Restoring The West Conference 2017
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Managing for Forest Resilience under Global Change: the Power of Fire Refugia. Dr. Crystal Kolden, Pyrogeographer, University of Idaho
Embracing Partnership and Realizing the Co-benefits of Collaboration, Spencer Plumb, Ph.D., National Forest Foundation
Public land management agencies face mounting challenges that include rapid ecological shifts, increases in the number and types of users, declining budgets, and demands for restoration to ensure the continued delivery of ecosystem services. The added management pressure faced by federal land agencies highlights the need for social and institutional changes. One positive institutional change driven by the need for increasing capacity has been the emergence of a variety of collaborative partnerships between federal agencies and national, state and local level organizations. In the case of the Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation is developing a variety of partnership models across the country that connect with businesses, municipalities, state agencies and other nonprofits. From running collaborative workshops to managing thinning contracts, this presentation will highlight examples of the different approaches and discuss the conditions that help make these working relationships successful. Sharing land management and stewardship responsibilities represents an opportunity to deepen the interdependent relationships between public land management agencies and the communities they operate in and serve.
Forest Restoration at the Landscape Scale across Land Ownerships: How to get there from here?, Susan Charnley, US Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station
Over the last decade, the “all hands, all lands” approach has gained prominence as a means for restoring forests and grasslands in the American West at the landscape scale. This approach means that land owners, managers, and stakeholders with management interests in a shared landscape jointly plan and/or implement forest management activities to achieve common goals. Ideally, best available science guides the strategic placement of restoration treatments in a manner that optimizes desired outcomes. Yet landscapes in the American West often consist of a mosaic of different land ownerships owing to the way in which property rights historically developed. Implementing an all lands approach is challenging because it requires land owners, managers, and stakeholders with diverse interests, management approaches, and capacities to act collectively. Science-based restoration treatments in multi-ownership landscapes will only be successful if they are socially feasible and the benefits outweigh the costs. This talk draws on research from Oregon and California to identify social factors that are important for successful all hands, all lands approaches to wildfire hazard reduction. These include supportive policy, funding for restoration on multiple land ownerships, strategic partnerships, common acknowledgment of existing wildfire hazard, intermediary organizations to increase capacity, strong outreach and communication, and local business capacity.
Forest Restoration from the District Ranger Chair. Elizabeth Davy, District Ranger, United States Forest Service, Island Park, ID.
I am a Ranger, but I am a forest ecologist as well. When I functioned as a specialist and spoke for the trees and their ecosystems, it seemed so simple. Act on the research, maintain HRV, keep your landscapes resilient to perturbation, and mimic Mother Nature. Now that I am a manager of all resources it becomes much more complicated or at least for me it does; balancing competing interests, goals and objectives from resource specialists and the public. I will highlight some of our successes and our challenges we face with restoration projects. Of course since I am a forester it will be all about trees and that landscape!
Restoring Pattern, Structure, and Function in Dry Forests: the ICO Approach, Derek J. Churchill, School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, University of Washington
Managers and stakeholders across the Interior West are increasingly focused on managing for the uneven-age, mosaic patterns of individual trees, tree clumps, and openings (ICO) associated with frequent fire forests. These stand level patterns influence key processes and functions such as fire behavior, drought resistance, snow retention, wildlife habitat, and stand development. Until recently, methods to incorporate targets for spatial pattern into treatments were not well developed. To inform such methods, we reconstructed and stemmaped 55 x 4ha historical reference sites from frequent fire forests across interior Washington and Oregon. Reference sites show a definable envelope of patterns that can serve as targets for treatments. We developed a silvicultural tool that incorporates spatial pattern targets from reference stands into prescriptions. Results from treatment implementation indicate that explicit targets for spatial variability, in the form of clumping and opening targets, can be achieved in a practical, operational-scale manner. We also developed field based and LiDAR monitoring tools to compare spatial pattern from any treatment to reference conditions. Results from monitoring of 38 treatments, including prescribed fire, show that strict basal area and spacing based treatments do not restore reference spatial patterns, while approaches with explicit pattern objectives generally do.
Accelerating Restoration - The Challenges and Successes of the Nation's Largest Collaborative Restoration Project, Dick Fleischman, Operations Coordinator, Four Forest Restoration Initiative, United States Forest Service
The 2.4 million acre Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) is the largest collaborative forest restoration project in the United States. The objective of 4FRI is to restore ecological resilience and function across 2.4 million acres of northern Arizona’s ponderosa pine forest and to attract appropriately sized industry to the region and to increase the pace and scale of our efforts to meet the objectives above.
Tackling this large of a project is challenging, as is defining and measuring what success is across the landscape. The talk will focus on various ways to define success (acres treated, meeting desired conditions, and outcomes) and where we are as a project to date with these various measures. Finally, the talk will look at challenges facing 4FRI including 110+ years of Forest Service tradition, how do we accelerate restoration with low value material and biomass, how do we accelerate the use fire across the landscape, how do we integrate monitoring into management and NEPA. For each of the topics, there will be a discussion of the each of these challenges, how are we getting to success with these challenges, and where there is more work to be done.
Beyond Collaborative Decision-Making: Practices for "Matching" Ecological and Social Systems in Forest Restoration, Jesse Abrams, University of Oregon
The forest decision-making paradigm in the West has shifted over time, with collaborative models having become institutionalized in the contemporary era. However, other elements beyond collaborative decision-making are needed for successful forest restoration. In this presentation, I will provide insights from restoration endeavors across the West to highlight the issues of local legitimacy and capacity that are often crucial to forest restoration success. Legitimacy is enhanced through the involvement of credible intermediaries, the incorporation of local knowledge, and the authority to adapt broad rules to the local context. Capacity includes not only the physical infrastructure to generate economic benefits from restoration but also the organizational infrastructure needed to navigate complex institutional settings and to fill critical gaps in the public, private, and civil society sectors. The development of these capacities and authorities may be an important strategy for “matching” ecological and social systems in western forests.
Forest Structure Outcomes After Mixed-Severity Wildfire: Do They Meet Restoration Goals?, Mike Battaglia, United States Forest Service
Over the past several decades, Western U.S. ponderosa pine forests have experienced a series of wildfires that have resulted in landscapes with burn mosaics ranging from low to high severity. Recent wildfires, while seemingly incompatible with management goals, may help advance them in some circumstances. Most focus their attention on the large high-severity portions of recent large fires, however, significant portions also burned with a finer, more heterogeneous mosaic of burn severities. In this research we examine the post-wildfire spatial and non-spatial patterns of residual forest and post-fire regeneration in low to moderate severity areas and compare it to historical reference conditions. Post-fire residual forest structure was dominated by ponderosa pine and some Douglas-fir with tree densities ranging between 164 to 331 trees hectare-1, and clear differentiation in both horizontal and vertical forest structure. Tree regeneration was dominated by ponderosa pine within 15 m of a surviving tree. These results suggest that low and moderate severity fire is moving the forest structure closer to restoration goals and show how quantifying the structural outcomes of wildfire provides a better understanding of how wildfires are supporting restoration objectives.
If the trees don’t pay for restoration what will? Diane Vosick, Director of Policy and Partnerships for the Ecological Restoration Institute, Northern Arizona University
In the late 1990s proposals to mechanically thin and restore public land forests generated intense conflict and litigation. Yet today, there are over 500,000 acres of restoration-based mechanical thinning treatments approved by NEPA in northern Arizona. This accomplishment is evidence for the level of support that exists for restoration. Having lowered much of the social conflict associated with restoration thinning the next barrier to success is economic.
When the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI) began in 2009 the stakeholders and Forest Service believed that wood harvested during forest restoration would pay-for, or at a minimum, substantially offset some of the cost of treatments. At the time, the 4FRI set an ambitious goal of accomplishing 50,000 acres of mechanical treatments annually. Unfortunately, the number of acres completed annually during the intervening time has never exceeded 16,000 acres. Why?
The trees removed from forest restoration treatments in the Southwest are a combination of small, mostly unmerchantable logs and huge volumes of biomass. The low value of the wood is a function of both quality and size. Without significant investment in value-added processing making a profit is difficult. Entrepreneurs are reticent to invest in expensive value-added infrastructure without guaranteed large volumes of wood, risk-sharing and contracts that exceed 10 years. This presentation will examine different approaches for improving the economics of restoration and explore whether or not it is time to create a different economic model to achieve restoration goals.
Handshakes and head fakes: when social dynamics intersect with institutional processes in collaborative, adaptive forest restoration, Tony Cheng, Professor, Department of Forest & Rangeland Stewardship, Colorado State University
The Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program (CFLRP) has created the conditions in which collaborative adaptive management (CAM) approaches in forest restoration can be tested. In theory, CAM engages stakeholders to collectively: define forest landscape restoration goals, assumptions, uncertainties, and options; develop and implement a science-based monitoring strategy to assess restoration effects; deliberate the effects of actions on goals, assumptions, and uncertainties; and recommend changes in goals, assumptions, and actions based on the “best available science”. In reality, since people are involved, things get messy, fast. My presentation addresses two questions: 1) In what ways do multi-stakeholder group dynamics interact with federal agency institutional and organizational processes?; and 2) To what extent do these interactions facilitate or frustrate collaborative adaptive management on federal landscapes? Drawing on experiences and perspectives of colleagues involved with the Colorado Front Range CFLRP, the Four Forest Restoration Initiative, and the Uncompahgre Plateau CFLRP, I discuss social group dynamics and institutional/organizational factors affecting CAM across these cases. A key take-away is that in order for CAM to realize its potential for integrating science into forest restoration decision-making, CAM participants need to be intentional and reflexive about social group dynamics and institutional/organizational processes.
Restoring fire-prone Inland Pacific landscapes: seven core principles, Paul Hessburg, Research Landscape Ecologist, United States Forest Service
More than a century of forest and fire management of Inland Pacific landscapes has transformed their successional and disturbance dynamics. Regional connectivity of many terrestrial and aquatic habitats is fragmented, flows of some ecological and physical processes have been altered in space and time, and the frequency, size and intensity of many disturbances that configure these habitats have been altered. Current efforts to address these impacts yield a small footprint in comparison to wildfires and insect outbreaks. Moreover, many current projects emphasize thinning and fuels reduction within individual forest stands, while overlooking large-scale habitat connectivity and disturbance flow issues. We provide a framework for landscape restoration, offering seven core principles. We discuss their implication for management, and illustrate their application with examples. Historical forests were spatially heterogeneous at multiple scales. Heterogeneity was the result of variability and interactions among native ecological patterns and processes, including successional and disturbance processes regulated by climatic and topographic drivers. Native flora and fauna were adapted to these conditions, which conferred a measure of resilience to variability in climate and recurrent contagious disturbances. To restore key characteristics of this resilience to current landscapes, planning and management are needed at ecoregion, local landscape, successional patch, and tree neighborhood scales. Restoration that works effectively across ownerships and allocations will require active thinking about landscapes as socio-ecological systems that provide services to people within the finite capacities of ecosystems. We focus attention on landscape-level prescriptions as foundational to restoration planning and execution.
Restoring the Landscape – San Carlos Apache Reservation, Dee Randall, Forest Manager, San Carlos Apache Tribe, Arizona
San Carlos Apache Reservation - There is in essence one natural resource: The Natural World. We often think of it as separate parts based upon the different ways we use the resource, and the different types of expertise that are required to manage this resource. The health and quality of the natural world hinges on the balance of ecological, geological, hydrological, human, and other processes. San Carlos Forest Resources Program strives to use this knowledge to guide management of the natural resources.
Logging occurred since 1900 with the establishment of the Clover sawmill. The Bureau of Indian Affairs managed the forestry programs to promote timber industries; and foresters at San Carlos did what foresters everywhere did: they fought fire. Fire has always been part of the ecosystem and large landscape fires that were frequent with low to moderate intensity. The establishment of the reservation and forest management practices of suppressing fires has caused fuel loading to increase and the forest to become unhealthy. Fires have been a part of Apache country, but Apaches did not set large fires. What they wanted from the land was edible wild grasses, game animals, shrubs for baskets, many dependent on routine burning that occurred from natural starts.
Current forest silviculturalsilviculturalcutural practices have fire as part of the treatment, not only to treat the slash from logging, thinning or fuelwood activities, but to go beyond the commercial acreage. Using natural starts with a confine and contain strategy help us to treat areas that are not feasible. In areas with no structures, using roads or natural features as containment lines has reduced the cost of fire suppression. Challenges we are faced with come from modern thinking of smoke and fire as always bad, as it is seen on the news, goals that conflict with policy, and the ever increasing human population demanding from mother earth that she provide for our every need. Fire is a natural tool and has been part of the landscape, with current conditions of our forest we must be able to the natural process as the most appropriate way to restore our forest to its healthiest most sustainable and resilient state.
Accelerating Forest Restoration in Northern Arizona, Neil Chapman, Northern Arizona Program Restoration Manager, The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy in Arizona is working to transform the way national forests are managed by forming strategic partnerships, developing advanced technology, and modernizing business practices using the 2.4 million-acre Four Forest Restoration Initiative as a demonstration site. Current Forest Service economic and management models are based on logging practices designed for the harvest of commercially valuable, large trees. These practices often do not account for the emerging technologies and new economic realities of ecological restoration. The Forest Service can effectively mobilize when the incentives and expectations are in place. This is clear in how they expertly fight multiple large fires by bringing all their resources to bear. Forest restoration activities need to become just as adept. The Nature Conservancy in Arizona and the US Forest Service Region 3 are entering into an agreement to catalyze this change - to attract new investment and sustain existing investments in wood products by creating a more reliable flow of wood at a reasonable cost and at a scale large enough to make a difference. Together we will create forests that protect our future and sustain and protect water supplies, air quality, communities, jobs, wildlife and recreation.
Integrating science with restoration in Colorado's Front Range Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Project (CFLRP): some of our greatest hits, Jenny Briggs, Research Ecologist, United States Geological Survey
In 2010, the USDA Forest Service (USFS) initiated the national 10-year Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration (CFLR) program to increase the pace and scale of ecological restoration efforts in forests with pressing needs for treatment to offset the effects of past anthropogenic stressors. Following several major wildfires, a mountain pine beetle epidemic, and rapid expansion of the wildland-urban interface, the Front Range of the southern Rocky Mountains in Colorado was one of the first landscapes in the US to receive CFLR funding. Over the past 8 years, CFLR funding has catalyzed efforts by a diverse collaborative group (USFS, other resource managers, scientists, and stakeholders) to implement and monitor restoration treatments in ponderosa-pine dominated forests along the Colorado Front Range. This talk describes the progress and challenges experienced by the collaborative, focusing in particular on how more than 10 scientific studies and monitoring efforts have been developed and integrated – with varying degrees of success! - into both the adaptive management and adaptive monitoring processes.
Does bark beetle disturbance alter forests' protective effects against snow avalanches? Michaela Teich, Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University
Healthy, dense forests growing in avalanche terrain reduce the likelihood of avalanche release by inhibiting the formation of continuous weak layers and a homogenous snow stratigraphy. Associated with warming temperatures, bark beetle attacks have increased in higher elevations, which profoundly affects snowpack in mountain forests and may alter the effects of forests in protecting people, settlements and infrastructure against avalanches.
We examined the snowpack under canopies of Engelmann spruce forest stands in the Uinta Mountains in Utah using a snow micro penetrometer (SMP). Repeated SMP measurements were recorded in winters 2015 and 2016 in study plots beneath canopies of recently infested trees, trees 3+-years after spruce beetle infestation, a harvested forest stand, and a non-forested meadow. To quantify changes to snow stratigraphy at our study plots, we applied a new method to match and combine several SMP measurements.
Our results suggest that recently killed trees can still maintain avalanche protection, but the snowpack was consistently more homogeneous in the harvested stand despite small-diameter trees and woody debris being present.
As mountain forests become more prone to mass attacks associated with climate change, changes in snowpack properties needs to be considered for avalanche control, winter backcountry activities, and protection forest management.
Low-severity fire impacts snag dynamics in an old-growth forest: Does tree neighborhood matter? Kendall Becker, Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University
Disturbance and legacy creation represent a widely referenced but poorly understood phase of forest development. Biological legacies that remain after a disturbance in the form of snags and logs function as structural components that provide habitat, affect snow retention, promote soil development, and influence fire spread. We present the trajectories of 34,246 trees and 4,426 snags before and after a low- to moderate-severity fire burned our 25.6-ha permanent study area in an unlogged, 500-year-old Abies concolor–Pinus lambertiana (white fir–sugar pine) forest in Yosemite National Park. Mean pre-fire tree mortality and snag fall rates were 1.6% and 5.4% for Abies concolor, and 2.2% and 4.3% for Pinus lambertiana; fire-year tree mortality, snag fall, and snag consumption rates were 65.1%, 9.2%, and 29.3% for A. concolor, and 55.2%, 11.6%, and 29.1% for P. lambertiana. Snag consumption rates increased with decay class, were negatively correlated with diameter for stems in early stages of decay, but were independent of diameter for stems in advanced stages of decay. These results show that low- to moderate-severity fire increases the snag population and shifts snag demography toward smaller, less decayed constituents.
A seedling-based approach to aspen restoration in the Interior West, Alex Howe, Department of Wildland Resources, Utah State University
Traditional silvicultural practices to regenerate quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) focus on inducing asexual suckering, but these methods can reduce genetic diversity over time and are limited to existing stands. Planting of nursery-grown aspen seedlings for restoration has proven effective in mined-land reclamation in the boreal forests of Canada, but protocols have yet to be developed for the western US where seedling establishment may be more challenging. Here, results from an ongoing study testing seedling-based aspen restoration in southern Utah will be discussed. Survival during the first two years varied substantially between planting locations, and mortality was dominated by rodent herbivory and early summer drought. Additionally, uneven responses among seedling sources in the nursery suggest further protocol optimization will be necessary for western US aspen. Despite these initial challenges, further refinement of seedling-based aspen restoration techniques in the western US could prove to be a useful supplemental tool for increasing resilience through active management of this keystone species.
Perspectives of a Land Manager, Craig Taggart, Environmental Manager, Trinchera Ranch, Colorado
A lightning-caused wildfire in 2002 burned through a third of the 22,000 acre Tercio Ranch in Southern Colorado. Restoration efforts included contour felling, chipping/mulching, and aerial seeding to stabilize the steep ground. Subsequent efforts included forest treatments in strategic locations to reduce the potential for further loss. Significant among these was the work done over succeeding years to protect and regenerate aspen. Work on aspen regeneration has continued on the 172,000 acre Trinchera Ranch, which itself suffered a 14,000 acre wildfire in 2006. That work now includes experimentation on opening exclosures to allow limited ungulate access and a cooperative study with USU to better understand the aspen-elk dynamic. This presentation will address a variety of post-fire restoration techniques, forest treatments, and aspen management practices that have been used on these two ranches over the past 13 years, with observations on both the successes and the “learning opportunities”.
Impacts of low-severity fire and fuel treatments on ponderosa pine resistance to mountain pine beetle, Sharon Hood, Research Ecologist, United States Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station
Fire frequency in low-elevation coniferous forests in western North America has greatly declined since the late 1800s. In many areas, this has increased tree density and the proportion of shade-tolerant species, reduced resource availability, and increased forest susceptibility to forest insect pests and high-severity wildfire. We investigated how low-intensity fire affects tree defenses and whether fuel treatments in ponderosa pine forests impact resistance to a mountain pine beetle outbreak using a combination of sampling in natural stands for which we had multi-century fire histories and an experimental design of four thinning and burning treatments. Fire stimulated tree resin duct defenses and areas with long-term fire exclusion showed lower defenses. Trees surviving mountain pine beetle attack produced larger and more resin ducts than trees that died from beetle attack. In the experimental treatments, ponderosa pine mortality from the insect outbreak was 50% in the denser, untreated control and 39% in the burn-only, compared to almost no mortality in the thin-only and thin-burn treatments. This study suggests that fuel and restoration treatments designed to reduce fire intensity in fire-dependent ponderosa pine forests can also function to increase resistance to mountain pine beetle outbreaks.
Clearing the way: Revealing and removing hidden barriers to private land forest restoration, Leslie Allison, Executive Director, Western Landowners Alliance, Santa Fe, NM
Most public policy discussions on forest restoration tend to focus on federal land issues. However, there are approximately 109 million acres of privately owned forests in the western U.S., many of them in the wildland-urban interface and many in important watersheds. Yet while virtually every state and county land use plan calls for healthy, well-managed forests and watersheds, landowners seeking to restore their forests often face a maze of obstacles. Many of these are not immediately visible to the public or to policy makers but can create significant impediments to management and restoration. One decades-long journey to restore a forested watershed reveals the many hidden challenges landowners face and how state and local governments could help clear the path.
Increasing the pace and scale of forest restoration and the breadth and depth of forest restoration partnerships in Idaho, John Robison, Lemhi Forest Restoration Group and Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership, Salmon, ID
In 2012, high winds drove the Mustang Fire out of the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness and toward Gibbonsville, Idaho. When the fire hit the Hughes Creek drainage, it encountered an open stand of large Ponderosa pine that had been recently thinned. The treated area provided safe access to the fireline, helped protect structures, and provided an opportunity for back burning and aerial ignitions. The fire dropped to the ground and no structures were harmed.
The Hughes Creek restoration project was the first commercial timber project in the area that had not been appealed in over a decade. A local collaborative group, the Lemhi Forest Restoration Collaborative Group, played a key role in developing this project. Since then, this collaborative has helped craft several other landscape scale projects, including one in an Inventoried Roadless Area.
This is not an isolated story. Several other collaborative groups have formed in Idaho to develop forest restoration projects and shepherd them through implementation. The Idaho Forest Restoration Partnership (IFRP) is an umbrella group which supports these different collaboratives and helps them tell their stories.
John Robison is a member of both the Lemhi group and the IFRP and will discuss the trends in forest restoration in Idaho.
Application of International Standards for Ecological Restoration to the Western US, Cara Nelson, Associate Professor of Restoration Ecology, University of Montana
With increasing investment in ecological restoration activities, there is a need for improving understanding about the definition and goals of ecological restoration as well as related restorative activities. There have been several recent advances in the field, including the development and adoption of international standards for ecological restoration. These standards include guidance for using restoration interventions that are consistent with two aspects of ecosystems: they are inherently dynamic and complex. Thus the repair of degraded ecosystems must include goals that both account for and allow ecosystem change and have broad goals in terms of ecosystem structure, composition, and process. This presentation will discuss the relevance of international standards to current forest restoration activities in the western United States, as well as current initiatives to improve the quality of restoration practice.
The Ongoing Promise & Emerging Perils of Western Forest Restoration in a Global Change World, Craig Allen, Research Ecologist, United States Geological Survey, New Mexico Landscapes Field Station, Los Alamos, NM
Craig D. Allen has worked as a place-based field ecologist for the U.S. Dept. of Interior since 1986, co-located with land managers at Bandelier National Monument in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico – a landscape that has been subject to multiple ecological disturbances (significant drought, forest dieback, fires, floods) since 1996. Craig conducts research on the ecology and environmental history of Southwestern US landscapes, and the responses of Western mountain ecosystems and forests globally to climate; he also provides technical support in the areas of ecosystem management and restoration to diverse land management agencies in the region. Recent and ongoing research activities, involving diverse collaborations, include: determination of global patterns, trends, and drivers of climate-induced tree mortality and forest die-off; forest and fire ecology in Southwest US landscapes; ecological restoration of Southwestern forests and woodlands; and developing long-term ecological monitoring networks in New Mexico.