NW Climate Science Digest

Aquatic Resources, Stream Flow, Hydrology in the Western U.S.

Forest Service Puts Brakes on Controversial Groundwater Directive

 The head of the U.S. Forest Service said that the agency's Proposed Directive on Groundwater Resource Management has been put on hold to enable more engagement with Western states. That's positive news for Western Governors, who expressed concern to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack about the proposed directive shortly after its release last July. The governors noted then in a letter that "Western states are the exclusive authority for allocating, administering, protecting and developing groundwater resources, and they are responsible for water supply planning within their boundaries."

EPA Announces Climate Adjustment Tool for the Storm Water Management Model

EPA's Storm Water Management Model (SWMM) is widely used throughout the world and is considered the "gold standard" in the design of urban wet-weather flow pollution abatement approaches. It is a dynamic hydrology-hydraulic water quality simulation model used for single event or long-term (continuous) simulation of runoff quantity and quality from primarily urban areas, and allows users to include any combination of low impact development (LID)/green infrastructure controls to determine their effectiveness in managing stormwater and sewer overflows. The new Climate Adjustment Tool (SWMM-CAT) is a simple to use software utility that applies monthly climate adjustment factors onto historical precipitation and temperature data to consider potential impacts of future climate on stormwater. Learn more and access the tool and download the SWMM-CAT user’s guide.

Biodiversity/Species and Ecosystem Response

Wolf Numbers in Oregon Grow, but Uncertain Future Looms

The release the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) annual wolf report provides a snapshot of the gray wolf in Oregon. The report pointed out that at least 77 wolves currently live in Oregon, that 26 of them are pups younger than one year, and that the numbers in the Cascade Range jumped to seven from just one previously. The question now will be whether Oregon wolves continue to receive protection. All gray wolves in Oregon are listed under the Oregon Endangered Species Act (ESA) and all wolves west of Oregon Highways 395/78/95 are federally protected. However, reaching the mark of eight breeding pairs — and four breeding pairs for three consecutive years — took ODFW to Phase II of its management plan in Eastern Oregon. Phase II lowered the bar for considering lethal action against wolves that kill or injure livestock. 

Increasing Hydrologic Variability Threatens Depleted Anadromous Fish Populations

Ward, E.J., Anderson J.H., Beechie, T.J., Pess, G.R., Ford, M.J. 2015. Increasing hydrologic variability threatens depleted anadromous fish populations. Global Change Biology doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/gcb.12847

Predicting effects of climate change on species and ecosystems depends on understanding responses to shifts in means (such as trends in global temperatures), but also shifts in climate variability. Researchers from NOAA and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife evaluated potential responses of anadromous fish populations to an increasingly variable environment. Researchers used hierarchical analysis of 21 Chinook salmon populations from the Pacific Northwest to examine support for changes in river flows and flow variability on population growth. Results suggest that more than half of the rivers analyzed have already experienced significant increases in flow variability over the last 60 years, and this study shows that this increase in variability in freshwater flows has a more negative effect than any other climate signal included in the model. Climate change models predict that the Puget Sound region of Washington will experience warmer winters and more variable flows, which may limit the ability of these Chinook salmon populations to recover.

Air Pollution May Cause Increasing Levels of Mercury in Pacific Tuna

Drevnick, P.E., Lamborg, C.H., Horgan, M.J. 2015. Increase in mercury in Pacific yellowfin tuna. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/etc.2883

A recent study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry found that the concentration of mercury in yellowfin tuna is increasing at a rate of at least 3.8% per year - providing evidence that burning coal is affecting the ocean food chain. This increase is consistent with a model of anthropogenic forcing on the mercury cycle in the North Pacific Ocean and suggests that fish mercury concentrations are keeping pace with current loading increases to the ocean. Future increases in mercury in yellowfin tuna and other fishes can be avoided by reductions in atmospheric mercury emissions from point sources. 

Climate and Weather Reports and Services

Projected Changes of Snowfall in the Western United States

Lute, A. C., Abatzoglou, J. T., Hegewisch, K. C. 2015. Projected changes in snowfall extremes and interannual variability of snowfall in the western United States. Water Resources Research, doi: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1002/2014WR016267

Projected warming will have significant impacts on snowfall accumulation and melt, with implications for water availability and management in snow-dominated regions. Researchers from University of Idaho recently published a paper in Water Resources Research which used downscaled climate projections from 20 global climate models to assess mid-21st century changes in the mean and variability of annual snowfall water equivalent (SFE) and extreme snowfall events across the western United States. Declines in annual SFE and number of snowfall days were projected for all snowpack telemetry stations analyzed. The projected declines in annual SFE and snowfall days, along with projected increases in winter precipitation suggests that in high elevation locations, snow events are likely to shift to rain events, increasing the probability of rain-on-snow events and the magnitude of rainfall extremes with implications for flood risk in some watersheds. 

Climate Change may Bring Stronger Storms, Less Frequently

Laliberté, F., Zika, J., Mudryk, L., Kushner, P. J., Kjellsson, J., Döös, K. 2015. Constrained work output of the moist atmospheric heat engine in a warming climate. Science, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1257103

In a new study published in the journal Science, scientists offered a new perspective on how the Earth's atmosphere acts as a heat engine, shifting heat from the sun from the tropics toward the poles. Warmer air can hold more moisture (i.e. rain, hail, or snow). Simultaneously, as the planet warms more evaporation and precipitation are projected to use more energy in the atmosphere. This energy reduction will reduce the intensity of winds around the world – leading to a future with more severe, less frequent storms. 

Is the Monthly Temperature Climate of the United States Becoming More Extreme?

Kunkel, K. E., Vose, R. S., Stevens, L. E., Knight, R. W. (2015). Is the monthly temperature climate of the United States becoming more extreme? Geophysical Research Letters, 42, doi:10.1002/2014GL062035.

NOAA researchers used a new data set of monthly temperatures, adjusted for detected inhomogeneities, to evaluate whether monthly temperature climate of the U.S. has become more extreme. Over the past twenty to thirty years there has been a shift toward more frequent very warm months, and less frequent very cold months. Therefore, the overall monthly temperature climate has not become more extreme. Mid-twentieth century including the 1930s was an earlier period of frequent very warm months, a result of very warm daytime temperatures, while nighttime temperatures were not unusual. Compared to the earlier midcentury warm period, recent decades have been more (less) extreme in the summer (winter) in the west while Midwest summers have been less extreme.

Heavy Precipitation in a Changing Climate

Ban N., Schmidli, J., Schär, C. 2015. Heavy precipitation in a changing climate: Does short-term summer precipitation increase faster? Geophysical Research Letters. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/2014GL062588

Researchers from the Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science at ETH Zurich have published a paper in Geophysical Research Letters discussing climate model projections of intensification of heavy precipitation events as a result of climate change. Researchers employed a convection-resolving model using a horizontal grid spacing of 2.2 km across an extended region covering the Alps and its larger-scale surrounding from northern Italy to northern Germany. Consistent with conventional climate models, high-resolution climate change simulations project pronounced decreases in mean summer precipitation over middle and southern Europe. The decrease is associated with frequency reductions of small and intermediate precipitation events. However, unlike previous studies, researchers found that both extreme day-long and hour-long precipitation events are projected to become more frequent and more intense, but not as pronounced as some previous studies suggested.

NASA Study Finds Carbon Emissions Could Dramatically Increase Risk of U.S. Megadroughts

Cook, B.I.,  Ault, T.R.,  Smerdon, J.E. 2015. Unprecedented 21st century drought risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains. Science Advances, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.1400082

A new NASA study found that continued increases in human-produced greenhouse gas emissions drives up the risk of severe droughts in the southwest and Great Plains regions. Results, based on projections from 17 climate models, suggest that droughts will last for 30, 40, 50 years. If greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase along current trajectories throughout the 21st century, there is an 80% likelihood of a decades-long megadrought in the Southwest and Central Plains between the years 2050 and 2099.

Western Snow Surveyors Have Fun, but Their Data are Deadly Serious

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) funds snow-surveying operations in 12 Western states, including Alaska. Measuring the depth and weight of the snow and doing some basic calculations to determine water content solves the problem of how much water to expect in the spring once the snow begins to melt and make its way down the mountains. "In certain regions and at certain sites, we are seeing changes associated with the changing climate," Strobel, the director of NRCS's National Water and Climate Center, stated. Some sites are registering more rain rather than snow, and within streams themselves, "we're seeing the peak in the streamflow occurring earlier, indicating the snowmelt is happening at an earlier period." 

Coastal/Marine Ecosystems, Ocean Acidification, Sea Level Rise

NOAA Study Shows Oysters, Mussels have Low Levels of Disease, Parasites

NOAA has released its first-ever long term report of the national distribution of parasites and disease in mussels and oysters, concluding that there was no general threat to oyster and mussel population in the nation’s coastal waters at the time of the study, despite some locations along the Gulf of Mexico and West Coast with elevated rates of parasite infection and disease. This information is vital for determining degrading conditions as environmental stressors, including climate change and other natural and human-caused disasters, continue to impact coastal resources.

Seaweed in the Spotlight

Ocean acidification is just one of the ways in which coastal communities are already feeling the effects of a changing global ocean. The potentially devastating ramifications have made it an urgent environmental and economic issue. A collaborative project led by the Puget Sound Restoration Fund in conjunction with NOAA and other partners, was just awarded $1.5 million by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation to tackle the impacts of ocean acidification. The project looks to employ an unlikely hero: seaweed.

Study Published on Storage and Release of Organic Carbon from Glaciers and Ice Sheets

Hood, E., Battin, T.J., Fellman, J., O'Neel, S., Spencer, R.G.M. 2015. Storage and release of organic carbon from glaciers and ice sheets. Nature Geosceince, doi: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1038/ngeo2331

The impact from melting glaciers due to climate change is more complex than just causing changes to global sea-levels. Melting glaciers will impact the flow of organic carbon to oceans around the world. This study provides a global-scale estimate for the storage and release of organic carbon from melting glaciers. This research is crucial to better understand the role glaciers play in the global carbon cycle, especially as climate warming continues to reduce glacier ice stores and release ice-locked organic carbon into downstream freshwater and marine ecosystems. Glaciers represent a substantial reservoir of organic carbon and as glaciers are lost worldwide along with the corresponding release of carbon, high-latitude marine ecosystems will be affected.

Arctic Warming will Promote Atlantic-Pacific Fish Interchange

Wisz, M.S., Broennimann, O., Gronkjaer, P., Moller, P.R., Olsen, S.M., Swingedouw, D., Hedeholm, R.B., Nielsen, E.E., Guisan, A. & Pellissier, L. 2015. Arctic warming will promote Atlantic-Pacific fish interchange. Nature Climate Change, doi: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1038/nclimate2500

For millions of years, extremely cold arctic water temperatures and low nutrient levels have served as a barrier separating marine organisms in the North Atlantic from those in the North Pacific. However, a recent study published in Nature Climate Change, finds that rising ocean temperatures are dissolving the barrier. Researchers projected the potential northward progression of 515 species following climate change and report the rate of potential species interchange between the Atlantic and the Pacific via the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage. By 2100 up to 41 species could enter the Pacific and 44 species could enter the Atlantic, via one or both passages. This exchange of fish species may trigger changes for biodiversity and food webs in the North Atlantic and North Pacific, with ecological and economic consequences to ecosystems that at present contribute 39% to global marine fish landings

Vulnerability and Adaptation of U.S. Shellfisheries to Ocean Acidification

Ekstrom, J.A., Suatoni, L., Cooley, S.R., Pendleton, L.H., Waldbusser, G.G., Cinner, J.E., Ritter, J., Langdon, C., van Hooidonk, R., Gledhill, D., Wellman, K., Beck, M.W., Brander, L.M., Rittschof, D., Doherty, C., Edwards, P.E.T., Portela, R. 2015. Vulnerability and adaptation of US shellfisheries to ocean acidification. Nature Climate Change. doi: http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1038/nclimate2508

A recently published article in Nature Climate Change presents a multidisciplinary vulnerability analysis of coastal human communities in the Unites States. Researchers focused analysis on shelled mollusc harvests, likely to be harmed by ocean acidification. Results suggest that marine ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest and Southern Alaska will be the first affected. Additionally, this study highlights regions in the U.S. most vulnerable to ocean acidification, information gaps, and opportunities to adapt through local actions.

Global Warming May Boost Dead Zones in Oceans

Moffitt, S.E., Moffitt, R.A., Sauthoff, W., Davis, C.V., Hewett, K, Hill, T.M. 2015. Paleoceanographic Insights on Recent Oxygen Minimum Zone Expansion: Lessons for Modern Oceanography. PLoS ONE 10(1): e0115246. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0115246

Researchers at the University of California, Davis, analyzed ocean sediment data and found that the last time the planet experienced a major temperature change, oxygen levels fell sharply along the continental margins in the eastern Pacific Ocean. This discovery raises concerns about whether current warming trends will make regions of the oceans uninhabitable for marine life that need oxygen for survival. Major changes in the distribution of oxygen are already underway in the modern ocean. Modern losses of dissolved oxygen have been detected in every ocean basin by oceanographers and modern instrumentation.

Obama Orders Federal Agencies to Account for Rising Seas in their Investments

The Obama administration has ordered federal agencies to account for rising seas and stronger storms when making grants and building infrastructure, one of the most definitive steps it has yet taken to adapt the country to a changing climate. In an executive order, Obama implemented a new Federal Flood Risk Management Standard that provides agencies with three options for determining where it is safe to invest federal dollars. They can use data and methods based on (1) "best- available, actionable climate science"; (2) they can require buildings to be 2 feet above the 100-year flood elevation; or (3) they can require that infrastructure is built to at least the 500-year floodplain. Currently, the majority of federal investment is based on the 100-year floodplain. 

Fire

Where Wildfires and Climate Scientists Meet

Arthur Sedlacek is an atmospheric chemist trying to solve one of the biggest mysteries in global climate change: the role that wildfires play when they spew millions of tons of soot skyward each year. In 2013, Sedlacek was part of a team that flew into wildfire plumes in the Pacific Northwest and then Tennessee to measure exactly what’s in the soot. As the threat of global warming becomes increasingly pronounced, accurate measurements and correct predictive models are more essential than ever. But there’s a problem: When researchers incorporate the effects of greenhouse gases into their models, the outcome is an extremely hot Earth - too hot, explains Sedlacek. There must be some missing factor that cools the earth ever so slightly, but scientists haven’t figured out what it is. Sedlacek’s team thinks the likely culprit is aerosols. One of the biggest and least understood sources of aerosols is wildfire, which generates 40% of the carbon soot in the atmosphere. It’s a tricky problem because fires exert both warming and cooling effects on the climate. Black smoke billowing up from a fire’s center has a warming effect because dark aerosols absorb light, keeping that energy trapped in our atmosphere. But as winds push aerosols away from the fire, the particles gather a reflective coating of organic matter, which has a cooling effect.

Conservation Programs Take a Hit in Obama's USDA Spending Plan

The roughly $850 million in proposed cuts over five years in Agriculture Department conservation programs could undermine a much-touted regional model for improving water quality, reducing soil erosion and providing wildlife habitat without government regulation. The Obama administration's fiscal 2016 budget would cut 3 million acres from the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), a voluntary program that helps farmers and ranchers maintain and expand different conservation practices. The budget request would also cut back $373 million from the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which offers technical and financial assistance to landowners looking to change their practices. Both CSP and EQIP were authorized in the 2014 farm bill. "Pretty soon, there will be precious little left out of the conservation budget," said Ferd Hoefner, policy director for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

Area Burned in the Western US is Unaffected by Recent Mountain Pine Beetle Outbreaks

Hart, S.J., Schoennagel, T., Veblen, T.T., Chapman, T.B. 2015. Area burned in the western United States in unaffected by recent mountain pine beetle outbreaks. PNAS, 112(14): 4375-4380. http://bit.ly/1PjKKqn

Across western North America, abundant susceptible pine hosts and a suitable climate during the early 21st century have promoted widespread mountain pine beetle (MPB) outbreaks, leading to concern that dead fuels may increase wildfire risk. The assumption that outbreaks raise fire risk is driving far-reaching policy decisions involving expenditures of hundreds of millions of dollars. Contrary to the expectation that an MPB outbreak increases fire risk, spatial overlay analysis shows no effect of outbreaks on subsequent area burned during years of extreme burning across the West. These results refute the assumption that increased bark beetle activity has increased area burned; therefore, policy discussions should focus on societal adaptation to the effects of the underlying drivers: warmer temperatures and increased drought.

Wildfires Pose Risk to Nearly 900,000 Homes in the Western U.S

Nearly 900,000 homes across 13 states in the western U.S. are currently designated at “High” or “Very High” risk for wildfire damage, representing a combined total reconstruction value estimated at more than $237 billion. Of the total homes identified, just over 192,000 homes fall into the “Very High Risk” category alone, with total reconstruction cost valued at more than $49.6 billion. The analysis also assigns a numeric risk score to each property, ranging from 1 to 100. This separate score indicates the level of susceptibility to wildfire, as well as the risk associated with the property being located in close proximity to another high-risk property or area. The score designation is important since wildfire can easily expand to adjacent properties and cause significant damage even if that property was not originally considered high risk.

Forests

Forest Canopies Buffer Against Climate Change

Solomon Z. Dobrowski, Alan K. Swanson, John T. Abatzoglou, Zachary A. Holden, Hugh D. Safford, Mike K. Schwartz, Daniel G. Gavin. Forest structure and species traits mediate projected recruitment declines in western US tree species. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 2015; DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/geb.12302

When temperatures rise and less water falls, forests respond. Forest canopies can buffer juvenile trees from drought and heat by providing shade for the younger trees below the leaf and needle cover. Adult trees have deep roots and can handle hot and dry conditions better than juveniles of the same species. However, current models of how forests will respond to climate change don't account for this difference between adult and juvenile trees. Recent research by Solomon Dobrowski, a University of Montana professor of forest landscape ecology, finds that climatic buffering from forest canopies is important to consider when projecting the likelihood of regeneration in future forests. or the research in the journal, Dobrowski and colleagues looked at where juvenile trees are found relative to adults of the same species and how this might change under future climates. They suspected a forest canopy might protect juvenile trees from some of the limiting factors that kill juvenile trees like high wind speeds, solar radiation and high temperatures. Projections into the future suggest juvenile trees fare better with a protective forest canopy overhead. Remove the shade-providing tree canopy, however, and juvenile trees may suffer. Eventually, a forest with no juveniles will decline.

Satellites Give Scientists a Better View of Forest Insect Outbreaks

Meigs, G.W., Kennedy, R.E., Gray, A.N., Gregory, M.J. 2015. Spatiotemporal dynamics of recent mountain pine beetle and western spruce budworm outbreaks across the Pacific Northwest Region, USA. Forest Ecology and Management, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.foreco.2014.11.030

A recent study published in Forest Ecology and Management discusses how researchers from Oregon State University combined new satellite imagery with older data from airplane and ground surveys to show in unprecedented detail where insects are damaging trees in the region. Study co-author, Garrett Meigs, said these new maps create an atlas of insect-caused tree mortality that allows scientists to identify hotspots and zero in on possible causes. Eventually, the new data could help scientists predict future outbreaks, which could help land managers improve forest health: http://www.opb.org/news/article/satellites-give-scientists-a-better-view-of-forest-insect-outbreaks/

Climate Change Implications in the Northern Coastal Temperate Rainforest of North America

Colin S. Shanley, Sanjay Pyare, Michael I. Goldstein, Paul B. Alaback, David M. Albert, Colin M. Beier, Todd J. Brinkman, Rick T. Edwards, Eran Hood, Andy MacKinnon, Megan V. McPhee, Trista M. Patterson, Lowell H. Suring, David A. Tallmon, Mark S. Wipfli. 2015. Climate change implications in the northern coastal temperate rainforest of North America. Climatic Change, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1355-9

A recently published paper in the journal Climatic Change discusses a synthesized expert review of climate change implications for hydroecological and terrestrial ecological systems in the northern coastal temperate rainforest of North America. The synthesis is based on an analysis of projected temperature, precipitation, and snowfall stratified by eight biogeoclimatic provinces and three vegetation zones. These projected changes are anticipated to result in a cascade of ecosystem-level effects including: increased frequency of flooding and rain-on-snow events; an elevated snowline and reduced snowpack; changes in the timing and magnitude of stream flow, freshwater thermal regimes, and riverine nutrient exports; shrinking alpine habitats; along with many other effects. The collaborative synthesis of potential impacts highlights the coupling of social and ecological systems that characterize the region as well as a number of major information gaps to help guide assessments of future conditions and adaptive capacity.

Revision of USFS Land Management Plans for Pacific Northwest and Pacific Southwest Regions

As announced on February 18, 2015 the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Northwest (OR, WA) and Pacific Southwest (CA) Regions are beginning a public conversation on the process for revising forest land management plans in the Northwest Forest Plan amendment area. “The Forest Service is committed to the original tenets and principles of the Northwest Forest Plan,” said Jim Peña, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester. “We want to share what we’ve learned and are thinking, and listen to other’s ideas and concerns.” The land management plants within the Northwest Forest Plan area guide how resources will be managed for 15 to 20 years. These plans are due for revision: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/news-events/?cid=STELPRD3830040

To learn about the dates and locations of the public listening sessions, please visit: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/r6/news-events/?cid=STELPRD3830784

Land Use

Livestock Grazing on Public Lands Cost Taxpayers $1 Billion Over Past Decade

A new analysis finds U.S. taxpayers have lost more than $1 billion over the past decade on a program that allows cows and sheep to graze on public land. Last year, taxpayers lost $125 million in grazing subsidies on federal land. Had the federal government charged fees similar to grazing rates on non-irrigated private land, the program would have made $261 million a year on average rather than operate at a staggering loss. The study, Costs and Consequences: The Real Price of Livestock Grazing on America’s Public Lands, comes as the Obama administration prepares to announce grazing fees for the upcoming year on 229 million acres of publicly owned land, most of it in the West. The report was prepared by economists on behalf of the Center for Biological Diversity.

BioEarth: Envisioning and Developing a New Regional Earth System Model to Inform Natural and Agricultural Resource Management

Adam, J.C. et al. (2015) BioEarth: Envisioning and developing a new regional earth system model to inform natural and agricultural resource management, Climatic Change, 129, 3-4, 555-571. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1115-2.

As managers of agricultural and natural resources are confronted with uncertainties in global change impacts, the complexities associated with the interconnected cycling of nitrogen, carbon, and water present management challenges. An increasing awareness of the unintended consequences of management decisions resulting from interconnectedness of these sub-systems, however, necessitates coupled regional earth system models (EaSMs). Decision makers’ needs and priorities can be integrated into the model design and development processes to enhance decision-making relevance and “usability” of EaSMs. BioEarth is a research initiative currently under development with a focus on the U.S. Pacific Northwest region that explores the coupling of multiple stand-alone EaSMs to generate usable information for resource decision-making. This paper describes the BioEarth initiative and highlights opportunities and challenges associated with coupling multiple stand-alone models to generate usable information for agricultural and natural resource decision-making.

Special Reports / Announcements

EPA Awarding Grants to Protect and Restore Wetlands

EPA is awarding $1 million in grants to strengthen the capacity of states and Tribes to protect and restore wetlands. Our Nation's wetlands provide a variety of ecosystem services including climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration and climate change adaptation by protecting shorelines from extreme weather events and sea level rise. The National Wetland Program Development Grants provide interstate agencies, intertribal consortia, and non-profit organizations with funding to develop and refine comprehensive state, Tribal, and local wetland programs. All six proposed projects are linked to environmental results and include wetland restoration and training such as the "Living Shoreline Academy." 

Rapid Ecoregional Assessment Data Portal

Rapid Ecoregional Assessments (REAs) are a Bureau of Land Management effort to understand existing conditions at a landscape-scale and how these conditions may be altered by ongoing environmental changes and land use demands. A new REA Data Portal is now available. All data, maps, models, and reports for publicly released REAs can be accessed here: http://www.landscape.blm.gov/geoportal/catalog/main/portal.page

NOAA National Sea Grant Resilience Toolkit Released

Sea Grant has recently launched the National Resilience Toolkit, a combination of tools and resources developed over the past several years by the Sea Grant Network to assist local communities in becoming more resilient to climate change. As coastal populations grow, it becomes necessary for communities to become more resilient to several natural hazards, including water quality challenges, severe weather, and overall effects of climate change. Sea Grant programs are spread out across diverse communities and specialize in developing tools that are tailored to local needs. This toolkit allows users to learn about tools from across the entire network, giving them the opportunity to adapt tools for their own local needs. Each entry includes a description of the tools, a link for more information, and a point of contact. The toolkit combines more than 100 tools and will be updated as more tools are created.

Taking Action

Washingtonians Get First Look at Proposed Clean Fuels Standard

The government of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) offered an early glimpse of a proposed rule to curb carbon in state transportation fuels yesterday, readying the way for public debate on what has already become a divisive issue. In form, the proposed standard looks much like those already in place in Oregon and California. It aims to cut the carbon content of fuel sold and burned in-state by 10 percent over 10 years and would be operated through a system of auctions between clean power generators, which produce credits, and fuel sellers, which must purchase them.

Forest Service Pulls Protested Plan to Spend $10M on Image

Faced with a backlash from current and retired employees, the U.S. Forest Service has abruptly dropped plans to spend up to $10 million on a five-year nationwide public relations campaign to brand itself as a public agency that cares about people and nature. The Forest Service issued a statement Tuesday saying that it had not accepted any contract bids and would look for other ways to enhance the public's access to national forests and understanding about what the agency does. The agency has been facing an intense public backlash in the West over plans to close trails and roads to motorized vehicles due to a lack of money for maintenance, as well as to prevent erosion and protect fish and wildlife.

USDA Opens Public Comment Period for Agricultural Conservation Easement Program Interim Final Rule

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting public comments on its interim final rule for the new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), designed to help producers protect working agricultural lands and wetlands. The 2014 Farm Bill consolidated three previous conservation easement programs into ACEP to make it easier for diverse agricultural landowners to fully benefit from conservation initiatives. USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) administers ACEP, a voluntary program created in the 2014 Farm bill to protect and restore critical wetlands on private and tribal lands through the wetland reserve easement component. ACEP also encourages farmers, ranchers and non-industrial private forest landowners to keep their private and tribal land in agricultural use through the agricultural land easement component. ACEP also conserves grasslands, including rangeland, pastureland and shrubland. 

Grizzly Bear Restoration in North Cascades Ecosystem

The public is invited to participate in a series of informational open houses regarding restoration of grizzly bears in the North Cascades ecosystem. The meetings are being held by the National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as part of the Grizzly Bear Restoration Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process for the North Cascades ecosystem. “The Grizzly Bear Recovery Plan calls on us to fully consider the restoration of the grizzly bear in the North Cascades, and this process will ensure we solicit the public for their input before putting any plan into action,” said FWS Pacific Regional Director Robyn Thorson. “We will continue to work with our partners to make this an open and transparent process.” The North Cascades ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia, Canada. The United States portion of the ecosystem includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. 

Tribal and Indigenous Peoples Matters

Blended Ecological Research Suggests Role for Traditional Knowledge in Forest Management

A study by scientists with the USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest and Southwest Research Stations, in cooperation with expert weavers from the Grand Ronde, Karuk, Siletz, and Yakama Tribes, demonstrated that traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about good sites for harvesting beargrass practices can be “crosswalked” with scientific ecological knowledge (SEK). The study sought to learn what forest conditions relate to harvest site quality of beargrass for tribal basketry, as this information is useful to foresters when management objectives include sustaining culturally important plant populations. During the summer of 2012, weavers and researchers visited 72 plots on national forests in California, Oregon, and Washington. On each plot the weavers classified the site as good, marginal, or poor according to their personal observations and harvesting experience. Forest Service staff measured variables likely to affect beargrass leaf quality, such as the number and diameter of all trees; amount and size of dead, down wood; and the color of beargrass leaves. Analysis of the field data revealed statistically significant differences in good and poor harvest sites across the three states and the two weaving styles represented. Beargrass having the desirable green color were associated with larger, but fewer trees and lower volumes of coarse woody debris.

The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals Video “Adapting to Change”

The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals (ITEP) recently released a video “Adapting to Change,” which highlights both the climate change challenges faced by indigenous peoples and the efforts being put forth to protect natural and cultural resources. The video explains climate-induced changes like sea-level rise, warming temperatures, and flooding that impact communities throughout the Pacific Northwest and around the globe. Also featured in the video are a number of individuals and organizations working to discuss, understand, and put forth efforts to develop adaptation strategies and mitigate climate change impacts. A number of NPLCC and partner-supported efforts are highlighted in the video, with accounts from Tribal members and staff from a number of communities within the NPLCC range.