In the 2009 Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council (Council) committed to adopt and periodically update high-level indicators (HLI) for the purpose of reporting program success and accomplishments to Congress, the region’s governors, legislators, and citizens of the Northwest. High-level indicators will include biological, implementation, and management components. In December 2009, the Council adopted the following three questions that would be addressed in its first high level indicator report:
1) Are Columbia River Basin fish and wildlife abundant, diverse, productive, and spatially distributed, and sustainable?
2) Are mainstem hydropower dam operations meeting the Fish and Wildlife Program’s survival and passage objectives?
3) Are Council Program actions coordinated within the Program and with other programs?
The Council’s draft July 2010 Monitoring, Evaluation, Research and Reporting (MERR) Plan restates this commitment for the Council to communicate to Congress and governors on the Program’s progress by using HLI. The MERR Plan further states that the Council will ask the Independent Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB) to assess the data used in reporting these HLI. This assessment will include verifying the caveats associated with the data to ensure that any constraints are properly conveyed.
On October 1, 2010, the Council asked the ISAB to assess whether the data gathered for the 2010 HLIs are being portrayed correctly with the relevant caveats in a September 2010 draft pamphlet titled, High Level Indicators’ Data and Graphics for Reporting on Fish and Wildlife Program Progress to Governors and Congress. The ISAB and ISRP previously reviewed the Council’s proposed HLIs (ISRP/ISAB 2009-2) and the draft MERR plan (ISAB/ISRP 2010-3). This review of the draft HLI report graphics and data, and associated caveats, is a logical extension to those earlier reviews.
The ISAB understands that the draft two-page pamphlet is not in final form, and the final pamphlet will integrate a map of the Columbia River and photos of habitat, fish, and wildlife with the data-oriented graphics. The ISAB further understands that this is the Council’s first attempt to assemble these data from many sources into one place. The initial effort may bring to light questions about the ease of access to data, level of effort required to achieve consistency among data sources, and remaining data gaps. The primary sources for data in the HLI report are NOAA Fisheries, the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority (CBFWA), Fish Passage Center and Bonneville Power Administration’s Pisces database. The pamphlet was organized into three sections in order to address each of the three Council questions listed above.
In addition to asking for the ISAB’s assessment of whether the HLI data are being portrayed correctly with the relevant caveats, the Council also asked for the ISAB’s guidance on the following points:
- Are the data used for the HLIs appropriate? Are there some HLIs for which the data are so inappropriate that the Council should not report on that HLI at this time?
- Do the caveats allow the Council to use the HLI data even though the data are not the best the Council could desire for the HLI?
- Are the graphics easy to comprehend for non-scientists?
- Do the HLIs convey the Council’s message that habitat is the base of the Program?
- Input on potential titles or catchy header. Staff have suggested these thus far:
- Habitat is the heart of the Program
- Providing Pathways for Populations or Providing Pathways for Fish and Wildlife
- Upstream Indicators
- Pathways to Success
The ISAB’s review below begins with general observations on the HLI graphics, and then proceeds with comments organized by the three questions posed by the Council and addressed in the two page pamphlet.