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   Click Here to Subscribe December 2009  

Ecosystem Services:

Integrated Conservation Priorities and Monitoring:

The Oregon Explorer Program:

Sustainable Infrastructure:

Natural Resources and the Rural Economy:

Integrated Land and Water Management:

Director’s Note:

We approach the winter holidays, and those of us at INR have a lot to be thankful for as INR continues to thrive even in these difficult economic times.  The 2009 Legislature continued its support financially and by amending our authorizing legislation to allow us to become a multi-campus research institute, working with and serving the whole Oregon University System.  Portland State University helped us make this a reality by creating the Oregon Sustainability Suite in Portland where INR, the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (OCCRI), the PSU Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices, the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technology (BEST) signature research center and the Portland Sustainability Institute are co-located.

The Sustainability Suite symbolizes the extensive efforts underway within the University System to make Oregon a showcase for building sustainable communities.  I serve as Vice Chair of the Board of Higher Education’s Sustainability Initiative Committee, which is developing an action plan for sustainability across all campuses.  At the request of the Provost, Lisa Gaines, INR’s Associate Director, completed a comprehensive inventory of sustainability education, research, outreach and operations at OSU as a part of OSU’s strategic plan implementation.

This fall I have been on the road in regional and national conversations about several of INR’s focus areas.  This newsletter highlights work we are doing in these areas: Ecosystem Services, Integrated Conservation Planning and Management, the Oregon Explorer Program, Sustainable Infrastructure, Natural Resources and the Rural Economy, and Integrated Land and Water Management.  Each cuts across our expertise in policy research and information systems, moving us to a new level as an organization.

- Gail Achterman

Featured Links:

Visit the latest Oregon Explorer portals:

Ecosystem Services:

INR has worked extensively on initial development of ecosystem service markets, and on improving understanding of how ecosystem services transactions of many kinds can contribute to improved environmental health and rural sustainability.  Our work last year on the report, Policy Cornerstones and Action Strategies for an Integrated Ecosystem Marketplace in Oregon, helped support passage of Senate Bill 513 by the 2009 Oregon Legislature. Recently, INR’s Renee Davis-Born has had her job rotation with OWEB extended through June 2011, but with a new focus on ecosystem services.  She now is working as the agency’s Ecosystem Services Coordinator in the Director’s Office, where she will staff the ecosystem services markets working group that was formed through S.B. 513. The working group will “study and propose overarching goals to guide the development of integrated ecosystem services markets in Oregon that are efficient, coordinated, and designed to produce positive ecological and economic outcomes”. Renee also will coordinate OWEB’s own ecosystem service market initiatives. This new opportunity continues the collaboration between OWEB and INR.  Sally Duncan of INR serves on the S.B. 513 Working Group and Gail Achterman serves on the ad hoc advisory group.

Our experience has been recognized nationally through invitations to attend and present at the National Ecosystem Services Partnership Strategy meeting in Washington, D.C. on October 1-2 (Jimmy Kagan) and the Duke Environmental Law and Policy Forum (Gail Achterman) on October 23.  Both meetings were sponsored by the new Office of Ecosystem Services and Markets, created by the last Farm Bill.  Our research work is growing too, as illustrated by the projects described below.


Forest Ecosystem Dynamics Project Wraps Up

Photo of Lookout Creek from report cover.Oregon’s forests are constantly changing under the influence of a wide range of disturbance dynamics.  But much forest management in Oregon is based on a static view of nature; regulation and planning needs to be based on an understanding of change over time and the non-equilibrium nature of forests.  Recognizing this, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) contracted with INR to undertake the Dynamic Ecosystems Project in 2007. The project’s goal was “describing the relationship and experiences between the administration of natural resource laws, policies, or regulations to the current management of ecosystems and the scientific understanding of ecosystem dynamics, with particular focus on Pacific Northwest forest ecosystems.” The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) joined as a cooperating partner in 2008. 

INR assembled a team of eight principal investigators from INR, the Oregon University System and the US Forest Service. We produced a synthesis paper in October 2008 summarizing the scientific literature about ecosystem dynamics, presented nine case studies on implementing ecosystem dynamics principles, and offered seven different strategies for policy change. From February through May 2009 we hosted four science seminars to explore the implications of ecosystem dynamics research in four different topic areas: management of aquatic systems, management of fire and fuels, mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and habitat protection strategies. These seminars featured presentations from 31 scientists from a wide range of fields with 195 total participants. Four white papers were prepared as summaries of these seminars. On September 8, INR and ODF convened a final policy summit that brought together the Oregon Board of Forestry, ODF staff, leaders from DEQ, and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to discuss key INR findings. The reports and recommendations for managing forests in an ecosystem dynamics framework can be found at the ODF website.


Financial Mechanisms for Landowners Project Starts Up

INR recently received funds from the Bullitt Foundation to investigate financial mechanisms for landowners interested in ecosystem services markets. This grant is part of the Bullitt Foundation’s strategic focus on ecosystem services.  INR is working with other Bullitt grantees, including Defenders of Wildlife, the American Farmland Trust and Ecotrust to build a learning network in the Pacific Northwest.

INR’s long-term goal is to help revitalize rural economies and contribute to rural sustainability, while increasing ecosystem restoration and thoughtfully developing ecosystem services markets. This project aims to understand and overcome a significant supply side hurdle facing these emerging markets: the financing burden and risk shouldered by rural landowners who wish to invest in restoration activities.  INR will produce a broadly replicable set of financial tools and institutional arrangements to help rural landowners reduce financial risks and up-front transaction costs.

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Integrated Conservation Planning and Monitoring:

American Recovery and Reinvestment Act Project: Prioritizing Fuel Treatments

INR, the OSU College of Forestry, and the US Forest Service were awarded a multi-million dollar American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant to create or retain jobs in Multnomah, Benton, and Lane counties by identifying, analyzing, and mapping areas within the states of Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, and Arizona that could provide economically viable fuel reduction and restoration projects.

This project will use existing landscape models and data to help land managers and policy makers identify the watersheds where treatments would have the greatest potential to advance management priorities while taking into account multiple criteria at once. The criteria that will be evaluated and integrated in this analysis will include: existing fuel conditions and how they might change over time, the potential costs and benefits of different management treatments, protection of key wildlife habitat and whether fuel treatments might help or harm them, the economic potential of the material removed by the treatments, and how natural disturbances may be affected by management treatments or wildfires. If feasible within the project timeline, the effects of climate change might be included as well.

Due to the complex nature and scope of the project, a variety of positions will be created to effectively manage and implement the research.


INR's ORNHIC Monitors Western Snowy Plover Along Oregon Coast

Photo of snowy plover from USFWS.The Western Snowy Plover is a small ground nesting shorebird that is listed as threatened by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Coastal populations from Washington to Baja California are imperiled due to habitat loss, predation, and human disturbance. Over the past 19 years, ORNHIC has worked with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Oregon Parks and Recreation Department to monitor and protect threatened snowy plovers along the Oregon coast. ORNHIC’s Dave Lauten and Kathy Castelein have led this effort from Bandon for 12 years and this year had assistance from Hendrik Herlyn and Daniel Farrar in Florence.

In recent years the adult breeding population has fluctuated around 130 birds along the Oregon coast, approximately double the number prior to management efforts, but still short of the recovery goal set by US Fish and Wildlife Service. Preliminary data indicate that 2009 has been a poor to average year for plover productivity. Many eggs were preyed on by mice, a new predator that was very difficult to control. Conversely, plovers readily renested and are continuing to fledge young later into the season than usual, making up some lost ground.  This season we were happy to be able to cooperate with the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation as they surveyed for the rare Siuslaw hairy-necked tiger beetle (Cicindela hirticollis siuslawensis) which uses similar habitat. Our monitors were able to pinpoint current tiger beetle locations and worked with Xerces Society researchers to avoid impacts to plovers.


Information to Conserve Habitats and Simplify Permitting

The Oregon Eco-Logical project started in June of 2008 with the goals of creating a single source of information to help conserve ecologically significant habitats and simplifying the permitting process for development or mitigation. INR along with key partners, the Environmental Section of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), The Wetland Conservancy (TWC), and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, are working to build on the recently completed Oregon Conservation Strategy (OCS) to move existing information on wetlands, endangered species, habitats, and important natural resources from the coarser landscape plane to a more detailed project-level and offer this information in a publicly accessible online system. The project will end in February 2010 with the transition of final threatened and endangered species and transportation focal species models to the system.


ORNHIC Wetlands Projects Expand

In 2007, INR’s Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center (ORNHIC) started a partnership with The Wetlands Conservancy (TWC) to create an Oregon Wetlands Explorer, part of the Oregon Explorer Natural Resources Digital Library. The project supports creating the Explorer portal, building digital wetlands data for the state, and creating information and tools to improve wetlands conservation, mitigation and restoration in Oregon. Current funding runs through September of 2011 with primary support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Murdock Charitable Trust with additional support from Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board, The Nature Conservancy, and the Department of Administrative Services.


To date, the project, has focused on:

  1. Creating the first statewide wetlands digital map standards for wetlands information in Oregon, and a priority map of wetland mitigation and restoration sites. The map to the right shows priority areas in the Willamette Basin.
  2. Providing online access to the Department of State Lands new Wetlands Assessment Protocol (ORWAP). These tools also allow for online scoring of wetland quality.
  3. Developing a conservation strategy with new information on the diverse and important wetlands in the Malheur Lake Basin and in the Warner Basin, both located in Oregon’s Closed Lakes Basin of southeastern Oregon.
  4. Collecting and posting information on restoration and conservation methods, lessons learned, and providing links to experts, nurseries, seeds, and potential funding sources to those interested in conserving or restoring wetlands.
  5. Developing measures to evaluate wetland status and trends in the state, and perhaps across the country.
  6. Improving effectiveness of mitigation in Oregon by providing tools to assure that mitigation occurs in the best places, is most likely to succeed, and can be readily permitted.

Assisting in conservation and restoration of estuaries and coastal wetlands. This included a workshop to assess information needs and sources, an evaluation of potential impacts to coastal wetlands from Climate Change in Oregon and North Carolina, and funding to make available a comprehensive bibliography of wetlands-climate change literature on the Oregon Explorer.

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Oregon Explorer Program:

The Oregon Spatial Data Library

In partnership with Oregon State University Libraries, INR and the Oregon Department of Administrative Services Geospatial Enterprise Office (DAS-GEO), launched the Oregon Spatial Data Library in November. The Oregon Spatial Data Library features access to all statewide “framework” data available for Oregon.  These are the datasets that serve as “base data” for a variety of GIS applications that support important research, business and public services. 

Framework datasets include administrative boundaries, transportation, land use, ownership, water, hazards and wetlands.  Many state and federal agencies have contributed to the collaborative development and continued stewardship of these datasets. Government agencies at all levels use geographic information in their daily activities and frequently request that data from DAS-GEO. The Oregon Spatial Data Library is a first step toward connecting decision makers with the data they need when they need it.

The Oregon Spatial Data Library also ties the Oregon Explorer Web portal to the State of Oregon’s NavigatOR initiative.


Learn about Hazards and Wetlands in your Area

Coastal fen, image taken by John Christy. Oregon Hazards Explorer and Oregon Wetlands Explorer are two recent additions to the Oregon Explorer family of web portals.  

  • The Oregon Hazards Explorer provides a forum both to learn about natural hazards through data, tools, and archived research findings and to access others involved in hazards planning and response. It was developed by INR, the OSU Libraries and the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD).

  • The Oregon Wetlands Explorer takes users virtually to areas throughout the state, from coastal salt marshes to mountain fens, desert salt grass flats and many points in between, providing information on wetland ecology, history, wildlife and restoration opportunities. The site was developed by INR, the OSU Libraries and the Wetlands Conservancy with funding from the Murdock Memorial Trust, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Highways Administration.

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Sustainable Infrastructure:

Regional Gravel Initiative Workshop

Oregon policy makers are frequently concerned with streamlining the policy process and balancing the needs of the economy with the needs of the environment. To assist policy makers with one issue combining both of those concerns, INR partnered with Oregon Sea Grant and facilitated a workshop aimed at understanding and resolving the scientific issues that have hindered the issuance of permits for aggregate mining in Oregon’s coastal rivers and streams. Aggregate (a.k.a. gravel) is essential to building the infrastructure necessary for Oregon’s economic health, but many rivers and streams from which it can be mined provide critical habitat to several salmonid species.  Participants at the Regional Gravel Initiative workshop at the South Slough National Estuarine Reserve in Charleston, OR on November 30-December 1discussed gaps in knowledge that impose barriers to issuing permits. Problems were exposed and understanding was fostered under the facilitation of Gail Achterman, who was assisted by INR intern Amy Ewing and Sea Grant staff Guillermo Giannico and Megan Kleibacker.  The workshop also drew on the expertise of OSU faculty Pete Klingeman (Water Resources Engineering) and Desiree Tullos (Biological and Ecological Engineering).  It convened staff from federal and state agencies including the Department of State Lands, the US Army Corps of Engineers (both organizers), Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, US Geological Survey, National Marine Fisheries Service, Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development, and Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. 

This workshop was a key step in the process of developing streamlined permits for aggregate mining on Oregon’s coastal rivers and streams.  The larger process is part of an exploratory study conducted by INR’s graduate student, Amy Ewing.  The study will examine the enabling and constraining factors to interagency collaboration on permit streamlining and contribute to INR’s body of work on streamlining.


Developing an Ecological Assessment Process and Credit System for Enhancements to Highway Capacity

INR and our co-investigators continue our work for the Transportation Research Board to develop an ecological assessment process and credits system for enhancements to highway capacityWe kicked off the pilot testing stage for the new templates we have developed to support integration of transportation and conservation planning.  Tests will be conducted in Colorado, Oregon and Michigan working with each state’s Department of Transportation.


Streamlining Case Studies

Building on our Ecological Assessment work with the Transportation Research Board, INR, in partnership with Parametrix and Venner Consulting, will develop case studies testing the TRB’s new Collaborative Decision Making Framework.  The one-year grant, Expedited-Schedule Case Studies to the Collaborative Decision-Making Framework Database, was awarded as part of the TRB’s SHRP II Collaborative Decision-Making Process.  The primary objective of this project is to describe tools, techniques, and strategies to expedite delivery of highway capacity projects and programs of projects based on review of selected case studies. This project builds on work Lisa Gaines and Sue Lurie did for the Oregon Department of Transportation on permit streamlining in 2006, and their 2007 work for U.S. Forest Service’s NEPA for the 21st Century project.

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Natural Resources and the Rural Economy:

Restoration-related Socio-economic Indicators

Sue Lurie, INR research associate, has been working with Mike Hibbard, INR board member and director of the University of Oregon’s Institute for Policy Research and Innovation, to develop restoration related socio-economic indicators for Grant County. The project is one aspect of a joint effort by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board (OWEB) to track conditions on the upper Middle Fork of the John Day River, which has been designated as an Intensively Monitored Watershed (IMW). The goal of the IMW is to monitor projects to improve salmon and steelhead habitats and increase water quality and quantity. There is also interest in monitoring the socio-economic effects of restoration activities in Grant County. During presentations in John Day during the project, it was apparent that a growing number of local citizens were aware, for perhaps the first time, that restoration activities can be a source of revenue for rural communities. Mike and Sue are in the process of developing research needs and policy direction to help Oregon identify and expand its natural resource/restoration economy to help rural communities


Bioproducts: INR and BEST Working Together

Biobased products – products made from renewable biological materials, such as biofuels made from agricultural crops – have substantial potential to add new job and revenue opportunities in Oregon. This is particularly so for rural communities, with their existing natural resources and the potential to cultivate new feedstocks for new biobased products.

The Oregon Built Environment & Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST) is one of Oregon’s new Signature Research Centers.  BEST connects the business community with university researchers to grow Oregon’s green building and renewable energy sectors.  BEST partnered with INR to conduct workshops in rural communities across the state to identify and evaluate bio-product research opportunities that Oregon BEST might consider for short-term investments. A diverse group of individuals from 16 counties attended the workshops, representing interests including biobased researchers, producers, cooperatives and developers; wood products companies; local governments; non-profit groups; economic development districts; tribal representatives; various state agency staff including; community college faculty; and federal land management personnel.

INR’s report, Oregon BEST Biobased Products Rural Outreach Project, reflects the Institute’s findings from those workshops. Although the primary goal of the workshops was to identify near-term research needs of interest to Oregon BEST, participants raised important non-research issues involving policy and incentives; education and communication; infrastructure, capacity and planning; funding; and cluster development. Oregon rural communities are clearly interested in pursuing biobased products, and Oregon BEST can play a significant role in helping rural communities realize bio-based products’ economic development potential.

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Integrated Land and Water Management:

INR and IWW Working Together

Gail Achterman of INR and Todd Jarvis of the Institute for Water and Watersheds (IWW) both spoke at the biannual Pacific Northwest Regional Water Conference at Skamania Lodge on November 4-6.  This year’s theme was “Water and Land Use in the Pacific Northwest: Integrating Communities and Watersheds”. Gail’s keynote address called for a new paradigm linking water and land use to move toward sustainable communities.  Todd built on the theme with a provocative new approach to groundwater, Peak Water Meets Peak Oil: Moving Towards Unitization of Shared Groundwater. 

The conference allowed us to continue the conversations started last year at our jointly sponsored Statewide Water Roundtables.  We were pleased to see that the Roundtables also lead to legislative action towards an integrated state water plan in Oregon.  The Legislature authorized and funded the needed planning work during the 2009 Session in H.B. 3369.  INR and IWW also worked closely with Congressman Earl Blumenauer to develop the water research provisions in H.B. 3202, the Water Protection and Reinvestment Act, which provide new dedicated funding for water research, including:

  1. A "One-Stop-Shop" for authorized hazard data layers
  2. The ability for users to produce reports on known hazards for specific areas of interest
  3. A repository for digitally archived hazard-related research
  4. A compilation of additional resources related to natural hazard issues

Funding for the development of the Oregon Hazards Explorer was provided by the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development through a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.  The site is hosted by OSU Libraries and INR.


Travels to China: A Trip Report by Todd Jarvis (IWW/INR)

The US National Science Foundation (NSF) together with the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC), University of Idaho, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental Engineering Research Institute (CAREERI), Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Bureau of Water Resources, Xinjiang Province, China, Xinjiang University, Central Asian Institute for Applied Geosciences, Kyrgyzstan and Tajik National Academy of Sciences, Tajikistan and the Research Institute for Science and the Humanities (RIHN), Japan held a four-day-long scientific workshop on the changes in surface and groundwater in the Tarim River Basin (TRB).  The conference conveners were Dr. Liu Shiyin of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Dr. Vladimir Aizen of the University of Idaho.

Map of Tarim Basin (from Columbia University).
Map of the Tarim Basin (map source: Columbia University)

The Tarim River Basin (TRB), located in China north of the Tibetan plateau, is the world’s largest arid-region endorheic basin.  The TRB is also the most densely populated closed basin in the world with over 10 million people. Water resources in the TRB are declining rapidly as result of climatic changes and high water use in Xinjiang Province of northwestern China. Similar situations are observed in many of the world’s arid and semi-arid basins in North and South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia.

Despite the presence of the large Takla Makan Desert (aka “The Sea of Death”), with its extremely dry climate, the high mountain ridges surrounding this desert hold one of the greatest concentrations of snow and ice in central Asia such as in the Tien Shan (aka “Heavenly Mountains”), and the Pamir, Karakoru, and Kunlun mountains which rise between 7,400 to 8,000 meters above sea level.  With over 14,000 glaciers which provide up to 55-60% of the total river runoff, the high mountain areas constitute a vital source of water for the TRB’s lakes and aquifers – a hydrologic setting very similar to the State of Oregon!  Since the 1980s, land use has changed significantly within the Xinjiang Province which has become one of the most important regions for agriculture and energy resource development as China increases their efforts to become more energy independent.

Eighty-four scientists discussed the applications of new modeling theory related to entropy as it relates to uncertainty, remote sensing, cryospheric science, surface water and groundwater hydrology, soil science, social geography, and cultural anthropology, and conflict resolution as it relates to the future use and management of glaciers, glacial meltwater, oases, irrigation water, terminal lakes, qanats, and industrial water use in the emerging oil and gas industry in the TRB.  The objective of the conference echoes most of the concerns in a changing world – how to better use the available water resources.  From the perspective of the hydrogeology, very little is apparently known about the groundwater systems below 150 meters in depth despite the emerging oil and gas industry drilling and Cenozoic clastic deposits ranging in thickness from 2,000 to 11,000 meters.  While the Paleozoic rocks are karstified in the nearby mountains and host some oil deposits in the basin, even less is known about the quantity and quality of water stored in these deeper rocks.

Structural cross section (approximately northwest – southeast orientation) of the Tarim basin. Sinian-Lower Paleozoic Unit (highly mature to post-mature marine carbonate sediments with thickness >9500m). Upper Paleozoic Unit (mature to highly mature clastic deposits with a maximum thickness of 4500m). Mesozoic-Cenozoic Unit (terrestrial clastic deposits up to thickness of 11,000m in thickness in the sedimentary center). (According to Chen et al., 2000.)
Participation from the US included scientists from Northrup Grumman, Dartmouth College, California State University (Los Angeles), the University of California (Santa Barbara), the University of Idaho, Texas A&M University, and Oregon State University.

A report will be forthcoming on recommendations for future research.

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