the UCRB and (2) sampled riparian vegetation along a hydrologic gradient (perennial to intermittent) to develop statistical relationships between flow parameters and biotic responses. We found the majority of perennial and weakly intermittent streams that are threatened under warmer conditions to be small, high elevation streams. Further, with our field vegetation data we are able to suggest how riparian plant communities will shift in the future and how managers can draw from these results for restoration planning in the context of climate change.

    Lindsay Reynolds, Department of Biology, Colorado State University and U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Ave., Bldg C, Fort Collins, CO, 80526, reynoldsl@usgs.gov


    Carol Evans

    Managing Livestock Grazing for Riparian Recovery in Northeastern Nevada, Carol Evans, Fishery Biologist, Elko District Office, Bureau of Land Management, Elko, Nevada

    The Elko District Bureau of Land Management (BLM), located in Northeastern Nevada, has a long and well documented history of managing livestock grazing for recovery of stream and riparian habitats.  Field surveys which include permanent photo and data collection stations were established on more than 1,000 miles of perennial streams beginning in 1977.  Virtually all of these waterways have been re-surveyed at least four or five times at intervals of three to ten years between the late 1970’s and today. Over the course of last 30 plus years, BLM personal have been working with livestock permittees and other partners to develop and apply prescriptive livestock grazing protocols for improvement of stream and riparian habitat conditions for native fish and other species of wildlife. Like many agencies and offices all over the west, we started managing riparian areas by constructing small exclosures in the 1980’s and excluding all livestock. By the 1990’s, we were learning how to apply principles of managing time and timing of grazing over a larger area. In more recent years, we have come to understand the importance of managing both uplands and riparian areas at a watershed scale and of incorporating principles of adaptive management into grazing plans. Our long-term database, combined with use of remote sensing techniques for monitoring, has allowed us to tell a compelling story of how riparian systems have changed over time in response to livestock grazing practices and to changes in the environment.  Although this is still a story in progress, grazing practices which promote functionality at a watershed scale are yielding impressive results in terms of water quality, water retention and storage, habitat for wildlife and even sustainability for livestock operations during periods of drought.  Such an approach seems critical in the context of rapid social, environmental and political change.

    Carol Evans, Tuscarora Field Office, Elko District, Bureau of Land Management, 3900 E. Idaho St., Elko, NV, 89801, cevans@blm.gov


    Grazing to Promote Riparian Health on a Private Ranch in Nevada, Agee Smith, Co-Owner, Cottonwood Ranch, Wells, Nevada

    In 1995 Cottonwood Ranch changed its management and grazing program.  It started using Holistic Resource Management as a way of thinking and managing that take a more holistic approach.  It takes into consideration and works with the people, land, animals and plants (above and below ground).

    It has been an 18-year learning journey that continues to evolve.  Agee will show before and after slides, especially of their riparian success, and discuss the journey that they have been on.

    Agee Smith, HC 62 Box 1300, Wells, NV 89835; ageesmith51@gmail.com


    Mary O'Brien

    Building Riparian Resilience through Collaboration, Mary O'Brien, Utah Forests Program Director, Grand Canyon Trust, Moab, Utah

    At the 2013 Restoring the West conference, Jerry Franklin spoke about restoring frequent-fire forests, and noted, “Collaborative groups may represent the most important interface between the American public and federal land management agencies.” The same holds true of collaborative groups focused on building riparian resilience. Five significant collaborations have been undertaken in Utah in recent years, focused primarily on the contentious issues of livestock and wild ungulate grazing, and/or aspen restoration. In four, consensus has been reached despite initial differences. The fifth consensus collaboration is newly-formed. Commonalities contributing to the success of these five collaborations will be examined in this presentation, as well as particular challenges. The Utah Forests Restoration Working Group, which developed recommendations for restoring aspen on national forests in Utah in 2012, is now beginning development of guidelines for restoration of woody riparian vegetation. The 2014 Restoring the West conference is timely for this collaborative group.

    Mary O’Brien, Botanist; Grand Canyon Trust; HC 64 Box 2604, Castle Valley, Utah, maryobrien10@gmail.com


    Mark Peterson

    Assessment and Monitoring Tools for Riparian Areas, Mark Petersen, Director of Water Quality Programs, Utah Farm Bureau, Salt Lake City, Utah

    In 1996, the Bureau of Land Management and US Forest Service, in partnership with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, created a national riparian strategy called “Accelerating Cooperative Riparian Restoration and Management.” An interagency, interdisciplinary team, the National Riparian Service Team (RNST), based in Prineville, Oregon, was established to implement the Strategy. To assist with implementation of the Strategy, a Riparian Coordination Network (RCN) has been established with Riparian Service Teams in each of the western states, Canada, and Mexico. The RNST  and RCN has adopted as foundational tools, the Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) riparian assessment protocol, a methodology for assessing the functionality and health of riparian areas, and the Multiple Indicator Monitoring (MIM) protocol, a methodology for monitoring use and management impacts on stream channels and riparian vegetation. The PFC methodology provides a consistent approach for assessing the physical functioning of riparian areas through consideration of hydrology, vegetation, soil and landform attributes. MIM is a monitoring methodology that allows for statistical analysis of a comprehensive group of interrelated indicators, including three short-term and seven long-term indicators. This presentation gives a brief introduction to these two useful tools for assessing and monitoring riparian areas. Training opportunities provided by national and state Riparian Service Teams to help practitioners become proficient in the proper use of these tools are also mentioned.

    Mark M. Petersen, Owner and Senior Scientist, Petersen Environmental Consulting, 1963 W 1915 S, Syracuse, Utah; petersenmm@comcast.net


    John Stella

    Riparian Forest Dynamics and Management Challenges on Mediterranean-Climate Rivers, John Stella, Associate Professor, College of Environmental Sciences and Forestry, State University of New York, Syracuse, New York

    In populous, water-limited regions, humans have profoundly altered the river and floodplain environment to satisfy society’s demands for water, power, navigation and safety. River management also profoundly alters riparian forests, which respond to changes in disturbance regimes and sediment dynamics. In parallel studies, we compare forest and floodplain development along two of the most heavily modified rivers in mediterranean-climate regions, the middle Sacramento (California, USA) and the lower Rhône (SE France). The Sacramento was dammed in 1942 and is now managed for irrigation, hydropower and flood control. The Rhône channel was channelized for navigation prior to 1900, and since then has been dammed and diverted at 18 sites for hydropower and irrigation. We conducted extensive riparian forest inventories and sampled fine sediment depth in regulated reaches within both systems, and compared pre- versus post-dam patterns of deposition and linked forest development.  We sampled 441 plots (500 m2 each) along 160 km of the Sacramento, and 88 plots (1256 m2) stratified by management epoch (pre-channelization, pre-dam, post-dam) along 160 km of the Rhône.

    On the Sacramento, forest composition showed shifting tree species dominance across a chronosequence of aerial photo dates over 110 years. The transition from willow to cottonwood (Populus) occurred within 20 years, and the transition to mixed forest started after 50-60 years. On the lower Rhône, 15% of the current riparian forest occupies old floodplain land pre-dating the 19th century riverbank engineering projects, 38% occupies post-channelization and pre-dam surfaces, and 47% colonized land that emerged after dam construction and reduction in river base flows between the 1950s and 1980s. Compared to younger, post-dam forests, the pre-dam stands occupy higher geomorphic surfaces, are more species rich, and have a much more extensive shrub and vine stratum (20-50% cover overall). The shift from Populus dominance to other species began approximately a decade earlier on the Rhône compared to the Sacramento. Both rivers showed a strong understory presence on young floodplains by Acer negundo (box elder), which is non-native and invasive in Europe, suggesting similar processes of colonization and propagation in both systems. Overall, the Sacramento can serve as a predictive reference system for the Rhône, where significant restoration efforts are underway to improve riparian structure and function in diverted river reaches.

    John Stella, Associate Professor, Forest and Natural Resources Management; State University of New York, Syracuse (USA); stella@esf.edu


    Pam Harrington

    Identifying, Restoring and Protecting Critical Coldwater Refugia in the high desert Owyhee Subbasin in southwestern Idaho, Pam Harrington, Restoration Coordinator, Trout Unlimited, Boise, Idaho

    Trout Unlimited (TU) has developed a new Home Waters project to improve redband habitat in the Owyhee Watershed of Nevada, Idaho, and Oregon.  In this high desert landscape, identifying coldwater refugia areas and protecting them is critical to improving the habitat for redband trout.

    TU uses landscape-scale thermography and climate change modeling data to locate and prioritize cold water refugia and guide on-the-ground restoration actions.   
    • Review key linkages b/w redband populations and riparian habitat conditions

    • Develop stream temperature and riparian vegetation measures of redband trout habitat that can be used for broad-scale assessment and monitoring

    • Develop linkages between landscape-scale measures of stream temperature and riparian vegetation and redband trout distribution and abundance

    • Integrate landscape-scale measures of stream temperature and riparian vegetation into TU’s Conservation Success Index as a tool that can help inform strategic redband trout conservation 

    The modeling tools target where landowner knowledge is sought and working together we improve water availability for redband trout as well as cattle operations.

    Pam Harrington, Restoration Coordinator, Trout Unlimited, Boise, Idaho, pharrington@tu.org


    Alexander Fremier

    A Riparian Conservation Network to Develop Ecological Resilience, Alexander Fremier, Assistant Professor, School of the Environment, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington

    One of the most significant challenges to species conservation in the 21st century is how to foster species long-term survival in increasingly fragmented and dynamic environments of the Anthropocene. Going forward, land management actions must consider resilience – the ability of species survive through peak climatic-related events, habitat fragmentation and/or habitat loss. Habitat connectivity is a key attribute of resilience; yet, re-building connectivity has proven a difficult restoration task. Here, we propose building habitat connectivity through further coordinated efforts to protect and restore riparian ecosystems. Increased efforts to protect streamside areas further society’s acknowledgement that these lands provide key ecosystem services and can help further connect current protected areas to promote survival. We provide evidence that a riparian area network has the potential to connect existing protected areas, that significant riparian area conservation is already occurring and needs to be further coordinated, and that this solution is scalable through policy and administrative coordination rather than the initiation of new legislation. 

    Alexander K. Fremier, Assistant Professor, School of the Environment, Washington State University, Pullman, WA; Michael Kiparsky, Associate Director, Wheeler Institute for Water Law & Policy, University of California, Berkeley, California; alex.fremier@wsu.edu


    Nick Bouwes

    Partnering with Beaver to Improve Fish Habitat: An Example of Cheap and Cheerful Restoration to Provide a Population Benefit to an Endangered Species, Nick Bouwes, Ecologist/Owner, Eco Logical Research, Inc., Providence, Utah

    Anthropogenic activities such as timber harvest, agriculture, and grazing have greatly altered the habitat of salmon and steelhead in streams of western North America.  Perhaps equally as important but rarely mentioned as a major impact to fish habitat is the great reduction of beaver.  Beaver were distributed in high densities across much of North America prior to European settlement, however intense trapping more than century ago nearly exterminated beaver in several regions.  Although salmonids have coexisted with beaver for millions of years, skepticism exists about the benefits dam building activities play.  In fact, removal of beaver dams from streams is still a management activity employed in some states to try to improve salmonid fisheries. Thus, it is not surprising that using dam building beavers as a means of restoring streams is uncommon. Channel incision is a degraded state of fish habitat that is found ubiquitously throughout the world. We have suggested that beaver dams and beaver dam analogs can greatly accelerate the recovery of incised channels.  We conducted a watershed scale experiment where we built beaver dam analogs to encouraged beavers to build dams to improve fish habitat in an incised stream. We observed several rapid changes to the stream environment following restoration.  We also found survival, abundance, and production of juvenile steelhead increased following these changes. We believe management of streams that include beaver as part of the environment will benefit salmonid populations.

    Nick Bouwes, Ecologist/Owner, Eco Logical Research, Inc., Providence, Utah; nbouwes@gmail.com


    Robert Beschta

    Restoring Riparian Ecosystems with Large Predators: the Yellowstone Experience, Robert Beschta, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon

    Large predators can help shape the structure and functioning of terrestrial ecosystems.  While various studies in national parks scattered across the western United States and Canada have shown the loss of large predators (e.g., wolves, cougar) allowed native ungulates (e.g., elk, mule deer) to greatly alter the structure and functioning of ecosystems via increased herbivory, studies of trophic effects of reintroduced/recolonized large predators have been relatively rare, with Yellowstone National Park being a major exception.  The reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park in 1995-97, after a 70 year absence, allowed for studies of trophic cascades of a restored large predator guild upon elk and woody species such as aspen, cottonwoods, willows, and berry-producing shrubs. Overall, these studies indicate that the reintroduction of wolves triggered a trophic cascade, in conjunction with bottom-up forces, with increasing recruitment (i.e., growth of woody plants into tall shrubs or trees) of browse species in riparian areas.  This situation represent a fundamental change in plant community dynamics in comparison to previous decades of browsing suppression--when wolves were absent. Although wolf reintroduction has resulted in substantial initial effects to both plants and animals, the Yellowstone ecosystem still appears to be in the early stages of ecosystem recovery. In other areas of western North America where large carnivores have been previously extirpated or displaced, their recovery may be necessary for assisting in the ecological restoration of large herbivore altered ecosystems.

    Robert Beschta, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Forest Ecosystems and Society, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon; robert.beschta@oregonstate.edu


    Daniel Sarr

    Riverscapes and Mindscapes: Using Inventory, Monitoring, and Biogeography to Explore Riparian Management Domains in the West, Daniel Sarr, Inventory and Monitoring Coordinator, Klamath Network, National Park Service, Ashland, Oregon

    The western United States is among the most geographically diverse regions in the world. This heterogeneous landscape has fascinated biogeographers and explorers for centuries, yet poses daunting challenges for environmental managers in search of generalizable frameworks for understanding riparian plant composition, diversity, and resilience. Numerous studies of the last two decades have demonstrated that riparian ecosystems are governed by a complex array of factors that can be viewed hierarchically from large scale biogeographic patterns through less coarse watershed-scale gradients to local scale drivers of hydrology, geomorphology, and biotic and abiotic disturbance. Increasingly, humans influence all levels of the hierarchy. Environmental managers often accumulate management paradigms from institutional knowledge and histories, on-the-job experience and other diverse sources. Consequently, “management domains” presently used in riparian ecosystems may be ad hoc accumulations of knowledge that align haphazardly with biogeographic or other environmental boundaries. Here we discuss the concept of riparian management domains to prompt discussion of how to better align ecological and management boundaries.  We will review recent research that compares within-site and among-site patterns in riparian biodiversity. Much of this research has helped to distinguish which elements of riparian ecosystems show a strong biogeographic structure from those that tend to be governed primarily by local environmental and biotic effects. We will also review first principles of riparian biogeography and highlight the value of place-based inventory and monitoring to inform place-based riparian management and restoration and to advance human understanding of riparian ecosystems across the American West.

    Daniel A. Sarr, U.S. Geological Survey- Grand Canyon Monitoring and Research Center, 2255 N. Gemini, Flagstaff, AZ 86001; dsarr@usgs.gov


    Christy Meredith

    Understanding Challenges in Managing Riparian Systems at a Landscape Scale, Christy Meredith, PACFISH/INFISH Biological Opinion Effectiveness Monitoring Program (PIBO), USDA Forest Service, Logan, Utah

    As societies increasingly use more water and other natural resources, the ability of managers to conserve aquatic biota will depend on whether habitat can be maintained or restored.  However, managers must be able to track the status and trend of these aquatic systems if they are to be accountable to the goal of maintaining habitat conditions.  This can be particularly challenging given that natural landscape and geomorphic characteristics can also have a strongly influence on expected stream conditions.  Within the Interior Columbia River Basin and over the last decade, the PACFISH INFISH Biological Opinion Effectiveness Monitoring Program (PIBO EMP) is trying to answer the question; “Are key biological and physical components of aquatic and riparian communities being improved, degraded, or restored within the range of anadromous salmonids (Oncorhynchus sp.) and bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus)?”  This program has sampled over 1300 stream reaches spatially distributed within the Basin.  We assess status and trend by incorporating techniques that account for variation due to natural landscape and geomorphic characters.  We have found that stream habitat conditions have been improving over the last 15 years but that the status of stream conditions vary greatly across the study area.  Low-transport stream reaches in dry climates and stream reaches close to roads have been among the slowest to respond to management.  Results indicate that long-term data sets, exceeding the duration of many sampling programs, are needed to detect trends in most aspects of habitat condition.  

    Christy Meredith; PIBO EMP, USDA Forest Service, 860 North 1200 East, Logan UT; christymeredith@yahoo.com


    Mark Dixon

    Effects of the 2011 Flood on Missouri River Cottonwood Forests: Implications for Restoration, Mark Dixon, Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota

    Flow regulation has significantly altered hydrological, geomorphic, and ecological processes on the Missouri River. Cumulative effects are evident in reductions in plains cottonwood (Populus deltoides) recruitment, altered forest age structure and species composition, losses of sandbar and shallow water habitat, and declines in sandbar-nesting birds and large river fishes. Although a national scientific panel recommended restoration of fluvial geomorphic processes to address these problems, management constraints have limited process-based restoration.  Record runoff in 2011 exceeded reservoir capacity on the upper Missouri, leading to the highest flows in 59 years and exceptionally long flood durations (up to 3 months). We assessed the effects of this "large infrequent disturbance" by comparing pre- (2006-2009) to post-flood (2012) changes in riparian forests along six segments of the Missouri River. Live shrub and tree density declined sharply within young forest stands (<30 years). Higher proportions of non-native (Elaeagnus angustifolia) and upland (Juniperus virginiana) trees showed evidence of recent mortality than did the native cottonwood. Sandbar area increased sharply from 2006-2012 and area of young forests declined, with particularly strong declines in sapling stands that had established following the previous post-dam record flow releases in 1997. Cottonwood recruitment was widespread in 2012, but most seedling patches were on sandbars in the active channel, rather than on overbank sites. Physical and operational constraints within the regulated Missouri River limited the restorative effects of the 2011 flood and are likely to limit future forest recovery. Process-based restoration of ecosystem structure and function would require restoration of flow and sediment regimes that more closely mimic historical conditions, as well as overcoming the physical legacies of decades of flow regulation.

    Mark Dixon, Associate Professor, Dept. of Biology, University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota; mark.dixon@usd.edu


    Nate Hough-Snee

    Riparian vegetation guilds: applications to small streams of the interior Pacific Northwest, Nate Hough-Snee, PhD Student, Dept. of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University

    Riparian flow guilds have been proposed as a method of measuring riparian ecosystem integrity in large alluvial rivers, especially rivers with regulated or overallocated instream flows, or strong potential for flows to be reduced by climate change. The riparian flow guild concept identifies groups of species with similar life-history strategies that result from similar physiological requirements and morphological attributes. These trait-based riparian guilds respond to common environmental stressors within the riparian environment such as flooding, drying, and soil moisture availability. In smaller streams however, where hillslopes often directly connect to stream corridors, fluvial and hydrologic processes may work in tandem with riparian and watershed management to influence guild abundance. Here, we build on the concept of riparian flow guilds by identifying riparian disturbance guilds- riparian guilds whose functional and morphological attributes correspond to multiple disturbance or resource axes. We used 26 environmental tolerance and morphological attributes in 30 species to identify five riparian disturbance guilds: a tall, deeply-rooted coniferous tree guild, a rapidly-growing, drought-plastic shrub guild, a low-stature hydrophytic shrub guild, vegetative reproduction guild, and a short-statured, shade-tolerant, understory shrub guild. We modeled these guilds’ presence and abundance, finding that each guild responded to a variety of climatic, disturbance, and watershed management attributes. Each guild corresponded to climatic and watershed disturbance attributes that were related to the traits most characteristic of that guild. Most notably, we found that complimentary coexisting guilds or mutually exclusive guilds were strong predictors of guild presence and abundance. From these observations, we conclude that riparian disturbance guilds respond not only to environmental variability tied to each guilds attributes, but also niche partitioning in which different life history strategies can coexist under comparable disturbance regimes.

    Nate Hough-Snee, PhD Student, Dept. of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University; 5210 Old Main Hill Logan, Utah 84322-5210; nate@natehough-snee.org


    Malia Volke

    The Emergence of Reservoir Deltas in the Regulated Missouri River: Opportunities for Cottonwood Forest Restoration, Malia Volke, PhD Candidate, Dept. of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University

    Most of the world’s large river flows are regulated by dams, altering the processes that sustain riparian ecosystem biodiversity and function. Numerous studies have documented declines in riparian vegetation extent and diversity along regulated rivers. Many reservoirs in large river systems, now decades old, are beginning to show their ages by the appearance of expanding delta formations at river/reservoir and tributary/reservoir junctions. These deltas are novel habitats that were not present in the former river system, and are governed by both river flow and sediment regimes and managed reservoir level fluctuations. Although largely unstudied, available evidence suggests that these delta habitats may support native riparian vegetation that is in decline elsewhere along regulated rivers. The delta formed at the confluence of the White River and Fort Randall Reservoir on the Missouri River in South Dakota represents a novel habitat where riparian forest has expanded during the post-dam era; however, expansion may be curtailed at times by high stages of Fort Randall Reservoir that cause forest mortality. Time-series analysis of riverine cross-sections indicated that there has been a trend of channel and floodplain aggradation within the post-dam delta, facilitating expansion of delta surfaces into and above the reservoir pool. Likewise, GIS analysis of historic aerial photography showed that forest area on the delta increased by about 50 percent during the post-dam era. Field inventories determined that a heterogeneous mixture of riparian forest exists within the White River delta, and that these forests are similar in structure and composition to those along natural river reaches. Current research will improve understanding of: (1) the contribution of novel deltas to biodiversity along regulated rivers and (2) how reservoir management and restoration efforts could improve rates of native riparian vegetation expansion and survival in novel delta habitats along regulated rivers.

    Malia Volke, Graduate Research Assistant and Ph.D Candidate: Department of Natural Resource Management, South Dakota State University; malia.volke@sdstate.edu


    Gregory S. Bevenger

    A Prioritized Procedure for Determining Stream and Riparian Area Existing and Desired Conditions on Public and Private Lands Subject to Ungulate Use, Gregory S. Bevenger, Hydrologist, WyoHydro Professional Hydrology Services, Meeteetse, Wyoming

    There are 30,000 miles of streams and rivers in Utah. There are concerns with sediment, hydrologic function, riparian cover, and in-stream habitat on many of these. Some of these concerns are due to grazing by domestic and wild ungulates. Administering ungulate grazing to ensure overall desired stream and riparian area conditions are being achieved is problematic without first having good data on existing physical condition. Only after current and necessary physical condition are known and determined can interdisciplinary identification of overall desired condition, and the departure between existing and overall desired condition, be determined. Acquisition of existing physical condition information and subsequent determination of overall desired condition is not a simple proposition, nor is collection and determination immediate. This is in part due to the vastness of lands available to ungulate grazing and the linear extent of streams and rivers across them. This presentation proposes a procedure for prioritizing and determining physical stream and riparian area existing and necessary condition, and subsequent overall desired condition. The proposal contains a monitoring strategy for assessing whether necessary physical condition, a pre-requisite to achieving overall desired condition, is being achieved.

    The procedure prioritizes assessment and monitoring by focusing only on stream and valley types most susceptible to ungulate grazing. Step 1 is the determination of current stream and riparian successional state and functioning condition. Step 2 is the identification of necessary stream and riparian area successional state and functioning condition, and adjustment of current management if necessary. Step 3 involves monitoring to determine if necessary stream and riparian area successional state and functioning condition are being maintained or achieved. Step 4 is the determination, once necessary successional state and functioning condition are being maintained or achieved, of overall desired condition and, if necessary, adjustment of management accordingly.

    Gregory S. Bevenger, WyoHydro Professional Hydrology Services, PO Box 516, Meeteetse, WY 82433, wyohydro@live.com


    Sarah Null

    Regulated Rivers: Hydropower Relicensing, Climate Change, and Stream Habitats in the American West, Sarah Null, Assistant Professor, Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, Utah

    Hydropower relicensing provides an opportunity to evaluate tradeoffs between water (and water quality) for the environment and water for hydropower in regulated rivers.  Climate change is currently not considered with hydropower relicensing, although it is anticipated to change hydropower generation, instream water quantity, and water quality.  Coupled hydroclimate modeling was used to evaluate changes in hydropower generation, instream flows, stream temperatures, and riparian systems in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains with projected hydropower operations and climate warming.  Modeling suggests that climate warming will reduce hydropower generation, and competition for water for hydropower, environmental flows, and other competing water uses will likely increase. Stream temperatures are anticipated to rise, although managing the hypolimnion (cold water pool) of large reservoirs for downstream temperature management shows promise for maintaining cold water habitats throughout this century.  The spring snowmelt recession is fundamental for maintaining both stream channel shape and riparian ecosystems, although both hydropower generation and climate warming (snowfall shifting to rainfall) change the timing, magnitude, and rate of change of the snowmelt recession.  This research shows that considering climate change for the 30-50 year duration of hydropower licenses would establish more robust hydropower generation operation conditions, in turn improving mechanisms to maintain instream and riparian systems in regulated rivers.

    Sarah Null, Assistant Professor, Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, Utah; sarah.null@usu.edu


    William Wallace

    Modeling the Capacity of Riverscapes to Support Dam-Building Beaver: Utah Statewide Implementation, William Wallace (Wally) McFarlane, Research Associate, Dept. of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University

    Beaver dam-building activities lead to a cascade of hydrologic, geomorphic, and ecologic feedbacks that increase stream and riparian complexity and benefit aquatic and terrestrial biota. As a result, beaver are increasingly being used as a key component of stream and riparian restoration strategies. However, predictive spatial models resolving where within a drainage network beaver dams can be built and sustained are lacking. Moreover, a capacity model approach alone is not enough because many places that beaver might build a dam are in direct conflict with humans (e.g., damming of culverts or irrigation canals and flooding of roads). The Beaver Restoration Tool (BRAT) was developed to fill this void and serves as a decision support and planning tool intended to help resource managers, restoration practitioners, wildlife biologists and researchers assess the potential for beaver as a stream conservation and restoration agent over large regions. In 2012-2013 we developed the beaver dam building capacity model portion of the tool and tested it in a pilot project in the Escalante and Logan watersheds. Results from the pilot study indicated that the model was effective at predicting beaver dam capacity across diverse physiographic settings. The project described herein improves upon and extends the pilot project to include Utah statewide coverage. The current project also develops and tests the decision support and planning components of the tool thus accounting for where beaver may pose potential nuisance problems, where ‘Living with Beaver’ may be needed, where re-colonization and/or reintroduction is most appropriate and identifies potential conservation and restoration areas for beaver. By combining the capacity and decision support approaches, resource managers have the necessary planning information to estimate where and at what level re-introduction of beaver and/or conservation is appropriate. 

    William W. Macfarlane, Research Associate, Department of Watershed Sciences, Utah State University, Logan, Utah; wally.macfarlane@gmail.com


    Casey Burns

    Impacts of Riparian Invasive Plant Species to Native Fauna, Casey Burns, State Biologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Salt Lake City, Utah

    Native wildlife coevolved with native plants for millennia.  Non-native plants may be present in a greater distribution than ever before and may be disrupting the natural dynamics of ecosystems more than ever.  Forty two percent of threatened and endangered (T&E) wildlife species and 68% of T&E plants are harmed by non-native plant competition and indirect habitat effects.  The impacts to wildlife from non-native plants are often assumed to be negative, but the ecological mechanisms are difficult to study.  This presentation will provide a synthesis of the facts, explore the rumors, and try to set the record straight.  Evidence of herbivory on and invertebrate use of native versus non-native plants generally shows greater use and wildlife diversity on native plants.  The impacts to ecosystem processes such as, stream dynamics and the hydrologic cycle, are more complex and difficult to determine, but evidence does show some negative effects.  Instances where non-native plants are benign or beneficial to wildlife do exist and circumstances where non-native plant treatment is not practical are common.  Impacts to wildlife from tamarisk, Russian olive, phragmites, arundo, and other riparian and wetland invasive plants may be significant and will be detailed.  The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) is available for planning and funding assistance on non-native plant treatment and management. 

    Casey Burns, State Biologist, Natural Resources Conservation Service, Salt Lake City, Utah; casey.burns@ut.usda.gov


    Michael Scott

    Monitoring Channel and Vegetation along the Free-Flowing Yampa River, Michael Scott, Research Ecologist, Fort Collins Science Center, Fort Collins, Colorado

    Much of what we know about large river ecosystems comes from work on regulated rivers.The scarcity of quantitative information about pre-development conditions on these rivers restricts understanding of the full range of ecological responses to regulation and constrains predictions of future regulated-river behavior in the context of climate change, continued water development, management and restoration efforts. River regulation in the Colorado River basin has changed the magnitude and timing of water and sediment delivery to downstream reaches. Channel narrowing is a widely documented morphological adjustment of stream channels to natural or anthropogenic changes in stream flow and sediment flux, including establishment of vegetation on formerly active channel features. The Yampa River is perceived as one of the least regulated rivers in the Colorado River basin. We examine the degree to which the Yampa has been altered by water development. Further, we mapped geomorphic features and compared riparian vegetation across three distinct channel planforms. Of seven major Colorado River tributaries, the Yampa is the fifth largest in terms of virgin mean annual discharge. However, it is has the second smallest degree of flow regulation, expressed as the percent of virgin mean annual discharge capable of being stored, and retains a high degree of flow variability. Analyses indicate significant differences in plant species cover and composition among channel types (p=0.001). Significant differences in vegetation also were related at a finer scale to specific geomorphic surfaces (e.g., active channel, active floodplain), reflecting distinct geomorphic processes and physical environmental conditions. Finally, there were no significant changes in vegetation cover or frequency on specific active bar surfaces over four years implicating the importance of flow variability. This information provides a baseline for gauging future channel change and can be used to tailor change-detection monitoring to hypothesized geomorphic and vegetation changes in specific hydrogeomorphic settings.

    Michael Scott, Research Ecologist, Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Ave Bldg C Fort Collins, Colorado; scottm@usgs.gov


    Heida Diefenderfer

    Evidence-Based Evaluation of Hydrologic Reconnection of Floodplain Wetlands: Lower Columbia River and Estuary, Heida Diefenderfer, Senior Research Scientist, Marine Sciences Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sequim, Washington

    The Columbia Estuary Ecosystem Restoration Program on the 1468-km2river floodplain was developed over the past decade to provide habitat for threatened and endangered salmon of the Columbia Basin during migration to the Pacific Ocean.  Water levels and floodplain habitat availability in the Lower Columbia River and estuary (LCRE) are influenced by tides, river flow, hydropower operations, water withdrawals, dikes, culverts, tide gates, and coastal processes. The removal of barriers to fish passage and macrodetritus export by hydrological reconnection of floodplain habitats along 234 river kilometers is catalyzing changes in physical and biological indicators, which we have measured at >60 reference and >10 restoration sites in research begun in 2004.  Key elements of the restoration program are a conceptual model, prioritization, status-and-trends monitoring, database development, adaptive management, and critical uncertainties and effectiveness research.  We investigated and quantified ecosystem controlling factors on water surface elevation, channel morphology, microtopography, inundation, large woody debris, and the composition and distribution of tidal estuarine and freshwater plant communities. We used a sum exceedance value metric to describe the influence of spatially varying water level regimes onPopulus balsamifera riparian forests, Picea sitchensis swamps, Salix andCornus sericea wetlands, and brackish and freshwater marshes. Building on these analyses, we recently proposed a system zonation that is based on discrete transitions in the hydrologic regime. The Estuary is comprised of a lower reach with salinity intrusion, the energy minimum, and an upper reach without salinity intrusion. The Tidal River is also comprised of three reaches, in which water levels are increasingly dominated by river flow instead of tides. Our recently completed programmatic evidence-based evaluation of effectiveness used 11 causal criteria to evaluate 10 analyses synthesized under 7 lines of evidence.  The evaluation showed that large-scale wetland restoration benefits salmon through cumulative net ecosystem improvement.

    Heida Diefenderfer, Senior Research Scientist, Marine Sciences Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Sequim, Washington; heida.diefenderfer@pnnl.gov