In response to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council’s August 22, 2017 request, the ISRP reviewed a cover letter and supporting documents from Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) to address the ISRP’s concerns with two IDFG projects: Albeni Falls Wildlife Mitigation-IDFG (project 1992-061-03) and Southern Idaho Wildlife Mitigation (project 1995-057-00). In its 2017 Final Wildlife Project Review, the ISRP found the projects did not meet scientific review criteria because the project summary and response did not demonstrate that the projects had adequate plans for individual mitigation parcels, quantifiable biological objectives, monitoring protocols to assess progress toward objectives, or an adaptive management framework (ISRP 2017-7).
ISRP Recommendation and Summary Comments
Meets Scientific Review Criteria (Qualified)
IDFG is implementing a state-wide, long-term habitat monitoring program for its Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs), and it is commendable that IDFG has given thought to desired endpoints for habitat types and associated monitoring on their WMAs. Nonetheless, the ISRP recommends consideration of further improvements. The following concerns should be addressed before the next ISRP review:
- Objectives. IDFG’s draft Statewide Wildlife Management Area Habitat Monitoring Implementation Plan and Techniques Guide (Appendix A) presents generic objectives for the five habitat types found on its WMAs. Although these all-purpose objectives represent a good start, they are inconsistent across habitat types. Some provide simplified quantitative goals with timelines (e.g., wetlands), while others describe desired habitat conditions (e.g., forested habitat). The draft guide needs to be modified to provide consistent objectives for all five habitat types. Additionally, we urge IDFG to use these generic objectives as starting points for specific quantitative and time-explicit objectives that can be applied to parcels within individual WMAs. Quantitative and time-specific objectives will enable managers to ascertain via monitoring if desired habitat responses are being accomplished and will facilitate adaptive management.
- Vegetation and wildlife response monitoring. Currently the proposed goals, objectives, and monitoring methods focus exclusively on vegetative responses to management actions. It is important to recognize that the ultimate purpose of improving or maintaining plant communities on WMA lands is to benefit wildlife (e.g., deer, elk, song birds, waterfowl, etc.). Consequently, we encourage IDFG to measure wildlife species responses to their management actions whenever possible. It is not anticipated that wildlife monitoring could occur at all the mitigation parcels but could potentially occur for large mitigation parcels or entire WMAs. Wildlife responses along with vegetative assessments will help determine the effectiveness of management actions and prioritize future work efforts.
- Monitoring methods. Out-of-date methods (e.g., analysis of diversity) and errors in recommended statistical analyses are evident in some parts of the appendices. The appendices should be thoroughly reviewed by outside experts and modified to assure appropriate analytical methods are prescribed in the guide. If IDFG and the Council request, the ISRP would be pleased to review future drafts of the monitoring and evaluation (M&E) plan/guide.
- Adaptive management. When the state-wide management plan is completed, IDFG will have an M&E plan and elements of adaptive management. However, there does not appear to be an explicit adaptive management framework. For example, for the Boise River WMA (p 21), IDFG states, “adaptive management will be implemented through…” followed by a monitoring schedule. There is no indication of how the monitoring data will be analyzed or used to guide future management. Consequently, a specific decision-making process needs to be incorporated into the management plans for each WMA along with a description of how monitoring data will be analyzed and used to guide future management. In summary, we recommend that the adaptive management process include:
- Hypotheses and mechanisms to guide decision making
- Quantitative objectives with scientifically credible rationales that define what is to be achieved and when
- Monitoring protocols and metrics that are shown to be appropriate – and evenly applied across habitat types – for examining if quantitative objectives have been attained
- An appropriate data management and analysis strategy designed to handle the volume and diversity of data expected.