Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
A Paradigm for Conservation - Partnerships for successful species protection
Pacific Region, February 6, 2013
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Habitat protection and conservation is not necessarily an easy job. Relentless prioritization is a critical element in landscape conservation practices that must focus limited resources in those places that are expected to yield the greatest biological outcomes.


Josh Vest and Patrick Donnelly, employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and full time science staff of the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV) were in Portland on February 7th to discuss their landscape conservation design and surrogate species priorities with Regional Office staff.

The IWJV recently published a series of science planning documents that identify new conservation priorities and outline the principles, methods, and results the organization used to formulate there strategies.

The plans identify wetland conservation in the regions of Southern Oregon and Northeast California (SONEC) and the Great Salt Lake (GSL) as the two focal points of the IWJV landscape conservation. Approximately 25% of the emergent wetland abundance in the Intermountain West occurs in these regions. As a result they provide crucial migration and breeding habitats for the largest concentrations of wetland dependent birds in the Intermountain West. This concentration of extremely high biological value is consistent with the strategic conservation strategy of the IWJV. It allows limited conservation resources to be focused in small areas with the highest potential of biological payoff.

The IWJV also identified Greater Sandhill Cranes as a surrogate species in support of a broader wetland conservation strategy that intended to address habitat limiting factors that fall outside of those 2 focal landscapes. Greater Sandhill Cranes exhibited broad connectivity to partners across the Intermountain West, had high population reliance to the region, exhibited strong relationships to wetland habitats amenable to existing conservation programs, and possessed sufficient population-habitat data to inform planning models.

These strategies were good news for the Pacific Northwest region which encompasses considerable portions of SONEC and the Greater Sandhill Crane habitats. The IWJV will continue the biological planning process within these strategies through continued prioritization of information needs and analysis. The outcome of this process is intended to provide scientifically defensible habitat objectives and information to guide conservation as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Dave Smith, Coordinator of the IWJV, also provided an update of the Joint Ventures role in implementing the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). SGI, established in 2010, composed of an alliance of federal, state, tribes, nonprofits, for profits, and conservation groups that teamed up with ranchers and private landowners to protect sage-steppe habitat. This has resulted in investments of $145 million and generated in excess of $70 million in matching contributions. The program also resulted in conservation easements that reduce sod busting and the threat of subdivision on more than 240,000 acres.

The IWJV is playing a key role in SGI implementation through a five-year partnership known as the SGI Strategic Watershed Action Team (SWAT). This partnership is helping the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) build field delivery, science, communications, and partner capacity to deliver this landscape scale conservation initiative. Through this process the IWJV, in cooperation with other SGI partners, have helped to hire and manage 23 new range conservationists, wildlife biologists, and cultural resources specialist, to help get more Farm Bill conservation on the ground in critical geographic “pinch points” for conservation. Seven of these positions are located within the Pacific Northwest Region in Oregon, Idaho and Washington.

Patrick Donnelly also discussed the SGI science effort he is leading that targets conservation and evaluation of sage grouse brood rearing habitat across Eastern Oregon. This study is examining the twenty-seven year history (1984-2011) of wetland persistence rates to identify small areas of high value foraging habitats of sage grouse. The analysis will link annual habitat conditions over this time period to demographic performance of the population. Results of the study will guide SWAT partners to help direct conservation in the areas of greatest conservation need for sage grouse.

Questions for the IWJV can be directed to their office in Missoula, MT. Contact information can be found under the USFWS R6, Division of Migratory Bird Office or on their website at http://iwjv.org/.

Copies of the IWJV science planning documents discussed during the presentation may be downloaded directly from the following link: http://iwjv.org/resource/iwjv-identifying-science-priorities-2013-2018 .

Contact Info: Jane Chorazy, 503-231-2251, Jane_Chorazy@fws.gov
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