The Arid Lands Initiative partners (and others working on conservation and resource management issues across the Columbia Plateau in Washington State) are using the ALI’s shared priorities to guide or inform their decisions. Here are some examples of projects that have used the ALI’s shared priorities.
WDNR’s Natural Heritage and Natural Areas Programs are updating their Natural Heritage Plan, with a particular focus on the East Cascades and the Columbia Plateau. The ALI shared priorities provide a landscape context—including connectivity and climate change considerations—to this effort, intended to identify areas to include in the Natural Areas Network in Washington. The ALI also helps highlight overlap between WDNR’s and partners’ priority areas.
WDFW’s 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan has received public comment and is now approved. WDFW is complementing their traditional focus on species and ecosystems with places—priority landscapes—where focus is needed to “conserve iconic landscapes whose future status depends on collaboration across multiple jurisdictions and interests.” Once priority landscapes are identified, the ALI priorities will help inform the development of place-based landscape conservation action plans in WDFW’s Priority Landscapes in the Columbia Plateau.
Audubon’s Lower Columbia Basin Chapter is using the ALI’s shared vision to support efforts to add remediated lands to the Hanford Reach National Monument. Audubon Washington, in addition to supporting this effort, is looking to use the ALI spatial priorities and decision-support tools to inform decisions on areas and projects to enhance resilience of shrubs steppe habitats and birds to fire and climate change. ALI mapping was used to create and implement citizen science avian monitoring to provide gap data informing future conservation planning.
The ALI shared priorities, as well as the Columbia Plateau Connectivity Analysis (which informed the ALI’s priority connectivity corridors), informed a synthesis by the Great Northern Landscape Conservation Cooperative’s (GNLCC) Cascadia Partner Forum, to articulate priority areas to connect the north Cascades landscapes with lower elevations ecoregions and neighboring mountain ranges.
The Wenatchee Field Office of the BLM used the ALI’s spatial priorities to provide a landscape context during their Land Health Evaluation process in the Douglas Creek watershed. This evaluation informed multiple grazing lease renewals and upland and riparian restoration actions, some of which were challenged. BLM prevailed, thanks to the science foundation underlying their decisions.
The Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) has used the ALI shared priorities to inform decisions on where to reach out to private landowners to encourage them to sign up for the suite of programs nested under the Sage Grouse Initiative.
NRCS, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and other federal and state partners are using the ALI shared priorities to help delineate areas for possible Grasslands of Special Significance. A GSS-designation will guide efforts to obtain conservation easements through NRCS’s new Agricultural Conservation Easement Program, and would result in a higher proportion of easement costs being eligible for NRCS funding.
A conservation agreement is a legally binding document about conservation actions agreed to by the Service and the land owner, that address the needs of fish, wildlife, and plant species within a specific area, while allowing land use activities to continue. For example, grazing under specific conditions can occur while protecting shrub-steppe habitat and greater sage-grouse. The ALI shared priority areas are informing decisions on where conservation agreements, such as candidate conservation agreements with assurances, should be pursued to yield the greatest conservation benefit to shrub steppe species and habitat.
USFWS is using the ALI shared priorities to support prioritization of shrub-steppe restoration projects on private lands funded under the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.
The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) Spokane District is using the ALI shared priorities in their Resource Management Plan update process. The ALI spatial priorities are informing the restoration management actions included within the analyzed range of alternatives.
BLM used the ALI shared priorities to support their nomination of the Columbia Plateau Ecoregion as a Healthy Lands Initiative Focus Area, which includes a request for project funding in two project areas corresponding to highly ranked ALI priority conservation areas, Lincoln County Scablands, and Moses Coulee. The requested funding is approximately $900,000 over five years.
The ALI shared priorities have been used by the federal and state agencies who are ALI partners (BLM, USFWS, and WDFW) during the BLM’s environmental assessment of Pacific Power’s proposed Vantage to Pomona Heights Transmission Line Project. Specifically, the ALI priority core areas, considered key habitat essential to sage-grouse conservation and recovery, are being utilized in the development of Pacific Power’s Greater Sage-Grouse Compensatory Mitigation Plan to address the project’s residual impacts, and to aid in the identification of potential mitigation projects.
WDFW has used the ALI shared priorities and underlying information to provide supporting rationale for proposed acquisitions within the Columbia Plateau, namely applications for funding to acquire the Grand Coulee Ranch in Douglas County. The first phase of funding is complete, and the project is teed up for funding through Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program (WWRP), pending allocation decisions in the state budgetary process.