Preliminary 2017 Wildlife Project Review

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This report provides the Independent Scientific Review Panel’s (ISRP) preliminary comments and recommendations on 29 projects for the 2017 Wildlife Project Review to implement the Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program. Four proposals met scientific review criteria, and 15 proposals met our criteria with some qualifications. Our recommendations on those should be considered final. However, we request responses on 10 proposals. Project proponents are provided an opportunity to respond to our concerns by June 1 before we submit our final report to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on June 28. Overall, after reviewing project documents and meeting with wildlife managers, we were impressed with the wildlife managers’ dedication and knowledge. We look forward to reviewing the responses.

This review builds on past reviews and focuses on results. The Council and the ISRP last evaluated these projects in the 2009 Wildlife Category Review (ISRP 2009-17). Although most of these projects met our scientific review criteria in 2009, we raised many scientific concerns to be considered in later reviews. Consequently, an important function of our current review is to evaluate how well the projects have acted upon our concerns. In addition, because most wildlife projects are implemented over a long time period and many are part of long-term agreements, a primary review function is to evaluate project results and whether proposed future actions are responsive to those results. To streamline the review and focus on results, the Council designed the process to rely on project results summaries, management plans, and annual reports rather than in-depth project proposals.

In addition to project evaluations, an important purpose of the review is to identify issues that apply across projects and inform future direction of the program. The ISRP has identified numerous programmatic issues – some persistent, some new – including:

  • Adaptive management
    • the need for time-specific, quantitative biological objectives with associated monitoring to gauge project success
    • improving status and trend and project effectiveness monitoring and statistical designs
    • prospects for a regional RM&E approach
    • opportunities for workshops between the ISRP, Council, and project proponents on project and program-level adaptive management
  • Weed control
    • regional plans and best management practices
    • prioritizing weed control strategies under highly altered or novel ecosystems
  • Cumulative effects of herbicides, lead shot, and contaminants on fish and wildlife at the project and landscape scales
  • Need for a broader and readily available supply of native seed and locally adapted nursery stock
  • Managing for resiliency in the face of large-scale disturbances and changing land-uses
  • Fire ecology, management, recovery, and restoration
    • risks from public use such as target shooting
  • The fragmented nature of the acquisitions and the need to consider connectivity and insular or “island” biogeography theories
    • need for improved linkage and coordination with adjacent land owners
  • Scientific issues related to the status of mitigation, including estimating mitigation for operational losses

We did not have time to fully develop our programmatic comments for this preliminary review. Thus, our final report will cover most of these issues. However, because we ask for responses on objectives for many projects, a description of what we are looking for is provided in the full report.

Additionally, our final report will include comments on this new review approach of using project summaries, management plans, and annual reports as the basis of review rather than in-depth proposals and site visits. A positive feature of the new approach was designating time at the project presentation meeting to discuss programmatic issues among ISRP members, Council staff, and the project proponents. These discussions helped us identify our programmatic issues.

Next Steps

  • June 1 - Project proponent responses due to the ISRP (see the full report for instructions)
  • June 28 - ISRP Final Report
  • July 11 - ISRP presentation to Council
  • August/September - Council decision