FORESTS AND FISH: ADAPTIVE MANAGEMENT

Condensed from a paper by Jim Hotvedt, Adaptive Management Program Administrator

In the January issue of the SFL Newsletter, we began our new “Adaptive Management” feature by providing some context and history for the Forests and Fish Report. This month we’re focusing on the development of the Forest Practices Adaptive Management Program.

Addressing Scientific Uncertainty
Since the mid-1980s and the creation of the 1987 Timber, Fish, and Wildlife (TFW) Agreement, Washington’s forest practices stakeholders recognized there are gaps in the science related to the impacts from active forest management on water quality and public resources including aquatic species. The TFW participants agreed to let science guide decision-making about resource protection requirements in the forest practices rules and guidance, and called for the use of adaptive management as a framework for managing forest practices.

Subsequently, the authors of the 1999 Forests and Fish Report also recommended an adaptive management program. Specific areas of scientific uncertainty, key questions, resource objectives and performance targets for the program were documented in an appendix to the report known as Schedule L-1.

In 1999 the Washington State Legislature carried the adaptive management element forward by directing the Forest Practices Board, in its adoption of rules following the Forests and Fish Report recommendations, to incorporate into the rules and to implement the scientifically based adaptive management process described in the report. This means any changes to the protection requirements for public resources in the forest practices rules must be consistent with recommendations resulting from the adaptive management process, unless otherwise made by order of a court or through legislation.

Finally, the 2005 federal approval of DNR’s Forest Practices Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) made the State’s commitment to adaptive management a federal requirement as well.

Adaptive Management Program Rules
According to the Forest Practices Board’s rules on the Adaptive Management Program (WAC 222-12-045), the purpose of the program is to:

“…provide science-based recommendations and technical information to assist the board in determining if and when it is necessary or advisable to adjust rules and guidance for aquatic resources to achieve resource goals and objectives…”

The rules also specify key questions and resource objectives, participants and their roles, and the use of the Cooperative Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Committee (CMER) to impose accountability and a formalized process to achieve the resource objectives.

Program Elements
The Forests and Fish Report recommended a well-organized structure for conducting adaptive management. The Forest Practices Board sets resource objectives for the program, and sets priorities for action, recommends budgets, provides fiscal and management oversight, and is the final step of dispute resolution among stakeholders.

The Board is also responsible for enacting the necessary rule changes.

Desired outcomes of the program include:

  • Providing certainty of change to protect targeted resources;
  • Ensuring predictability and stability of the process; and
  • Using quality controls for study design, execution, and interpretation.

Participants
Participants in the Forest Practices Adaptive Management Program include the Forest Practices Board, the Cooperative Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Committee; the Timber Fish and Wildlife Policy Committee; an Adaptive Management Program Administrator; and those necessary to conduct an independent scientific peer review process to participate in the program.

Next newsletter: The Cooperative Monitoring, Evaluation and Research Committee.