VI. Adaptive Management and Monitoring

I. Current Situation: Where are we now?


The Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon focuses on conservation strategies associated with the “four Hs” — habitat, hatcheries, harvest and hydropower, in the context of a dynamic natural environment. There is much we do not understand about fish and how they interact with their ecosystems, and how well our individual and collective conservation actions will produce the intended effects in each watershed and region. Therefore, the strategy uses a science-based approach to assess how well strategy elements are working and to make changes based on new information. This science-based approach will deliberately shape management actions to generate needed information.


The strategy is also based on adaptive management. This approach sets deliberate courses of action in the face of uncertainty to address critical questions. It also generates information needed to make improved decisions about what works and what doesn’t. This will provide a continuous management system where specific objectives are identified, actions monitored and evaluated, and direction affirmed or changed based on new results. This will improve the overall quality and efficiency of management decisions and actions over time.


A comprehensive monitoring program is a critical element of the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon that allows us to determine trends in fish populations, to determine how well the elements of the strategy are working, to test key assumptions, and to implement an adaptive management approach. In terms of importance, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has identified monitoring, along with substantive conservation actions and implementation certainty, as essential ingredients of conservation plans prepared in response to listings under the Endangered Species Act.


Monitoring is currently performed by agencies and others, but it is typically not well coordinated and integrated, nor is it clearly focused on key salmon strategy components and questions. Examples of obstacles that exist include inadequate communication and coordination, conflicting or non-complementary agency interests or mandates, underlying technical issues, data integration and sharing, and funding.


The purpose of this chapter is to provide an overview of general approaches, relationships and issues for consideration in development of the comprehensive adaptive management and monitoring component of the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon. Most components of the strategy focus on individual conservation elements (e.g., instream flow, agriculture, fish harvest, forest practices), which may individually contain adaptive management and monitoring systems. However, development of the adaptive management and monitoring component for the strategy cuts across all elements and sectors.

II.       Goals and Objectives: Where do we want to be?


·         Develop and implement a decision-making system that is guided by the best available science and that uses new information generated from conservation actions.

·         Accurately assess the responses in salmon, steelhead and trout populations and their habitats to specific strategies undertaken.


·         Establish a scientific foundation for the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon and the monitoring component.

·         Develop and promote the use of appropriate analysis and assessment tools, monitoring plans and guidance to support the strategy and related watershed and regional responses.

·         Develop and promote complementary, integrated and flexible approaches for the collection, analysis and sharing of monitoring information within and across sites, watersheds and regions.

·         Provide leadership, coordination and technical assistance to agencies and other Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon partners.

·         Provide information needed to prepare the biennial “State of the Salmon” report.

III.      Solutions: What is the route to success?

Development of the comprehensive adaptive management and monitoring program will be difficult. There are few examples where adaptive management systems have been successfully implemented and sustained. As stated above, there is much we do not yet understand about how to best help salmon recover. There are many differences between salmon species and stocks, and between regional and watershed conditions. Monitoring and evaluation technologies themselves may often be limited and information from them can be of poor quality. Costs are always a concern.


The Joint Natural Resources Cabinet expects that each agency/partner will commit to monitor the implementation of its respective conservation actions. Through the development of the comprehensive monitoring program, needs and priorities will be clarified, and a phased approach will be developed to direct available funding and cooperative partnerships. At a minimum, the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet stresses the need for coordination, integration and, where possible, reprioritization of existing agency/partner monitoring activities to meet priority needs.


The 1999 legislature passed, and the Governor signed, 2E2SSB 5595 which recognized the need for development of a coordinated and integrated monitoring process to track and assess the effectiveness of salmon habitat projects and recovery activities. That legislation identified a role for the Independent Science Panel to provide recommendations related to various aspects of monitoring and data quality, and to summarize their findings in a report to the legislature and the Governor by the end of the year 2000.


As work continues on the specifics of the adaptive management and monitoring “solution,” the following key components have been identified:


·         Conservation actions should use best available science to recognize uncertainty and address salmon recovery needs. This will include ocean conditions, estuaries and nearshore marine areas, large freshwater rivers and smaller streams in urban, rural and upland areas. It will also take into account the appropriate scope and scales and timeframes (e.g., at the site, watershed, or region level; short vs. long-term).


A science-based foundation has been drafted that will provide the necessary context for design and implementation of effective monitoring plans. This foundation will support identification and assessment of factors affecting salmon productivity, capacity and diversity at the watershed and regional levels.


·         Trends in escapement and overall abundance of salmon stocks must be tracked over time.


Monitoring the status of fish stocks over time is the responsibility of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and tribal fishery co-managers. Information is obtained from both new and ongoing juvenile and adult fish monitoring activities. A statewide Salmon and Steelhead Stock Inventory (SASSI) was prepared by WDFW and western Washington treaty tribes in 1993. A similar inventory (now termed SaSI, or Salmonid Stock Inventory) was prepared by WDFW for the state’s bull trout and Dolly Varden char in 1998 and another is currently being prepared for coastal cutthroat trout. These efforts will continue to provide a foundation of information for stock status assessments.


·         Types of comprehensive monitoring include:

o        Implementation — determining whether we did what we said we’d do, and do it correctly.

o        Effectiveness — how well actions taken achieve their objectives.

o        Validation — research and evaluations to examine key assumptions associated with conservation actions, especially to learn more about cause-and-effect relationships.


Implementation monitoring of conservation and related regulatory actions should be tracked over time; agencies and partners will provide this function.


Strong strategy effectiveness and validation monitoring plans require clarification about the scope and objectives of the strategies. As specific target conditions or benchmarks are identified, scientifically sound monitoring approaches can be developed and implemented. Monitoring of trends in key resource measures (e.g., fish populations, habitat characteristics) provides essential information for effectiveness monitoring.


All three types of monitoring are needed for adaptive management to be effective. Strategy effectiveness monitoring is the most technically complicated but it is essential. Knowing whether conservation actions achieved their targeted objectives or benchmarks is critical to understanding the usefulness of strategies and actions.


·         Some effectiveness questions (e.g., barriers to fish passage) can be answered relatively straightforwardly, but most questions will be difficult to answer. Questions about how habitat conditions are responding to implemented strategies in watersheds will be difficult because of the complexity of interacting factors, and the long assessment timeframes required to separate effects of strategy implementation from natural variation. Therefore, it will not be practical or possible to monitor the effectiveness of all strategy elements in all watersheds.


A system of index or representative watersheds among regions will be identified where coordinated and integrated long-term validation monitoring and evaluations will be performed. An approach to identification of these systems has been outlined which builds on existing efforts and which addresses needs to monitor fish and habitat parameters. The departments of Fish and Wildlife, Ecology, and Natural Resources, along with Indian tribes and other partners, will participate in cooperative monitoring to collect the necessary data in these systems.


·         Priority fish and habitat “indicators” will be identified and monitored to track trends.


Similar to the ongoing efforts to track long-term trends in fish stock abundance on a statewide basis, a system of key indicators is needed to assess trends in quality and quantity of salmon habitat.


·         A monitoring planning structure is needed to resolve general direction, technical issues, and needs and approaches for integrating and sharing information.


A means of encouraging communication and cooperative planning is needed to simplify coordination of monitoring among agencies and partners. A steering committee could guide statewide monitoring policy planning and identify priorities for the salmon strategy in coordination with the Joint Natural Resources Cabinet. A technical committee could provide support and coordination for implementing the monitoring strategy, seek resolution of issues, and coordinate with monitoring steering committee on unresolved issues. A data/GIS support services committee could provide guidance and support for developing and implementing integrated information systems, facilitate interagency/partner standardization, data sharing and retrieval, and long-term synthesis. It is not intended that these committees would force burdensome new layers of planning, but that they would draw together involved agencies and interested parties to add value and assistance to monitoring programs.


·         The monitoring program should track and integrate information on priority performance measures for all three types of monitoring (implementation, effectiveness, validation).


Performance measures need to be developed for each element of the salmon strategy that would be rolled into a comprehensive set reflecting the entire strategy. Examples of performance measures have been drafted. Additional details will be added as refinement of the strategies and the framework to address performance measures continues.


·         Coordinated data and information management systems must support a diversity of adaptive management and monitoring efforts at various scales (e.g., site, watershed, region or state).


Coordinated data and information management systems must support the adaptive management and monitoring effort. A wide range of data systems and standards are currently in use by agencies and other entities. A key challenge will be to identify, coordinate and develop systems for managing and sharing information focused on the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon, regional responses, and watershed and project-level efforts.


To at least partially address this challenge, recent legislation requires that salmon monitoring data provided by lead entities, regional fisheries enhancement groups, and others shall be included in the data base of SaSSI and the Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Inventory and Assessment Project (SSHIAP). SSHIAP was initiated in 1995 by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and is being cooperatively implemented by the western Washington Treaty Tribes, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other partners. The objective of SSHIAP is to assess and document current conditions and trends of salmon habitat in certain WRIAs, and to incorporate this data into a GIS-based information management system. Efforts are underway to expand SSHIAP coverage to the rest of Washington.


To summarize, key features of the comprehensive monitoring approach proposed by the Joint Natural Resource Cabinet are listed below.


Activities and outcomes:

·         Gather and assemble information on the status of fish and their habitat.

·         Document changes in fish populations and habitat conditions over time.

·         Produce and synthesize information on current conditions, and assess cumulative effects on fish resources on a priority basis.

·         Document whether conservation and regulatory compliance activities were implemented as intended (all agencies).

·         Perform effectiveness monitoring on a priority basis.

·         Coordinate focused validation monitoring efforts on a priority basis.

·         Analyze information on a set schedule for use in the “State of the Salmon” report, and for feedback to the adaptive management process.


State services provided:

·         Technical assistance and study design support to agencies/partners.

·         Standard monitoring methods and protocols.

·         Quality assurance support.

·         Database and information services support.

·         Leadership and coordination for strategy effectiveness, validation and project monitoring.

·         Synthesis of watershed, regional and statewide information.


Design elements:

·         Ensure adequate monitoring of fish stock status over time.

·         Complement fish status monitoring with monitoring of key habitat indicators at regular intervals.

·         Use a system of reference and “index” areas/watersheds for multi-disciplinary effectiveness and validation monitoring efforts.

·         Coordinate with the Interagency Science Advisory Team and Independent Science Panel to ensure scientific quality and integrity.

·         Submit monitoring data from habitat projects and other recovery activities to the Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Inventory and Assessment Project.

·         Implement sector-oriented adaptive management and monitoring systems, such as the Forests and Fish Report.


Potential implementation structure:

·         Monitoring steering committee

·         Technical monitoring committee

·         Data/GIS support services committee

IV.      Monitoring and Adaptive Management: Are we making progress?

Monitoring in support of effective decision-making systems is an essential element of the Statewide Strategy to Recover Salmon. An integrated system of monitoring the performance and effectiveness of each element of the strategy will be developed. Each agency/partner will be expected to monitor the implementation of its respective conservation actions.


The first Biennial State of the Salmon Report will be prepared in December, 2000. It will emphasize results from implementation monitoring, but will also contain recommendations on monitoring from the Independent Science Panel. It should also serve as a platform from which to address key salmon population and habitat trend information, including key effectiveness and validation monitoring issues and results. It will help focus on issues and adaptive responses that might be addressed in subsequent years.


Activities underway include:

·         Progress and findings from monitoring activities will be published in the Governor’s Biennial State of the Salmon Report in December, 2000.

·         The Independent Science Panel will develop recommendations for standardized monitoring indicators and data quality guidelines and will report its findings on monitoring to the legislature and the Governor by the end of the year 2000, or in the Governor’s Biennial State of the Salmon Report.

·         The Department of Fish and Wildlife and Treaty Indian fisheries comanagers will continue to monitor trends in the status of fish populations as part of SaSI (Salmonid Stock Inventory).

·         Data on salmon projects and recovery activities will be submitted to the Salmon and Steelhead Habitat Inventory and Assessment Project (SSHIAP).

·         A system of index watersheds for integrated effectiveness and validation monitoring will be implemented.


If a comprehensive monitoring program is not developed, the default is for the National Marine Fisheries Service and/or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to step in and develop plans. Given the central need for credible and reliable monitoring and decision-management systems, the state would likely lose support for its conservation strategies and actions, increasing the risk of federal intervention and involvement, and reduction in funding support.

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