Looking Beyond Borders and Planning for Change in Alaska

The BSWI RMP sets a land use vision for a large area of central and western Alaska.Map from BLM.

The BSWI RMP sets a land use vision for a large area of central and western Alaska.Map from BLM.

Alaskans are creating the first comprehensive land use plan for a Michigan-sized area of forest, tundra, and salmon-producing rivers. Sandwiched between the vast forested heart of the state and the Bering Sea coast, the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Bering Sea Western Interior (BSWI) Resource Management Plan sets high level goals for the next two decades.

In Alaska, generally speaking, the National Park Service manages mountainous lands, Fish and Wildlife Service handles lowlands and swamps, while the Bureau of Land Management and the state of Alaska manage middle uplands. BLM-managed lands literally link together Alaska’s protected lands and carry a multi-use mandate. Of the 62.3 million acres in the planning area, BLM manages 13.4 million strategically-positioned acres.

The agency manages a portion of the study area, but according to Jorjena Barringer, Project Manager for the Bureau of Land Management’s for Bering Sea Western Interior (BSWI) Resource Management Plan, it makes sense to look past boundary lines.

“We need to take into consideration what is occurring outside of the BLM-managed public lands so that we can anticipate what might happen across a landscape, across different landownerships, and take that into conservation in our planning,” said Barringer. “We have to think about being consistent with land owners, for instance, National Wildlife Refuges, Native Corporation lands, or state lands.”

The Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative (NWB LCC), a US-Canada science and conservation partnership, is helping contribute landscape-scale science and conservation management support to the process. Two NWB LCC projects across Alaska and Canada can assist the complex planning work.

One project explores potential corridors between protected lands that are immune to both expected and unknown changes from a warming climate. Led by Dr. Dawn Magness, a landscape ecologist for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the corridors are based on factors like elevation, slope, aspect, and solar radiation. A warming climate will not change these more permanent attributes of a landscape.

Logging hundreds of computer processing hours, the analysis calculates potential links between Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge and the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge. It accounts for several different terrain types, from the high ridges where lynx roam to the river flats where moose feed. While Alaska’s protected lands are large, they’re not immune to fragmentation. And Alaska’s lands are still healthy enough that they can serve as an intact system with careful planning. Landscape connectivity was identified as the number one climate adaptation action that managers can take (Heller and Zavaleta, 2009.

The boreal region has warmed at twice the rate of the global average and is expected to continue to quickly warm. Exactly how much warmer and how it affects the landscape is less clear. Kim Lisgo of the Canadian BEACONs Project is helping LCC partners handle uncertainty cast by both anthropogenic change and a warming climate. Future resource managers will not be able to manage to achieve historic norms if the climate warms at the expected rates.

The BEACONs analysis of potentially representative regions, called ecological benchmarks, could serve as an experimental control to tease apart human-caused effects in areas managed for multiple uses. Ecological benchmarks are living, breathing ecosystems that are changing in response to climate drivers. As scientists notice change within the “control” area, they can know that a landscape-scale factor like climate or invasive species may be the cause. Amid a rapidly warming climate, and managers can

The BLM process for the massive land plan includes resource management ranging from gold mining to reindeer grazing and recreational snowmobiling. Permitting those uses in a way that achieves the BLM’s mandate requires new considerations in the decades ahead. BLM’s Barringer said dealing with uncertainty requires a flexible approach.

“What we can do is, ideally, utilize an adaptive management approach in how we go about making decisions given these unknowns and how we might adjust our management and our decisions within the plan according to what we see happening in those trends,” said Barringer.

Just as an uncertain climate makes looking two decades ahead difficult, there are a considerable range of possibilities for how in the coming years. Depending on the performance of the global economy, oil markets, gold prices, economic development, rural Alaska and Canada will experience varying levels of change.

NWB LCC Coordinator Amanda Robertson attended a meeting to present climate-smart concepts and answer questions about ways to incorporate landscape-scale language, science, and management into a formal plan. The LCC’s engagement with BLM is not new; Robertson in 2015 taught Climate Smart training for several members of the planning group, and BLM is a central partner in the LCC’s 30-plus member steering committee.

Barringer said while landscape-wide thinking is not brand new, it is new to many of the big planning efforts that drive decades of policy.

“There is a big push now to utilize landscape level planning, more so than the past. That’s very new and different compared to the past. To incorporate adaptive management and incorporate some specific monitoring  that BLM has been working on– Assessment  Inventory and Monitoring— as well as mitigation,” said Barringer.  “I think a lot of what we’ll see in this plan going forward will be a little cutting edge compared to earlier resource management plans.”

Scientists and managers are refining several alternatives for the land use plan this year. A draft resource management plan is expected in 2017. The team will take it through another round of public comment before a final plan is complete in approximately 2019.

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New Study Encourages Inclusion of Adaptive Capacity when Assessing Vulnerability

Calling pika_ShanaWeberPhD_EastHumboldtRange_NV(This USGS article originally appeared here)

Assessing the vulnerability of wildlife species to a changing climate is critical for understanding what adaptation actions need to be taken to minimize negative impacts. The ability of species to adapt to the impacts of climate change (i.e., their adaptive capacity) is an important factor to consider when assessing vulnerability. For example, organisms can possess traits that allow them to move to areas of favorable habitat or change their phenotypes (observable characteristics) in response to changing environmental conditions. Additionally, an organism’s traits can adapt to a changing external environment over multiple generations through evolutionary processes. Adaptive capacity accounts for coping mechanisms such as changes in behavior, movements including shifts in geographical range and distribution, as well as genetic evolution to adjust to environmental or ecological stressors.

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North Pacific LCC Seeks Tribal Climate Change Management Intern

NPLCC Tribal Climate Change Management Intern ad photoIn partnership with the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) and Indian Affairs Northwest, the North Pacific Landscape Conservation Cooperative(NPLCC) is pleased to announce a tribal climate change management internship opportunity working in our Olympia, WA office. Application deadline is Tuesday, May 31.

In addition to the NPLCC position, there are 5 other tribal climate change research and management opportunities with ATNI and Bureau of Indian Affairs in Oregon and Washington. These paid internships will last 13 weeks over the summer months and candidates must currently be enrolled in graduate or undergraduate degree programs. Candidates will be considered from a range of academic backgrounds including public affairs, social policy, legal, engineering, environmental science, environmental management, or similar degree.

The intern selected to work with the NPLCC will assist in collaboration with area Tribes and First Nations to understand and adapt to our changing environment. Specific tasks include:

  • Planning and support of a regional Tribe/First Nation Committee gathering
  • Assisting NPLCC Science/Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Communication staff and subcommittees in improving how we connect with our Tribe and First Nation partners
  • Develop strategies that improve coordination between the NPLCC and other forums that engage tribes on climate-related topics
  • And much more!

This partnership offers the NPLCC a great opportunity to strengthen our engagement with Tribes and First Nations and we look forward to choosing a dynamic applicant.

Learn more and apply here!

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Northwest Boreal & Arctic LCC are both hiring new Science Coordinators!

Science Coordinator AdPositions close Tuesday, May 31

The Science Coordinator is classified as a GS-12 or GS-13 position.

More information on the position is found on USAJobs.gov

R7-16-1700025-ES   Merit Promotion Status Candidates
R7-16-1700024-ES   U.S. Citizens

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Webinar – Conserving Nature’s Stage the Relevance of Geodiversity to Conservation Planning

USDA Science & Technology Training LibraryBoreal forests around the world are expecting large changes to tree composition, wildfire schedules, and land use. But not all will happen at once: vegetation composition will change faster than melting permafrost, which will change faster than more permanent geological features. The Northwest Boreal Landscape Conservation Cooperative is looking at geodiversity– the diversity of materials and processes that shape the earth as a method for building landscape resiliency by maintaining connectivity between protected lands. Dr. Dawn Magness of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has analyzed potential corridors across Alaska’s national parks and wildlife refuges. [http://nwblcc.org/?page_id=1108]

Dr. Paul Beier of Northern Arizona University, who’s work informed Dr. Magness’ work, will give an introduction to geodiversity in an June 8, 2016 webinar, with a special emphasis on soil’s role in biodiversity and practical applications of geodiversity.

June 8, 2016 — 10 AM Alaska

More information

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ABoVE Science Cloud Webinar this Friday, 5/20/16

ABoVE LogoThe group organizing the ABoVE Science Cloud (ASC) has recently begun a webinar series about the ASC, focused primarily on providing a forum for users of the ASC to learn how access the cloud and use the provided capabilities to analyze data on the cloud. We hold these webinars on the 3rd Friday of the month at 1pm Eastern time, thus our next webinar is this Friday, May 20th at 1pm Eastern time (9am Alaska time). This will be a targeted webinar covering the dataset search tool available in the ASC, the process for adding new datasets (including metadata) to the ASC, and the organization of files on the ASC. We will also answer questions from users and go over any new announcements. Everyone on the ABoVE Science Team is welcome to attend, although this is most relevant for science team members with ASC accounts. If you aren’t able to make the webinar, we will record it so that you can view it later. See past webinars here>>.

Here is the webinar information for this Friday:

https://gsfc610.adobeconnect.com/sciencecloud/

When you enter the webinar room you can click either “Dial-out”, “dial-in”, “using microphone”, or “listen only”. If that does not work, please use the call-in line below:

USA Toll Free #: 1-844-467-4685

Participant Passcode: #:   119513

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Call for Papers and Early Bird Registration (Deadline – June 1)

Circumpolar Remote Sensing SymposiumThe 14th International Circumpolar Remote Sensing Symposium.

September 12-16, 2016

Homer, Alaska

More information.

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Tribal Communications Specialist Job Opening

Alaska region U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking excellent candidates for a Tribal USFWS LogoCommunications and Outreach Specialist.

Open now — Closes May 19

Links to USA Jobs are below:

R7-16-1697446-AV   Merit Promotion Status Candidates (GS-09/11)
R7-16-1695828-AV   U.S. Citizens (GS-09/11)
R7-16-1697730-AV   Merit Promotion Status Candidates (GS-12)
R7-16-1697554-AV   U.S. Citizens (GS-12)

Click here for more information.

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Position Announcement, to be posted mid-May — Science Communications Coordinator (Western AK LCC & AK CSC)

The Western Alaska Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) and the Alaska Climate Science Center (CSC) are seeking a Science Communications Coordinator to aid in the development of tools and products to assist decision makers and stakeholders coping with a host of climate-related challenges. Ideal applicants will have a strong background in science translation and the application of research findings to natural resource management. Watch for the official posting in USAJobs in mid-May 2016!

More information here!

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Position Announcement: Desert LCC Science Coordinator — Tucson, Arizona

Desert LCCOpen Now. Closes May, 11.

For more information:

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