Monitoring

Monitoring Groups

Reports and Plans


Monitoring vegetation along restored roads.

Monitoring vegetation along restored roads.

About the SWCC Monitoring Program

The SWCC identifies a strong monitoring program as a vital component to the success of the collaborative process and developed several goals for monitoring including:

  • Determining the effects of fuels and forest restoration efforts conducted under the CFLRP;
  • Validating or improving management approaches to achieve treatment objectives (i.e. through adaptive management);
  • Determining how the interaction of various forest treatments can generate landscape level effects that move the Southwestern Crown landscape toward a more resilient, high integrity ecosystem;
  • Using a multi-party approach to monitoring, including the use of citizen science and education efforts;
  • Setting a national example for monitoring the effects of forest management activities; and
  • Complying with FLRA.

The SWCC Monitoring Committee (Meeting Notes) was established by the SWCC Collaborative and is an open, voluntary group, comprised of experts in a range of subjects. Its members include agency personnel, university faculty, industry and NGO staff, and community members. The Monitoring Committee makes recommendations to the Collaborative on potential monitoring actions which may then be forwarded to the appropriate Forest Supervisor. The Monitoring Committee is subdivided into four working groups to better align their operations to the major goal areas within the CFLRP proposal and to allow more practical allocation of operational responsibilities for designing and conducting monitoring activities.

The Forest Landscape Restoration Act specifically requires a multi-party monitoring program for each CFLRP project. The benefits of a multi-party approach are: 

  1. Leveraging the expertise and capacity of resources outside the Forest Service
  2. Providing an unbiased evaluation of forest restoration treatments
  3. Providing educational experiences on forest restoration for local citizens

The SWCC proposal also recognizes the significance of public learning via involvement in monitoring activities, such that throughout the monitoring process efforts will be made to engage students and local residents in “citizen science” opportunities.

Adaptive Management
The results of the monitoring program will be used within an adaptive management framework to inform the planning and implementation of future management activities. However, monitoring results can also be used to revise goals and objectives, to adjust conceptual models and predictions about the systems in which management actions occur, or even to reassess the way in which a problem is framed. An annual two-day Adaptive Management Workshop is held at UM’s Lubrecht Experimental Forest to discuss monitoring results with land managers and resource specialists within the Forest Service. Summary reports and presentations from these workshops are available here: Adaptive Management Workshops.


Lynx at bait station.

Lynx at bait station.

Wildlife Monitoring

One of the goals of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act is to "improve fish and wildlife habitat, including for endangered, threatened, and sensitive species". The SWCC Wildlife Working Group has placed most of their effort on monitoring mid-sized carnivores some of which are listed under the Endangered Species Act or are proposed for listing. Because of the wide-ranging nature of forest carnivores, it is difficult to determine the effects that small-scale treatments may have on forest carnivores. However, forest carnivores could benefit from the efforts to effect landscape-scale changes, including restoring a natural balance of habitat conditions and disturbances, reducing roads, and restoring habitat for prey species.

Carnivore Monitoring Workshop: materials from December 2015 workshop

 

Current Wildlife projects:


GRAIP sediment trap (T. Black)

GRAIP sediment trap (T. Black)

Aquatics Monitoring

Several of the goals of the Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Act pertain to aquatic habitats, including:

  • Improve fish and wildlife habitat, including for endangered, threatened, and sensitive species;
  • Maintain or improve water quality and watershed function;
  • Prevent, remediate, or control invasions of exotic species; and
  • Maintain, decommission, and rehabilitate roads and trails.

Restoration treatments aimed at one or more of these goals will influence riparian habitats and their inhabitants. The SWCC Aquatics Monitoring Working Group has focused on two aquatics components: 1) sensitive fish species and 2) sediment delivery from roads to streams.

 

Current Aquatics monitoring projects:

Bull trout (R. Al-Chokhachy)

Bull trout (R. Al-Chokhachy)

Vegetation Monitoring

Fuels reduction and fire regime restoration are two of the primary goals of both the Forest Landscape Restoration Act (FLRA) and the Southwestern Crown Collaborative (SWCC). The SWCC proposal identifies the goal "within the WUI [Wildland-Urban Interface], reduce the risk of wildfire by removing fuels, especially small-diameter trees, while maintaining forest structure to protect ecosystem components”. The SWCC is also trying to restore forest processes that are currently under-represented in the landscape, compared to historical conditions, including low and mixed-severity fire regimes. Maintaining and promoting the growth of the large tree component, which is also under-represented, across the landscape is another focus. Finally, controlling and eradicating weeds is emphasized. The Vegetation Working Group is using multiple projects to answer questions about the effectiveness of these treatments at multiple scales. Current Monitoring Projects:

Social and Economic Monitoring

Collaborative, landscape-scale forest management is a relatively new paradigm for the Forest Service and their stakeholders. Therefore, our social monitoring focuses on tracking the attitudes towards management activities conducted under the CFLR program and towards the collaborative process.

Two of the expected benefits of accelerated forest restoration under CFLRP are local job creation and a reduction in wildfire management costs. Therefore, economic monitoring focuses on tracking job creation, impacts on local businesses, contract attributes, and treatment costs and benefits.

Current monitoring projects:

 

Citizen Science

What do we mean by “citizen science”? Citizen Science efforts are those projects that use trained volunteers and scientists together to answer local questions, inform natural resource decisions, advance scientific understanding, or improve environmental education. More generally, citizen science includes efforts to educate local community members about issues through outreach and field-based events. They may be one-time events or include repeated monitoring over time.

Why should we do citizen science? The Forest Landscape Restoration Act specifically requires a multi-party monitoring program for each CFLRP project. The benefits of a multi-party approach are to 1) leverage the expertise and capacity of resources outside the Forest Service, 2) provide an unbiased evaluation of forest restoration treatments, and 3) to provide educational experiences on forest restoration for local citizens. The SWCC Monitoring Committee has identified public learning about natural resource management as a parallel goal to understanding treatment effectiveness throughout the monitoring program.

Highlighted Projects:

 

Montana Conservation Crew helping with the Rapid Forest Assessment in the Swan Valley.

Montana Conservation Crew helping with the Rapid Forest Assessment in the Swan Valley.

Debbie Anderson of the Montana Discovery Foundation gives an introduction during a field day with SWCC partners and high school students from Lincoln.

Debbie Anderson of the Montana Discovery Foundation gives an introduction during a field day with SWCC partners and high school students from Lincoln.