Final 2017 Wildlife Project Review

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(Also see the July 11, 2017 presentation to Council)

This report provides the Independent Scientific Review Panel’s (ISRP) final comments and recommendations on 29 projects evaluated as part of the 2017 Wildlife Project Review. Six projects met scientific review criteria, 21 projects met criteria with some qualifications, and 2 projects did not meet criteria. Overall, after reviewing project documents and meeting with wildlife managers, we were impressed with the wildlife managers’ dedication and knowledge.

This report also contains comments on issues that apply across projects and inform the future direction of the Fish and Wildlife Program. These issues and the ISRP’s recommendations include:

Adaptive Management

  • The ISRP found that 90% of the projects need time-specific, quantitative objectives, 70% require a formal adaptive management process, and 60% need to develop or revise existing management plans for their properties. All projects should have time-specific, quantitative biological objectives; monitoring to track if the project is meeting its quantitative biological objectives; and a formal adaptive management cycle that uses information obtained from a project’s monitoring program to direct future management activities.
  • Resolution by the Council, BPA, and the ISRP is needed regarding funding caps for wildlife project monitoring and policies for crediting, habitat restoration, and wildlife response monitoring.
  • Further discussion within the region is needed on what level of monitoring is needed for focal mitigation species, particularly large game animals.
  • A decision matrix should be used to determine the appropriate level of monitoring and adaptive management required for proposed actions. Examples are the risk uncertainty matrix (NPCC 2014-12) and the three-dimensional decision matrix (ISAB/ISRP 2016-1, Appendix A).
  • Regional monitoring programs that evaluate numerous wildlife mitigation projects should be developed and used. Monitoring could be conducted by project proponents, regional monitoring teams, or independent contractors.
  • A workshop involving practitioners in the wildlife mitigation programs, research and monitoring teams, the ISRP, and the Council is needed to resolve some of the practical obstacles to implementing an effective adaptive management approach.

An Integrated and Resilient Program

  • Because wildlife mitigation properties are fragmented and individually, not large enough to support target species in perpetuity, coordination is needed among wildlife project and program managers (federal, states, tribes), landowners, and other stakeholders across the landscape to ensure that mitigation properties are accomplishing intended conservation objectives.
  • A mechanism (or an analytical center) is needed to treat the approximately 800 wildlife parcels and the approximately 30 projects as an integrated ecological system, one that focuses on benefits to all wildlife. As a first step, the Council and Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) should organize and lead an information-gathering process that can be used to create analyses and summaries of the overall effects of BPA's wildlife mitigation efforts.

Habitat Restoration and Maintenance

  • Research is needed to determine the ecological effects of annual applications of herbicides on wildlife mitigation lands.
  • Partnerships with adjacent property owners, county weed control boards, state, and federal entities and special interest groups should be established to support large-scale weed control actions.
  • “Clean practices” should be implemented to help reduce weed incursions. Clean practices include road closures, inspections of vehicles and boats prior to entry into mitigation properties, and multi-year inspections of heavily used areas like parking areas and trails.
  • Re-establishment of native plants requires access to stocks that are adapted to local conditions. Obtaining desired seeds, forbs, and saplings, however, can be difficult. Communication among the projects is encouraged to facilitate the creation of bulk orders or to establish regional nurseries that could be used by multiple projects.

Future Project Reviews (for wildlife and all projects)

  • BPA should ensure timely, high quality reporting as required for Fish and Wildlife Program projects. Annual progress reports should include a quantitative and cumulative results summary section, and Council staff and/or ISRP should evaluate a random subset of annual reports for scientific quality to provide feedback in advance of upcoming reviews.
  • Future project reviews should continue to include presentations and programmatic discussions; site visits should be reinstated; project development workshops should precede reviews; and program-level analyses should be incorporated.

Public Comment

The Northwest Power and Conservation Council invites your comments through July 27, 2017, on the Independent Scientific Review Panel's just released Final 2017 Wildlife Project Review, ISRP Report No. 2017-07. Please email or mail your comments to: Kendra Coles or 

Northwest Power and Conservation Council, 851 SW Sixth Ave., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 7204