2010 Wildlife project review

Reviews and narrative for proposal 199107800: John R. Palensky Wildlife Area (was Burlington Bottoms Wildlife Mitigation Project)

(View full proposal and assessments at cbfish.org, and sponsor presentation)

ISRP final recommendation: Meets Scientific criteria? Yes

Overall, this proposal was exemplary, and the project is clearly a benefit to wildlife through a wide range of habitat restoration efforts that are technically supported and were apparent from the site visit. Reporting of project results has improved significantly in recent years, and the technical justification and rationale, described for this project, are very thorough, with sound rationale provided for habitat restoration actions. The project has done a good job in monitoring the response of vegetation to the new water flow regime that approaches the historic water regime. Native vegetation is responding positively (e.g., Wapato, historically important, is now becoming re-established), while non-native invasive plants, such as reed canary grass, are declining with the new water regime. Comments/recommendations from past ISRP reviews of this project seem to have been thoroughly addressed including improvements in reporting of project survey results and indications that adaptive management is occurring by modifying habitat restoration efforts in response to findings during monitoring surveys. One important deficiency in the proposal was that the descriptions of methodology were too general and not detailed sufficiently to fully evaluate the scientific and technical merit. The project might benefit in the future by working with a statistician to develop statistically valid survey designs for M&E. 1. Technical justification, program significance and consistency, and project relationships: The technical justification and rationale described for this project are very thorough with sound rationale provided for habitat restoration actions. The Willamette Subbasin Plan is cited throughout as the program that this project is responding to, but no other references or technical reports are cited in this section. Many other references could be cited for justification or continuation of this project. The relationships to the regional Willamette Subbasin Plan, the 2000 Fish and Wildlife Program, the Oregon Conservation Strategy, and the ODFW 2005 Wildlife Strategy Plan are very well described. Relationships to other projects are only generally described and although cooperative partners are named, the cooperators activities are not described in any detail. Also, no project numbers were given for BPA projects. 2. Project History and Results The recent project history is well documented including data on removal of invasive species and planting of native species. In addition, long-term survey data series from red-legged frogs, salamanders, neo-tropical migratory land birds are valuable, and should be continued and expanded to include associated environmental variables. Time series of other key species and related environmental conditions would also be valuable to record in the future. In the proposal, no reports documenting project results are cited. However, after searching the BPA site for reports, we found that five have been submitted to BPA including: the HEP evaluation in 1993, the five-year management plan produced in 2001 (which is quite good), two BPA reports in 2005 and 2007 (which contain appendices with monitoring and survey data and results of breeding bird surveys and amphibian breeding surveys which are very useful) and a BPA report from 2008 (which is brief and only reports on tasks accomplished in narrative format). In future proposals, these documents need to be cited so reviewers can more efficiently evaluate the proposal and others can benefit from what is learned. 3. Objectives, work elements, and methods The objectives are somewhat general and need to be more clearly defined and measurable so they can be linked to benefits for wildlife and fish. For example, Objective 4 is to "Restore upland oak-savannah habitat." This is really a goal (from the Willamette Subbasin Plan) and if re-stated as an objective would go something like – "Restore X hectares of upland oak-savannah habitat in the John R. Palensky Wildlife Area to provide additional feeding and nesting habitat for red-tailed hawk and white-breasted nuthatch." The work elements are well done, but the methods lacked sufficient detail. For example, surveys of wildlife and vegetation are being conducted, but a detailed survey design was not provided in the proposal. The sponsors should work with a statistician to develop statistically valid survey designs. References can be cited relative to details of methods. 4. M&E The project has done a good job in monitoring the response of vegetation to the new water flow regime that approaches the historic water regime. Native vegetation is responding positively, while invasives are declining. Data on frog and salamander egg masses (1998-2007) are provided with some interpretation (lowest counts understandably in dry years before water control), thus water control can be very important. Similarly, neo-tropical bird counts (1995-2007) show strong evidence of increase in relative abundance and species diversity over time. It seems that adaptive management is occurring in response to observed findings, e.g., also improving nesting and sunning habitat for western pond turtles (which from surveys were determined to be in short supply). The setting of performance criteria and the adaptive management approach are commendable. One improvement in this section would be to provide more detailed descriptions of monitoring methods. For example, an objective is to "measure seeding survival twice per year and assess causes of seeding failure," however, how this is to be done is not described. For photo-point monitoring methods the sponsors should consider a technique for quantifying changes in vegetation from the photos.

from May 19, 2009 ISRP 2009-17 report

ISRP preliminary recommendation: Meets scientific criteria? Yes

Overall, this proposal was exemplary, and the project is clearly a benefit to wildlife through a wide range of habitat restoration efforts that are technically supported and were apparent from the site visit. Reporting of project results has improved significantly in recent years, and the technical justification and rationale, described for this project, are very thorough, with sound rationale provided for habitat restoration actions. The project has done a good job in monitoring the response of vegetation to the new water flow regime that approaches the historic water regime. Native vegetation is responding positively (e.g., Wapato, historically important, is now becoming re-established), while non-native invasive plants, such as reed canary grass, are declining with the new water regime. Comments/recommendations from past ISRP reviews of this project seem to have been thoroughly addressed including improvements in reporting of project survey results and indications that adaptive management is occurring by modifying habitat restoration efforts in response to findings during monitoring surveys. One important deficiency in the proposal was that the descriptions of methodology were too general and not detailed sufficiently to fully evaluate the scientific and technical merit. The project might benefit in the future by working with a statistician to develop statistically valid survey designs for M&E. 1. Technical justification, program significance and consistency, and project relationships: The technical justification and rationale described for this project are very thorough with sound rationale provided for habitat restoration actions. The Willamette Subbasin Plan is cited throughout as the program that this project is responding to, but no other references or technical reports are cited in this section. Many other references could be cited for justification or continuation of this project. The relationships to the regional Willamette Subbasin Plan, the 2000 Fish and Wildlife Program, the Oregon Conservation Strategy, and the ODFW 2005 Wildlife Strategy Plan are very well described. Relationships to other projects are only generally described and although cooperative partners are named, the cooperators activities are not described in any detail. Also, no project numbers were given for BPA projects. 2. Project History and Results The recent project history is well documented including data on removal of invasive species and planting of native species. In addition, long-term survey data series from red-legged frogs, salamanders, neo-tropical migratory land birds are valuable, and should be continued and expanded to include associated environmental variables. Time series of other key species and related environmental conditions would also be valuable to record in the future. In the proposal no reports documenting project results are cited. However, after searching the BPA site for reports, we found that five have been submitted to BPA including: the HEP evaluation in 1993, the five-year management plan produced in 2001 (which is quite good), two BPA reports in 2005 and 2007 (which contain appendices with monitoring and survey data and results of breeding bird surveys and amphibian breeding surveys which are very useful) and a BPA report from 2008, which is brief and only reports on tasks accomplished in narrative format. In future proposals, these documents need to be cited so reviewers can more efficiently evaluate the proposal and others can benefit from what is learned. 3. Objectives, work elements, and methods The objectives are somewhat general and need to be more clearly defined and measurable so they can be linked to benefits for wildlife and fish. For example, Objective 4 is to "Restore upland oak-savannah habitat." This is really a goal (from the Willamette Subbasin Plan) and if re-stated as an objective would go something like – "Restore X hectares of upland oak-savannah habitat in the John R. Palensky Wildlife Area to provide additional feeding and nesting habitat for red-tailed hawk and white-breasted nuthatch." The work elements are well done, but the methods lacked sufficient detail. For example, surveys of wildlife and vegetation are being conducted, but a detailed survey design was not provided in the proposal. The sponsors should work with a statistician to develop statistically valid survey designs. References can be cited relative to details of methods. 4. M&E The project has done a good job in monitoring the response of vegetation to the new water flow regime that approaches the historic water regime. Native vegetation is responding positively, while invasives are declining. Data on frog and salamander egg masses (1998-2007) are provided with some interpretation (lowest counts understandably in dry years before water control), thus water control can be very important. Similarly, neotropical bird counts (1995-2007) show strong evidence of increase in relative abundance and species diversity over time. It seems that adaptive management is occurring in response to observed findings, e.g., also improving nesting and sunning habitat for western pond turtles (which from surveys were determined to be in short supply). The setting of performance criteria and the adaptive management approach are commendable. One improvement in this section would be to provide more detailed descriptions of monitoring methods. For example, an objective is to "measure seeding survival twice per year and assess causes of seeding failure," however, how this is to be done are not described. For photo-point monitoring methods the sponsors should consider a technique for quantifying changes in vegetation from the photos.

from Mar 26, 2009 ISRP 2009-7 report