Review of proposal for Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative Columbia River Basin Projects (#2017-005-00)

read full document >

In response to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s October 27, 2017 request, the ISRP reviewed a proposal titled Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative Columbia River Basin Projects (#2017-005-00). The Lamprey Initiative was developed to promote and coordinate implementation of conservation measures for Pacific lamprey in Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and California. It is a cooperative effort among agencies and tribes to achieve long-term persistence of Pacific lamprey and support traditional tribal cultural use over the range of lamprey in the United States. The goal is to secure funding from the Fish and Wildlife Program and other entities to implement high priority lamprey restoration actions and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) that are currently unfunded or partially funded in the Columbia River Basin.

The Council’s review request to the ISRP provides some further context and direction for the ISRP review: “The intent of this project is to address a critical emerging priority and support the efforts of the Conservation Agreement for Pacific Lamprey as outlined in the 2014 Fish and Wildlife Program. Based on this and the merit of the Pacific Lamprey Conservation Initiative your review should solely focus on the operating guidelines and project criteria that guide the implementation of the priority lamprey actions.”

The ISRP recommends that the proposal Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified).

Qualifications:

The Lamprey Initiative proposal provides a comprehensive overview of the need for the Initiative, its history, and the procedures for generating, prioritizing, and funding projects. The ISRP thanks the proponents for their informative PowerPoint presentation on November 13, 2017 and for answering the reviewers' numerous questions. Clearly it took a great deal of effort to achieve a coast-wide organizational structure capable of identifying, coordinating, and supporting work needed to restore Pacific lamprey. However, the ISRP believes the proponents need to consider the following qualifications and suggestions when moving forward to seek funding from the Council and BPA.

  1. The ISRP supports the proponents’ intentions to further evaluate population structure (objective #1 in the proposal) but emphasizes the need to focus research on the spatial scale and circumstances of local adaptation in fitness traits that might be jeopardized by translocation from other populations. None of the 20 deliverables included as examples of possible projects addressed objective #1. The ISRP urges the proponents to develop and implement studies to further elucidate regional population structure and the spatial scale of adaptations in the lamprey populations they seek to restore or enhance.

  2. The proposal does not adequately explain how the Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) approach, described in the Adaptive Management section of the proposal, could be applied to individual Regional Management Unit (RMU) projects. The ISRP suggests that critical requirements of an adaptive management process are needed at the project level. A first step in any adaptive management approach is the formulation of quantitative and time explicit objectives. A section in each project proposal should be dedicated to listing these objectives. Additionally, each proposal should include an explanation of how project implementation and effectiveness will be evaluated. Combining quantitative objectives with appropriate monitoring and evaluation is an essential feature of adaptive management that should be strengthened at the project level.

  3. The proponents should strengthen processes to reduce conflicts of interest and ensure the scientific objectivity of the Conservation Team during the proposal review process.

In addition to the proponents taking steps to ensure the Conservation Team’s objectivity, the ISRP recommends that proposals containing research and assessment elements be reviewed by the ISRP to ensure sound study designs and to further alleviate concerns about potential conflicts of interest.