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    May 2008  

News from the Policy Research Program:

News from the Information Program:

INR Staff Notes:


News from the Policy Research Program:

Ecosystem services marketplaces conference

INR continues to take the lead in a number of ecosystem services projects. On April 18, we hosted a seminar with US EPA titled, “Ecosystem Service Markets: Cash, Conservation, or Can of Worms?” Panel speakers were Sara Vickerman of Defenders of Wildlife, Jeff Kline of the Pacific Northwest Research Station (Forest Service), and David Ervin of Portland State University.

On May 8, collaborating with Willamette Partnership and Defenders of Wildlife, we convened the second policy work session  to engage stage agency heads and staff in policy adjustments that will enhance and encourage the development of integrated ecosystem service markets in Oregon and the region. The chief output from this session will be a Policy Playbook, available to agency and business leaders, as well as legislators, to prepare strategies for becoming lead players in ecosystem service markets.

On May 22, we are co-hosting a conference in Portland titled, “Ecosystems Markets: Taking Action.” This conference will provide a working understanding of current developments in ES markets, and create a networking opportunity for environmental professionals and others interested in this tool for protecting and restoring ecosystems.

We continue to collaborate with the professionals who are actively developing an Ecosystem Services Council, a form of “governing body” to shepherd the development of markets across the country.

For more information, contact [email protected].

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Director’s Note:

Our focus at INR this spring has been on sustainability and ecosystem service markets.  I was fortunate to attend an Oregon University System (OUS) Sustainability Summit in Portland on April 3, 2008 with the chancellor, the university presidents and senior leaders, members of the Board of Higher Education and selected business leaders.  Our state is often viewed as a living “proof of sustainability” nationally.  OUS is committed to taking the lead on developing a sustainable economy for the future.

To support this work, Provost Sabah Randhawa asked INR to assess OSU’s capacity to lead in education, research and outreach on sustainability.  The assessment will be done over the summer under the leadership of our Associate Director, Lisa Gaines, and our new Research Associate, Sue Lurie.  It will be used to inform teams working on how OSU’s strategic plan will be implemented, as well as the OUS efforts.

Jimmy Kagan and his team recently received funding from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to work with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to develop tools ODOT can use to plan and develop its projects in a way that directs mitigation funds to high priority conservation areas.  The funding is part of FHWA’s EcoLogical  approach to developing infrastructure.  The project allows INR to expand its long time effort at mapping high priority conservation areas in the Willamette Basin.

The EcoLogical grant also complements work underway with the Willamette Partnership, Defenders of Wildlife and the Oregon Business Council to develop action strategies for an ecosystem marketplace in Oregon.  Two workshops have been held to develop specific policies needed to build ecosystem service markets in Oregon.

All of this work puts us at the intersection between scientists and policy makers, whether developing new information systems and decision support tools, or shaping new policy options for addressing current challenges.

- Gail Achterman, [email protected]


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INR completes systematic review pilot project with Oregon Dept of Forestry

INR has completed a pilot project on systematic review—a rigorous, transparent technique widely used in medicine to assess science regarding the efficacy of medical interventions, e.g. a particular surgery or drug.  At the urging of former Governor John Kitzhaber and Oregon Board of Forestry, Oregon Department of Forestry commissioned INR to test how well systematic review might work in the context of natural resource management science. 

INR assembled and managed a team that used systematic review to locate and synthesize scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of placing large wood into streams to benefit salmonids.  A successful review hinges on qualified, unbiased expert reviewers.  INR staff worked closely with Reference Librarian Janet Webster from the Hatfield Marine Science Center, and co-reviewers Kelly Burnett (USFS Pacific NW Research Station) and Guillermo Giannico (OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife) to produce a robust review and a final project report. 

Systematic reviews must be transparent, rigorous and objective.  Reviewers had to compare, synthesize and package a body of research with disparate study designs, locations and outcome measures.  Achieving this was not easy - stream restoration ecology differs significantly from clinical medicine—but the project was successful and the review team learned a lot.

Systematic reviews such as this can provide tightly focused packages of “best available science” in a form useful to practitioners and policymakers and more strongly defensible as objective. Stream restoration needs far exceed available mitigation resources.  Knowledge about what works and what doesn’t is critical.  Our experience suggests that systematic review can help in this regard, and also illuminate knowledge gaps.  Based on the apparent success of our pilot, there is interest beyond ODF in further systematic reviews on pressing, policy-relevant science questions. 

Systematic reviews are not “silver bullets”.  But they show potential for helping facilitate the use of science in natural resource policy making and practice.  Systematic review shows considerable promise as a technique for packaging available science about the effectiveness of specific watershed restoration techniques, invasive species mitigation methods, or other active environmental interventions.

For more information, please refer to the systematic review reports on INR's Web page or contact [email protected].

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INR completes preliminary examination of the environmental use of plants

In a 2004 workshop that convened academic and industry leaders in environmental plant fields, the Sustainable Plant Research and Outreach Center (SPROut) identified five major areas of priority for the environmental use of plants—wetlands and wastewater treatment, phytoremediation, urban water management and eco-scaping, riparian restoration, and native plant restoration and invasive species control. Although there have been developments in these areas over the last few years, there continues to be a lack of a clearinghouse that can inventory what is going on, who is doing it, how cooperative project efforts can be leveraged, and what else could be done to both enhance environmental sustainability and promote economic development.

In conjunction with the SPROut, INR conducted a preliminary examination of the environmental use of plants in Oregon by gauging the breadth of opportunities and challenges faced by growers, users, and researchers who are involved in the general area of the environmental uses of plants.

The project identified opportunities and barriers to participating in this sector, as well as applied research needs. Key issues to aid in fostering the environmental use of plants sector fell into four categories: building a network within the environmental use of plants community; policies and incentives; public education; and funding.

For more information, please refer to the project's final report or contact [email protected].

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Landowner tools: Riparian vegetation buffers for water quality credit trading in Oregon watersheds

Regulatory controls and technological mitigation measures have improved water quality, preserved wetlands and protected endangered species. But these approaches can be complicated, costly and contentious to implement—and they do not always produce broad environmental benefits. Water quality trading is an emerging approach to enable less expensive and more effective solutions to complex watershed problems. Implementing water quality trades hinges on scientifically valid, consistent and user-friendly protocols to quantify environmental services provided by alternative mitigation measures such as riparian vegetation projects.

The OSU Department of Horticulture's John Lambrinos and his colleagues recently embarked on a project sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agricultural, Natural Resources Conservation Service to develop a user-friendly assessment tool to aid landowners in quantifying the ecological values of riparian restoration projects. The first prototype of this tool is under development and this summer INR will work with Dr. Lambrinos to design and conduct four workshops with landowners in the Tualatin Basin. The workshops will help the team solicit input from landowners about the development of an assessment tool and identify and understand landowner needs and preferences for ecosystems services markets.

For more information, contact John Lambrinos at [email protected] or [email protected].

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News from the Information Program:

Oregon Imagery Explorer named OGC “Web Site of the Month” for March 2008

The Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc. (OGC), an international industry consortium of 358 companies, government agencies and universities, selected the Oregon Imagery Explorer as its “Web Site of the Month” for March 2008.   The Oregon Imagery Explorer serves Oregon’s 2005 half-meter orthoimagery reconstructed from aerial photographs acquired in the summer of 2005, such as this image of Crater Lake.  

The OGC highlights Web sites that use OpenGIS Specifications to solve real-world problems and that demonstrate an interesting use. OpenGIS Specifications support interoperable solutions that “geo-enable” the Web and location-based services.  The Oregon Imagery Explorer implements OGC’s Web Map Service (WMS) 1.1.1.   Through a Web Map Service, aerial photography of Oregon may be streamed to your OGC-compliant applications, including standard Web browsers, Microsoft Word, and various GIS applications.  A Web map service gives you access to a image of Oregon without storing a local copy, therefore reducing local storage needs.

The Oregon Imagery Explorer “is an incredibly useful service. Your efforts to pull this all together and support the state with orthoimagery via WMS are very much appreciated—a service of high value to our community” said Brandt Melick, GIS Program Supervisor for the City of Springfield.

For more information, contact [email protected].

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The Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center's data system

INR's Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center (ORNHIC) houses Oregon's most comprehensive database of rare, threatened, and endangered species—including site-specific information on the occurrences, biology, and status of over 2,000 species throughout Oregon. It includes the state's only database of natural vegetation, with descriptions and information on the occurrences and protected locations of all known ecosystem types. The Natural Heritage data system also provides information to guide implementation of the Natural Heritage Plan, including the selection of natural areas for registration and dedication. The newest version (2007) of the booklet Rare, Threatened and Endangered Species of Oregon —which provides information on the general distribution and federal and state status for 1,500 taxa—is also available on our Web site.

Agencies, companies and individuals can access this information by submitting a detailed written request to ORNHIC.  We charge a small fee to cover our costs, but are working on ways to post the information online. As part of our clearinghouse mission, we welcome input into our databases.

If you have data you would like to share, or are interested in accessing the at-risk species information, please contact [email protected].

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Willamette Valley Oak Woodland Study

Conserving oak woodlands in the Willamette Valley is a major priority identified in Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s statewide conservation strategy, and it is a focus for both The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Bureau of Land Management in Oregon (BLM).  As a result, TNC, the BLM, the Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center (ORNHIC), the Siuslaw National Forest and the Northwest Habitat Institute are cooperating in an effort to increase the knowledge of the ecology and distribution of oaks in the valley.

With funding from a two-year grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, managed by TNC and the BLM, ORNHIC has been sampling all the known remnant oak woodlands and savannas, and developing a plant community classification describing different oak communities.  A comprehensive study of Oregon oak communities from the Willamette Valley was last published in 1968 by J.F. Thilenius at OSU (Thilenius, J. F. 1968. The Quercus garryana forests of the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Ecology 49: 1124-1133.).  Since then, the valley and the oak communities have dramatically changed.  This study is an attempt to help focus conservation and restoration in the right places, and to characterize the oak diversity remaining in the valley.  Over the last two years, many plots have been sampled in oak woodlands throughout the valley.  Private landowners have been very generous, allowing ORNHIC staff access to their lands.  As a result, new conservation priorities have emerged, as has a better understanding of the best places to conserve oaks in the valley.

For more information, contact [email protected].

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INR Staff Notes:

Jeff Behan says hello from INR's “Prineville Office”

Jeff Behan works as a policy analyst for INR and makes up INR’s “Prineville Office”. He has worked on many INR projects including the Oregon Scenic Waterways Review, the Oregon Department of Forestry Salmon Anchor Habitat Policy Review, the Fire Program Review, the application of Systematic Evidence Review to natural resource questions (see above), and the Wildfire Risk Explorer.  Jeff was also a co-organizer of the fall 2007 conference “At the Crossroads: Sustaining Oregon’s Forests in a Rapidly Changing World.” 

Jeff’s professional interests include sustainable public land management, science-based natural resource policy, river management and human-powered outdoor recreation policy.  In a former life Jeff was a river guide and ski patroller.  He still occasionally guides on science river trips in Grand Canyon and enjoys mountain biking, skiing and camping.  Jeff and his wife Becky had their first child (a girl!) in March 2008.

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