The draft Clearwater Subbasin Plan represents a major new step in the Council's Fish and Wildlife Program. It is the first of approximately 60 forthcoming subbasin plans intended to provide for each subbasin up-to-date biological assessments of fish and wildlife populations, a synthesis of past and ongoing fish and wildlife management activities, identification of factors currently limiting fish and wildlife production, a description of strategies to address the limiting factors, and a prioritization framework for future fish and wildlife activities in the face of limited resources.
Development of the Clearwater Subbasin Plan is laudable for several reasons: a) Clearwater subbasin planners organized an aggressive effort to draft a subbasin plan and submit it ahead of schedule; b) the Policy Advisory Committee (PAC) brought diverse public and private interests together for subbasin planning; c) the planners attempted to include socio-economic factors in the subbasin plan, and d) the initial portion of the Clearwater assessment describes the subbasin setting and its general environmental conditions thoroughly and well, and will provide a rich source of reference material for people working in this subbasin.
However, the draft Clearwater Subbasin Plan is not complete enough to be consistent with the Fish and Wildlife Program (FWP) and, in its current form, does not constitute a viable subbasin plan. The Plan does not fully and clearly set forth the desired direction for the subbasin or describe clear, problem-solving approaches (i.e., strategies) to restoration and protection. With limited funding, it is essential for objectives and strategies to be prioritized within the subbasin in order to facilitate project selection by the Council and allocate funding resources efficiently.
The Clearwater Subbasin Plan does not describe explicit linkages between the Assessment, Inventory, and Management Plan, and consequently does not provide an overall coordinated plan. The Assessment, which does a thorough job of describing physical features of the subbasin, needs to more thoroughly describe fish and wildlife resources quantitatively (status, abundance, distribution, productivity, etc). To accomplish this, the planners will need greater input from existing fisheries expertise within the basin than was evident in the draft plan. The Assessment should culminate in a rigorous analysis of factors currently limiting fish and wildlife production in the subbasin. The Inventory presents a comprehensive list of existing actions, as well as some past and planned activities, but needs to be expanded into a document that analyzes how well present activities are addressing the needs of fish and wildlife populations, and provides interpretative conclusions from the Inventory as a whole. The Management Plan and its components need to be more closely connected to the Assessment's limiting factors analysis and to biological and environmental objectives. The subbasin plan should develop a prioritized restoration, production, protection, and research agenda reflecting the critical uncertainties and limiting factors, at the level of detail described in the Council's Technical Guide.
The Plan does not present analysis or justification of its priorities and allocations of effort. About 25% of the Clearwater Subbasin Management Plan's strategy items seem directed toward making human activity less damaging, about 1% to habitat protection, and about 27% to active restoration. Preventing, halting, and reducing harmful processes logically take precedence over repair and can foster passive restoration, which can be most economical. Alternative strategies and their costs, consequences, and contingencies are rarely presented, but are needed to judge overall scientific soundness of the Plan.
The Clearwater Subbasin Management Plan has the beginnings of a solid structural foundation and can be revised and expanded into a viable subbasin plan. To do this, the Assessment, which has a strong geologic and habitat base, needs to link habitat with fish or wildlife status and distributions in order to identify priority ?potential management units? (PMUs) or ?assessment units? (AUs) for classes of restoration or preservation actions. The reviewers felt that the AU and PMU approach, if linked quantitatively with historical and present fish and wildlife distributions and abundances, and with limiting factors, could link the Assessment with the Management Plan and facilitate the integrated subbasin plan intended by the Fish and Wildlife Program.