Kit Muller, management and program analyst at the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), provided five characteristics necessary to fostering successful landscape-based collaborations:
- Shared goals
- Shared understanding of risks and potential tradeoffs
- Shared commitment to the undertaking required for management actions
- Shared commitment to evaluating and reporting on progress
- Shared commitment to adapting to new information
The shared understanding of risks and potential tradeoffs, he added, is a key characteristic of successful multi-resource analysis (MRA). Managing a collaboration is often more challenging than the scientific research—the social context is important.
Mr. Muller discussed a series of proposed Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Conservation Plans as a new way for the BLM to operate. Sage grouse across the western states have declined in number over the past century due to the loss of sagebrush habitats. Greater sage-grouse habitat covers 165 million acres across 11 states, which represents a 56 percent loss in the historic range of sage-grouse habitat; the BLM estimates that the sage-grouse population numbered in the millions but declined to between 200,000 and 500,000. The BLM, U.S. Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are developing the proposed Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Conservation Plans to ensure the protection of remaining habitat. Planned actions focus on three major management strategies: manage disturbance, restore habitat, and re-
duce the risk of wild fire. These plans are also a framework for conservation and development in the sagebrush biome on which further efforts can be built upon.
One example of the BLM building on such a framework is the development of a mobile-app that helps to track disturbances online at a project level and helps land managers better assess intactness across the landscape. Mr. Muller said that if the BLM is going to only allow a limited amount of disturbance per tract of land, then the agency will have to either reduce an overall amount of disturbance or stop authorizing new disturbances. Also building on the framework approach, the BLM and USDA have committed to better monitoring and reporting by agreeing on a core set of indicators and standard methodologies for collecting data pertaining to terrestrial conditions.1 By combining sampling efforts, the BLM and NRCS can report on a wide range of terrestrial conditions. Another opportunity, Mr. Muller said, would be to build on existing assessments conducted in support of the Sage-Grouse and Sagebrush Conservation Plans in the Great Basin. A larger research effort could be developed around identifying ecosystem services provided by the implementation of the plans and identifying gaps in ecosystem services that remain. A similar analysis of existing assessments would also help to identify other gaps in the scientific knowledge pertaining to conservation, and further the use of the plans as a framework for building conservation and development efforts in a large biome.
Elsa Haubold, National Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCC) coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, presented several examples from the LCCs to provide a perspective on challenges to implementing multi-resource analysis (MRA).2 Twenty-two LCCs were created by the Department of the Interior in 2009 with Secretarial Order 3289.3 The LCCs form a network of resource managers and scientists that work across jurisdictions to better integrate science and management into conservation. Each LCC is a self-directed partnership of federal, state, and local governments along with tribes and first nations, nongovernmental organizations, universities, and interested public and private organizations that work collaboratively to identify best practices, connect efforts, identify science gaps, and avoid duplication through conservation planning and design. Although the Fish and Wildlife Service leads a majority of the LCCs, there is one in the Caribbean led by the U.S. Forest Service and others co-led by the Bureau of Reclamation and National Park Service. Dr. Haubold explained that MRA can be defined and integrated into an overarching framework to guide deci-
1MacKinnon, W.C., J.W. Karl, G.R. Toevs, J.J. Taylor, M. Karl, C.S. Spurrier, and J.E. Herrick. 2011. BLM core terrestrial indicators and methods. Tech Note 440. U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management, National Operations Center, Denver, CO [Available online: www.blm.gov/nstc/library/pdf/TN440.pdf].
3 Former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued Secretarial Order Number 3289 “Addressing the Impacts of Climate Change on America’s Water, Land, and Other Natural and Cultural Resources” in September 2009.
sion making. The phrase “guide decision making,” she said, is critical and is an issue the LCCs are trying to better address. By incorporating decision makers early in a process, a decision-making guidance product can be developed that is clear in its conservation objective and in how the decision maker should use the product.
The South Atlantic LCC spans several state boundaries from Virginia to Florida and developed a mission to create a shared blueprint for landscape conservation actions that sustain natural and cultural resources. The LCC developed 29 ecosystem indicators and targets, which included targets such as improved habitat and individual species’ populations.4 The LCC held regional blueprint workshops to identify priority landscapes and integrate existing conservation plans. Dr. Haubold emphasized that there is a tremendous amount of existing information available that needs to be integrated into the planning process. The LCC launched the blueprint in 2014 and already issued an updated version for review. To make the planning process more quantitative, the LCC updated the revised blueprint with more data.
Dr. Haubold said that the key relationships among resources that need to be incorporated into MRA depend on the objectives for and scale of the landscape. She provided a case study of the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC, which is restoring the connectivity between the Great Lakes and their tributaries. The challenge to meeting this objective is the over 270,000 barriers, such as roads and dams; however, many of these tributary barriers are necessary to prevent the spread of invasive species, such as the Asian carp. The Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC determined which barriers provide the most benefit and which ones could be removed. A model was developed that optimized the amount of habitat gained with dollars spent based on barriers identified by the LCC. Incorporating the Department of Transportation into the assessment and decision making was critical because of their mission to oversee and maintain roadways.
Datasets needed for MRA, similar to the necessary key relationships, also depend on the scale of the objectives to be attained. The South Atlantic LCC, for example, needed current land cover to attain their objective of developing a shared blueprint for landscape conservation actions. Dr. Haubold described the Appalachian LCC’s priority of assessing energy development in the Appalachian region. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) developed the Pennsylvania Energy Impacts Assessment for the LCC that assessed the potential for energy development in the region;5 however, TNC did not start from scratch with datasets, she said. There were existing datasets and information made available by establishing a rich collaborative of stakeholders and different communities.
TNC’s assessment identified areas with a high probability of having over 50 years of wind, shale gas, and surface coal mining development as they pertain to intact forests (Figure 3-1). Similarly, the assessment identified energy develop-
FIGURE 3-1 Modeling outputs for intact forest and energy develop probability (top) and for watersheds and energy development probability (bottom).
SOURCE: Elsa Haubold, Presentation, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop, June 2, 2015, Washington, D.C.
ment as it pertains to watersheds. The assessment also identified watersheds of high importance for drinking water supply, and watersheds of high importance with the scenario of the highest level of energy development. This analysis was critical for communities to assess how energy development could potentially impact drinking water supplies.
Dr. Haubold summarized by emphasizing that no single organization can tackle future challenges. A landscape-based framework to guide decision making requires bringing partners together to develop shared visions, goals, and objectives; identify existing datasets and data gaps; and achieve objectives collectively by sharing resources and overcoming jurisdictional barriers. Key relationships among resources depend on the scale of the landscape, and need to be identified by the partners in the collaboration. Datasets should have some level of standardization in data collection methodology and the type of data being collected. This would allow for data across a landscape or multiple landscapes to be more easily and accurately compared. Stakeholder fatigue is another key consideration when establishing collaborations due to limited staff capacity within most agencies. Finally, landscape conservation, she said, occurs locally, but must be thought of regionally.
Ione Taylor, executive director of Earth and Energy Resources Leadership at Queens University, discussed challenges to and new approaches for MRA. Natural resource modeling, she said, is changing from descriptive, monitoring-based approaches to multi-discipline and multi-purpose assessments that integrate information across scenarios (Figure 3-2). Similarly, model layering is incorporating more interactivity and interoperability of data and other models; however, Dr. Taylor noted that progress in the interconnectivity of models occurred in a patchwork way and not as a whole system.
Dr. Taylor described integrating MRA as a disruptive technology with many considerations, including the following:
- Consideration of both monetary and non-monetary value of all products, services, and processes (e.g., natural capital, ecosystem services)
- Multiple, inter-connected resources and their associated cycles
- A wide range of disciplines (i.e., geoscience, engineering, business, economic, environmental, stakeholder, policy, and regulatory)
- Goals to improve risk assessment and decision-making ability despite uncertainty and complexity
- Recognition that risks are involved and rewards are uncertain
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), for example, seeks to integrate hydrology, geology, economics, biology, and ecosystems into derivative products and services that take a higher-level approach to informing decision making. This requires overcoming the polarization that occurs between extractive industries interested in developing natural resources and those interested in conservation.
FIGURE 3-2 Trends in natural resource models.
SOURCE: Ione Taylor, Presentation, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop, June 2, 2015, Washington, D.C.
The challenge, Dr. Taylor said, is that conservationists view the economy as a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment, while industry views their impacts as environmental externalities. Most of society, however, lies in the middle of this polarization and is composed of consumers that wish to reduce their impact on the environment. MRA can break this polarization and can be considered a disruptive technology.
Another challenge to conducting MRA is the silos that exist within and among federal agencies. Horizontal integration must occur by opening those silos and determining which subsets of individual disciplines need to be incorporated into the process, she said.6 An analytical decision science framework and model helps to facilitate this horizontal integration by changing the process from one that is provider-driven (i.e., economist or scientist) to a process that is client-
6 Although not presented by Dr. Taylor, the USGS was a sponsor of the recent NRC report that addresses the issue of horizontal integration across disciplines and federal agencies: National Research Council (NRC). 2013. Sustainability for the Nation: Resource Connection and Governance Linkages. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press. [Available: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/13471/sustainability-for-the-nation-resource-connection-and-governance-linkages].
driven (i.e., land or resource manager). A broader framework that integrates across all the silos within or among agencies, Dr. Taylor said, will deliver a more useful product for a land or resource manager.
Dr. Taylor commented that approaching a problem at the right scale is a critical component of defining boundaries around a decision. Most resource work is conducted at a single scale of analysis using data collected at that scale when a multi-scale-based approach is needed. Scaling up is also a challenge because only some data types are additive, and variability and complexity of natural systems may be lost when data that are not additive are aggregated. The scale at which data are collected and aggregated most frequently may not be useful for the question at hand. One of the most difficult tasks is determining what level of complexity is needed and which components need more or less complexity. There is a physical scale to a scenario, she added, but also a temporal scale. Using knowledge derived from outcomes at a small scale to predict and manage large-scale phenomena can be challenging, because outcomes at a large scale are likely to have characteristics that cannot be predicted from the outcomes derived from the small scale. Similarly, outcomes at a small scale are likely to have characteristics that cannot be predicted from outcomes derived at a large scale. Large-scale processes and relationships mask the variability that exists at smaller scales.
At the temporal scale, slow-moving variables are considered external to a system for simplification in order to focus on fast-moving variables when studying short periods of time. Slow moving variables, at times, are not important, but can be key drivers to a system at other times. Dr. Taylor noted that time is an important consideration, and has worked with managers within BLM who were very interested in assessing the impact variables have cumulatively through time as decisions are made.
Dr. Taylor also commented on the social elements necessary to integrate different aspects of MRA in order to develop the most useful product. There is a disconnect between the subject matter expert developing a dataset and the land use manager making decisions based on that data. There is a range in agreement with a decision that is a function of the uncertainty in the decision; the larger the uncertainty, the less agreement there will be with the decision. Often, she remarked, the degree of certainty with a decision depends on the complexity of the issue; however, it is critical for both the subject matter expert and the land use manager to change their mindsets so that all parties can move towards agreement even with great uncertainty. It is expertise, however, that hinders their ability to change their mindsets, but change is critical in order to optimize the process and work towards a successful decision.
The Center for Creative Leadership developed a model called Boundary Spanning Leadership, which guides expert groups on how to span boundaries (Figure 3-3).7 First, it is necessary to bring the right subject matter experts to-
FIGURE 3-3 Boundary Spanning Leadership developed by the Center for Creative Leadership.
SOURCE: Ione Taylor, Presentation, National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop, June 2, 2015, Washington, D.C.
gether. Dr. Taylor noted that this step requires listening to experts and recognizing where there is overlap in fields represented by the group. Next, the experts in the group need to leave their comfort zones to collectively envision something new. The final two steps are to begin weaving the subject matter pieces together and transforming the group’s vision into a new, fully integrated team. Dr. Taylor provided an example of the application of Boundary Spanning Leadership during initial work on an MRA from the Powder River Basin. Her expectation with the MRA was that the geographic boundaries of the analysis would be agreed upon by the group quickly, and would be composed of the outline of the mineral deposit in the subsurface as projected onto the land surface. Another participant, however, strongly felt that the boundaries should be the range of habitat of a potentially endangered species. Dr. Taylor said that in facilitating the work of the team she already had moved to the fourth step of the Boundary Spanning Leadership model integrating the pieces before the first few steps of understanding the group dynamics. It took several more hours of discussion among the group before the geographic boundaries of the MRA were decided upon. Dr. Taylor concluded that the Powder River Basin MRA was an important learning experience, and that there needs to be more training for senior management to understand how to break down boundaries to more efficiently integrate concepts and reach the fifth step of the process—transforming into a new, fully integrated group.