Archive for the ‘Featured Projects’ Category

Baskett Slough Oaks update

Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, near Dallas, Oregon

 

Fender's blue butterfly. The largest population of this endangered species lives on Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge.

On July 30th, Tom Kaye of the Institute for Applied Ecology field tested the Oak Habitat Metric on oak savanna habitat at the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge. The goal was to use the metric to establish an ecological baseline for the project site, and calculate ecological improvement of conservation projects taking place.

The oak savannah habitat on the Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge supports the largest surviving population of the endangered Fender’s blue butterfly which feeds upon the threatened Kincaid’s lupin. The presence of these species made this site of particular interest.

Using the metric for oak habitat, Tom Kaye visited the site and entered his observations into the metric calculator, which returned a final score of 71.45%.

What does this mean?
A score of 100% for oak habitat indicates that the site has a minimum of invasive species, such as encroachment by conifer trees, or other stessors, such as nearby development, paved roads or agricultural operations. In addition, a high score includes the location of the site relative to other natural areas–closer is better, optimum vegetation structure for that habitat type, good management practices and the presence of sensitive or rare species.

While the Baskett Slough site rated high on vegetative structure and rare or sensitive species, thanks to the presence of the Fender’s blue butterfly and Kincaid’s lupin, the metric identified some issues with invasive species and other risks and stressors.

Current management practices are helpful. From Tom Kaye’s report: “The Wildlife Refuge is actively and consistently managed for habitat conservation, especially to conserve Kincaid’s lupine and Fender’s blue butterfly.  Open habitat is mowed regularly and kept free of invading blackberries.  Some areas are burned occasionally to promote native prairie vegetation.”

How does the oak metric help?
As the Refuge continues active management of the site, metric users will be able to assess and monitor outcomes, thus presenting the most consistent and reliable data about progress taking place on the site.

Data gathered during the assessment will be added to the Ecosystem Crediting Platform created by the Willamette Partnership, which will translate restoration and conservation actions into ecosystem service credits using the Counting on the Environment standards. Users of this software platform can map their projects, create multiple project designs, and manage their projects through the required approval process.

Although we can’t track the Baskett Slough Oak Savanna project as it works through the Ecosystem Crediting Platform yet, we can view the project on the Conservation Registry. Check the Marketplace for Nature portal page for new projects as the metrics continue to be used in the field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oak savanna in Oregon's Willamette Valley. Photo by Bruce Taylor, Oregon Habitat Joint Venture.

 

 

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Road Work–People’s Way

People’s Way Partnership helps wildlife cross a dangerous highway in Montana

Roads and wildlife are not a good combination. Beyond the terrifying and destructive impacts that happen every day, human development, especially roads, can fragment wildlife habitat, isolate populations and separate animals from historic breeding areas.

Imagine a section of highway that sees hundreds of deer and elk killed annually. The resulting property damage, injury to humans, and certain death to the animals exact a terrible cost. Most tragic of all is that neither humans nor animals intend to cause harm–they simply come face to face at the worst possible moment in a most dangerous environment.

 

Grizzly bear entering a Highway 93 wildlife crossing underpass. Photo courtesy of CSKT, MDT, WTI-MSU.

People’s Way Partnership
A proposed enlargement of 56 miles of Highway 93 North which goes through the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana seemed destined to add to the number of animal deaths–and not just deer and elk. The Flathead Indian Reservation is home to many wildlife species, including moose, black and grizzly bears, and a range of amphibian, reptile, and bird species, many of which are hit by vehicles. Between 1998 and 2010, four grizzly bears were killed on US 93. Crashes with deer are the most common along this stretch of road but many other species die as well. For instance, the Western painted turtle has also suffered high mortality (350-500 killed annually) with breeding ponds and feeding ponds located on both sides of US 93 North. View Registry project here.

 

Enter the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, who wanted wildlife concerns to become part of the planning process.

The partnership between Montana Department of Transportation, Montana Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes resulted in the installation of 41 fish and wildlife crossing structures, two underpasses for livestock, one bicycle/pedestrian underpass, and 8.3 miles of road with wildlife exclusion fencing on both sides, totaling 16.6 miles of fencing.

Partners use monitoring and research tools to evaluate the effectiveness of the wildlife crossing structures and identify best management practices. Every year, the number of animal-vehicle collisions is tracked through Montana Highway Patrol accident reports, Montana Department of Transportation carcass removal reports, and Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks bear road mortality data. Digital motion-sensitive wildlife cameras and sand tracking beds at the majority of crossing structures, ends of fences, and jump-outs show how the structures are being used. In addition, deer pellet group surveys measure potential changes in the deer population.

Studies in 2010 and 2011 indicate a 41% decrease in the number of reported large wild mammal carcasses, and 22% reduction in the number of reported crashes with animals.

View the mapped areas in the Registry’s People’s Way Partnership project.

From the great and powerful to the small and meek
Go to the People’s Way Partnership photo gallery to see species actually using the structures.

Catch up on Conservation Registry blog posts:
People’s Way Partnership
Wild Watch McDonald Pass

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Oak Metric Training Update

Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, near Dallas, Oregon.
On July 31st, on a beautiful sunny day in the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley, the Willamette Partnership hosted a training on the newly developed Oak Habitat Metric developed by Defenders of Wildlife and stakeholders.

The training began with an overview of ecosystem markets by Bobby Cochran, executive director of the Willamette Partnership. He was followed by Tom Kaye, executive director of the Institute for Applied Ecology and Joni Elteto of the Willamette Partnership, who led the group through the metric’s data collection questions and how to apply these methods in the field.  Tom also provided an overview of important rare and invasive plants that distinguish the quality of habitat.

The Institute for Applied Ecology initially field tested the Oak Habitat Metric. Tom and Bobby discussed the development of the tool and how it may be used to establish an ecological baseline on project sites, calculate ecological impact on development sites, calculate ecological improvement of conservation projects, compensate landowners for outcomes, and its application in mitigation programs.

The group then headed out into the field to run a practice assessment on a section of oak woodland habitat at the wildlife refuge.  Trainees enjoyed working in the field and were able to reviewing the questions as a group.  Of particular interest to the trainees was the transparency of the data collection process, which was one of the earliest goals of the design process. The calculator shows the intent of each question to describe habitat features and how those features are weighted in the overall score.

 

Tom Kaye, executive director of the Institute for Applied Ecology, leads training session on July 31, 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning to use the Oak Habitat Calculator in the field.

 

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Hawaii and the Conservation Registry

The Registry was in the land of Aloha this month at the 20th annual Hawaii Conservation Conference presented by the Hawai’i Conservation Alliance.  This annual conference is highly anticipated by the hard-working Hawaiian environmental community. (No, “hard-working” and “Hawaiian” is not an oxymoron.  How do you think people afford the rents over there?)  The conference is a chance to share ideas, learn new things, and catch up with colleagues from other islands.

The Registry loves Hawaii
Conservation Registry staffer Peregrine Edison-Lahm went to Honolulu, Hawaii to share the Pacific Coast Joint Venture‘s newly-added Hawaii wetland projects the Conservation Registry.  (Find them all with this search.)

With more endangered species than any other state – possibly more than any other location in the world – beautiful Hawaii needs protection.  The Registry helps protect her by providing environmental workers with a great planning, research, and collaboration tool.

All the presentations from the conference (including ours!) will soon be available at the Hawaii Conservation Alliance’s website. In the meantime here is a link to the conference web site (think next year in Hawaii):

 

 

20th Annual Hawaii Conservation Conference

 

View two of the wetlands projects you can find in the Conservation Registry. Kawai Nui Marsh on the island of Oahu, with Mt. Olomana in the background.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Peregrine Edison-Lahm. This image is not enhanced, it’s just that beautiful.

 

 

Waihe’e Coastal Dunes and Wetlands Preserve on the island of Maui.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Hawaiian Islands Land Trust. Don’t you wish you were restoring wetland hydrology here?

 

 

 

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Agua Fria River Basin Blog

How can a blog be a Registry project?

The Agua Fria Open Space Alliance’s new blog is all about one geographic location, a watershed near Dewey, Arizona. While a blog certainly stretches the definition of a Registry project, the Agua Fria Open Space Alliance’s blog falls within the Registry’s category of wildlife and habitat monitoring, research, education and policy activities tied to a specific geographical location because it is an online location for users to report wildlife sightings in the Agua Fria watershed. The blog also provides background information on conservation in this unique watershed.

From Dr. Garry Rogers, October 29, 2011:
This year Great Blue Herons built nests over one of my stock ponds in Dewey-Humboldt near the Agua Fria River. They started with two nests, but abandoned one. Three chicks hatched. These were the first nests I’ve seen since moving here in 1997.

I first noticed the nests on April 10, when some loud croaking began. I think that was when the eggs were laid. On April 12 I watched a Great Blue Heron chase all 25 of the vultures out of the willow trees along my driveway. He had them ducking and squawking. They came back as soon as he left.

The Agua Fria Open Space Alliance was formed to contribute to the health and sustainable management of undeveloped public and private lands in the Agua Fria River Basin. It seeks to protect physical and biological components of open space through research, education, and effective management.

More and more habitat in this watershed is being converted to development, and with human activities come invasive species and degraded habitat.

“Historical observations indicate that the desert grassland of the lower valleys was once home to thousands of antelope and myriad other creatures…. In the year 2000 only a few hundred antelope could be found, and about a third of these are expected to disappear during the next decade or two.”

The Agua Fria Open Space Alliance’s principal goals are to:

  1. Inventory and monitor wildlife, vegetation, invasive plants and animals, and ecological conditions.
  2. Design educational materials and experiences.
  3. Encourage protection and restoration of native plant and animal communities.

The blog encourages inhabitants to “step out our doors to see native vegetation, birds, and insects.”

From November 28, 2011
The photograph shows a Mourning Cloak Butterfly (Nymphalis antiopa).  I nominate this species to become the emblematic butterfly for the Agua Fria River Basin.  The Mourning Cloak is truly at home among the willows and cottonwoods growing along the Agua Fria River in the heart of the Basin.  Mourning Cloaks mate in early spring, but I have seen adults flying beside the river on sunny days in all months of the year.

The transfer of significance from the past to the future
Dr. Rogers, the blog’s author, uses direct observation and compelling words to describe the world around him. In this way he’s part of a fine tradition of conservation, one definition of which is what another nature writer, Paul Evans called “the transfer of significance from the past to the future.”

 

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