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Every year government, businesses and communities spend hundreds of millions of dollars on environmental mitigation and restoration in Oregon. The resulting work targets a very limited range of highly visible environmental problems required to be addressed by specific state and federal regulations. Voluntary expenditures, by contrast, target issues of concern to whomever provides the funds. Significant financial investments in ecosystem conservation and restoration are necessary to move Oregon towards a sustainable future in which healthy and resilient ecosystems are the foundation of healthy communities and economies, generating a high quality of life for all Oregonians.
The INR report titled “Policy Cornerstones and Action Strategies for an Integrated Ecosystem Marketplace in Oregon” is one component in a series of roundtables, workshops, and working groups funded in part by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. The paper draws on two workshops held in Portland in January and May, 2008. At the first workshop, ecosystem service practitioners, state government representatives and ecosystem service experts from other states conducted a brainstorming session on the desired outcomes, market barriers, roles and responsibilities of government, and policy reforms needed to stimulate an ecosystem marketplace in Oregon. A rich discussion provided the foundation for a draft of the "Cornerstones" document that was then discussed at a second workshop with state agency directors and staff. The agencies provided valuable feedback and input to the ideas expressed in the draft document and helped refine its policy objectives and strategies.
The work sessions identified problems and solutions in the arenas of: (1) initiatives that will stimulate demand in the marketplace; and, (2) initiatives that will increase efficiency and lower transaction costs.
“Cornerstones” reflects a move from a command-and-control system based on regulatory prescriptions to a more flexible outcomes-based approach that allows for innovation and problem-solving at the site and local level, and encourages development of the ecosystem marketplace for both regulatory and voluntary purposes.
Sustainable Transportation. This Fall INR embarks on its largest research project ever. The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies selected INR to develop an “Ecological Assessment Process and Credits System for Enhancements to Highway Capacity.” The study is part of the national Strategic Highway Research Program. INR will work with its long time partners in the NatureServe network, to develop a workable ecological assessment method and template for transportation planners to use in diverse physical environments with varying existing data availability. The objective is to use the latest information technology to accelerate transportation project delivery while improving environmental results. The project builds on work Lisa Gaines and Sue Lurie did for the Oregon Department of Transportation on permit streamlining, Jimmy Kagan’s extensive work on environmental decision support systems and Sally Duncan and Sue Lurie’s work on ecosystem service markets.
Sustainable transportation has been my focus this summer. In May, I attended a Climate Solutions Summit in Nashville, Tennessee with former Vice President, Al Gore. I told Oregon’s story of integrating land use and transportation, focusing on why reducing sprawl and daily driving is important for climate change. The presentation is available online through ODOT. I made the same presentation to the new Oregon Summer Sustainability Series, a partnership between the Oregon University System and the Oregon Business Council. The inaugural series focused on Sustainability in the Urban Built Environment. It brought together a mix of professionals and top graduate students in Portland over four intensive days.
Sustainable Infrastructure. The focus on sustainability goes beyond transportation. Michael Campana of the Institute for Water and Watersheds (IWW) and I both spoke at Congressman Earl Blumenauer’s Rebuilding America Forum in Portland and Salem addressing the need for new sustainable approaches to rebuilding water, wastewater and energy infrastructure too. My remarks can be found on INR's Web site.
This Fall, more attention will be given to water resources. We (IWW, INR, Oregon Sea Grant Extension) are working with State Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, chair of the Oregon House Energy and the Environment Committee, to conduct a series of water roundtables throughout the state (Bend, Newport, Ontario, Medford and Salem). These are listening sessions, designed to provide information to the Oregon Water Resources Commission and the Oregon Legislature on what Oregonians are thinking about water - what are the problems? What are the potential solutions? IWW and INR are also staffing a Water Group chaired by Michelle Girts of CH2M Hill that is developing a water vision and business case for the Oregon Business Plan. We hope to present it at the 7th Annual Business Summit on December 11, 2008.
I had a first hand look at sustainable communities in June when I visited Scandinavia with the Portland Ambassadors, to study best practices in sustainable development. My detailed reflections on Scandinavian renewable energy, solid waste, stormwater and transportation systems are posted on INR's Web site.
Invasive Species. Lisa Gaines, Jimmy Kagan and I attended the Oregon Invasive Species Summit on July 22, 2008 sponsored by the Oregon Invasive Species Council. Sam Chan of Oregon SeaGrant and Mark Sytsma of Portland State University serve on the Council. Michael Harte and Chris Cusack of OSU prepared a new report on the economics of invasive species for the Summit (their report is included in the appendix of the Summit Final Report). INR’s Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center (ORNHIC) is mentioned in the final report in terms of its ability to conduct needed invasives inventories to help prioritize species and locations for targeted work and its ability to maintain updated invasive species databases. We look forward to working with OISC and Oregon SeaGrant on the action steps needed to follow up on the Summit.
- Gail Achterman, [email protected]
INR releases an evaluation of the Oregon Land Use Program
At the request of the Department of Land Conservation and Development, INR assessed whether the Oregon Land Use Program, as designed, is helping the state meet its land use goals. More specifically the primary questions were, “Has the Oregon Land Use Program been effective in fostering citizen participation in land use planning (Goal 1)?; preserving farm and forest lands for farm and forest use (Goals 3 and 4)?; managing growth (Goal 14)?; and, protecting and developing estuarine areas, as appropriate (Goal 16)?” The draft report was released in October and is available through INR's Web site.
Since the State of Oregon does not have an institutionalized evaluation framework designed to measure the effectiveness of the land use program, each Goal Assessment Team refined its primary question by developing secondary questions that either (1) addressed elements of each goal, as currently written, and/or (2) were based on academic theory or literature that set criteria for effectiveness. Each team also examined existing state agency key performance measures (KPMs) to see how, and if, they might serve as proxies for evaluating the effectiveness of a particular goal. Within each chapter of the report, the authors address the effectiveness of their studied goal, provide information on advantages and disadvantages of data sources, discuss existing data gaps, and make recommendations for narrowing those gaps. Overall, the study suggests Oregon’s current land use system is sound, and indicated that the data needs and gaps vary across each of the studied goals.
The project team for this intensive but highly time-limited research effort was made up of researchers from Oregon State University, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and the U.S. Forest Service.
INR receives a grant from the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies
INR has been award a two-year grant from the Transportation Research Board for the development of an ecological assessment process and credits system for enhancements to highway capacity. Awarded as part of the TRB’s SHRP II Collaborative Decision-Making Process, the primary objective of this project is to develop a workable ecological assessment method and template that can and will be used by transportation planners working in diverse physical environments and with varying existing data availability. This INR project is in partnership with NatureServe, Parametrix, CH2M Hill, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory, the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
For more information, please contact [email protected].
INR partners with Oregon DEQ and USEPA to create a biodiversity exchange network node
INR’s Oregon Natural Heritage Information Center (ORNHIC) has been working to create an Oregon Biodiversity Node on the Environmental Information Exchange Network. The network is administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to enable the exchange of environmental data such as water quality, air quality or endangered species data to other members of the network over the internet. The Exchange Network includes state agencies, nonprofits, universities and tribal organizations from across the United States.
The innovation of the Network is that each individual agency or organization can maintain their own systems and databases on multiple platforms while being able to send, receive, and query data maintained by any other member of the Network. This cross-platform ability is achieved by transmitting the information in XML (eXtended Markup Language) across the Internet. XML is a generic language developed from HTML that can be easily imported into many programs and applications.
The Exchange Network is collaborating with NatureServe, a parent organization of the state Heritage programs, to incorporate biodiversity data into the Network. The Water Quality Exchange is particularly interested in having access to habitat and species data to give a more complete picture of the health of watersheds and systems. Through an National Science Foundation Grant through NatureServe, and most recently a USEPA grant through the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, ORNHIC has developed a publishing database that will serve biodiversity information to the Network. Washington, Utah, New York and Delaware Natural Heritage offices are also working towards joining the Network, giving this project national scope that should fuel further development of the Exchange.
For more information, please contact [email protected].
INR's ORNHIC maps Willamette Valley riparian forests and shrublands
A consortium of nonprofit agencies has provided funds to INR's ORNHIC to map the riparian forests and shrublands throughout the Willamette Valley. Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, and the American Bird Conservancy, with Oregon Parks and Recreation Department have obtained funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and have raised private funding to support the project.
ORNHIC is building on an extensive inventory done in 1996 by ORNHIC ecologist Jon Titus (now at N.Y. SUNY Fredonia), where he visited public and private riparian habitat along the Willamette River and the major tributaries. Jon’s map was used by the Pacific Northwest Ecosystem Research Consortium’s future’s study and the Willamette River Basin Atlas. An OSU student, Myrica Muir McCune, worked this summer to update Jon’s map. She used the 2005 statewide aerial photography to remove areas from the cover which had been developed or farmed and to improve the map's accuracy.
For the new project, ORNHIC ecologist Arne Buechling, along with field staff Erin Riggs, Meghan Horne-Brine, and Julie Rose are contacting all the landowners with riparian property in the Willamette Valley that Jon Titus had not visited. When they receive permission, they are visiting as many sites as they can and collecting ecological plot data which will be used to update the classification of riparian forest and shrubland ecosystems, and to map the areas not yet visited. Arne will use the data to produce a final classification. The new ORNHIC imagery analyst, Eric Nielson, will produce a final map this winter.
For more information, please contact [email protected].
The new Oregon Rural Communities Explorer is released
On October 15, OSU introduced a new Oregon Explorer portal called the Oregon Rural Communities Explorer. The new site will provide access to information to help local citizens and policymakers make better decisions about rural issues including economic, social and environmental concerns. A focus of the Web site will be the documents, community-level data and indicators of rural community vitality developed by the OSU Rural Studies Program. One unique aspect of the site is the ability for residents of rural Oregon to share their personal stories about life in rural places with others. The top stories submitted will be featured in the Rural Oregon Stories section of the portal.
INR and OSU Libraries worked in conjunction with the OSU Rural Studies Program, The Ford Family Foundation and OSU Extension Service to create the new portal. The Ford Family Foundation funded the project and residents of rural Oregon provided input to the project.
OSU Libraries houses an important Pacific Northwest natural resources collection
In the Fall of 2007, the OSU Libraries acquired a major collection that focuses on natural resources in the Pacific Northwest. The Gerald W. Williams Collection consists of the research library, collected historical photographs, and personal papers of Gerald "Jerry" Williams, former national historian for the U.S. Forest Service. Williams, a native Oregonian, spent much of his Forest Service career in the Pacific Northwest, prior to being appointed national historian in 1998.
Williams' 3,100 volume research library includes a significant number of titles pertaining to environmental history and natural resources issues, as well as Pacific Northwest and general U.S. history, Native Americans, photography and geology and geography. To date, nearly 1200 volumes in the Williams research library have been cataloged. The titles can be browsed in the Libraries’ online catalog using a keyword search of "gerald w. williams". Selected volumes are being digitized and are available through the Libraries’ scholarly repository, [email protected].
The collection also includes Williams’ personal papers, his vast collection of historic photographs, photographs taken by Williams in the course of his work for the Forest Service, maps, oral histories and moving images (films, videotapes and DVDs). The papers include Williams’ published and unpublished writings, research notes, and more than 6,000 copies of documents from the papers of Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service. The historic photographs include more than 15,000 images collected by Williams; many are historic postcards from the early 20th century. The collection also includes other photographs taken by Williams as part of his research for the U.S. Forest Service. The oral histories include transcripts of interviews with USFS staff and a series of interviews with residents of the upper McKenzie River region. A preliminary collection guide to these materials is available on the University Archives’ Web site.
Many outstanding historic photographs in the Williams Collection have been digitized and are available online. The digitized photographs include images of the the WWI era Spruce Production Division in Oregon, logging photos of northwest Oregon taken by John Fletcher Ford, photos of Celilo Falls taken in 1956 by Jack Williams, and photos of depression era Civilian Conservation Corps camps and activities. Most of the historic postcards are arranged in several geographically based albums. Examples include the Umpqua, Columbia River, Central Oregon and Willamette Valley albums.
For additional information on the Gerald W. Williams Collection, please contact university archivist Larry Landis at 541-737-0540 or [email protected].
Toward One Oregon Conference, November 14, 2008 at the Salem Convention Center
Oregon is an incredibly diverse collection of landscapes, economies, and communities. No matter where we live - in an urban, a suburban, or a rural environment - all Oregonians share common needs and aspirations for a sustainable future. Yet myths and local perspectives can keep us from acknowledging and understanding the interdependence of all of the regions of the state. Join researchers, policymakers, journalists, community leaders and the public who will gather at the Toward One Oregon conference to discuss what links us together and what, strategically are the ways that these links can be strengthened for the benefit of the state. Partners in supporting the conference include Oregon State University, Portland State University, the University of Oregon, and the Ford Family Foundation. For more information, visit the conference website .
ORNHIC assistant data manager, Lindsey Koepke
Lindsey Koepke is a native Oregonian who grew up in Lake Oswego and went on to attend the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma for a degree in biology. While there, she tired of the somewhat sheltered UPS campus and chose to spend a semester in Aberdeen, Scotland where she could earn credits and explore a new country at the same time. She loved it so much she returned to earn her master’s degree in ecology from the University of Aberdeen immediately after graduating from UPS.
Once the visa ran out, however, she had to return to the States and search for a job to put all that hard-earned learning to work. After a few months working in demoralizing cubicles for a temp agency, she was offered a field botany position at Mount Rainier National Park, where she would spend her next three summers learning Cascade plants, climbing up and down road cuts for restoration surveys, teaching herself database design, and hiking through all corners of the park describing forest associations. While being able to explore a gorgeous park, finding rare plants, and breathing fresh mountain air was a great way to spend six months out of the year, the seasonal lifestyle eventually wore on Lindsey and she sought a more stable, and urban, alternative back in Portland.
That opportunity came as an AmeriCorps position with The Nature Conservancy working at INR's ORNHIC. The job description of working with biological data in databases and GIS and sharing this information with agencies and the public was exactly the kind of work she’d been looking for. Lindsey took the position, moved into a house in Portland with three friends, and rejoiced that she wouldn’t have to look for work for at least 11 months. Luckily for her, ORNHIC was able to hire her on after her AmeriCorps term was up, and since then she has happily continued her work with biodiversity data, delved into new realms of electronic data sharing, learned Web languages and Web design, and looks forward to new and interesting projects to come.
Lindsey is based in ORNHIC's Portland office and can be reached at 503-731-3070 ext. 104 or [email protected].
ORNHIC plant ecologist, Arne Buechling
Arne Buechling joined INR's ORNHIC as a plant ecologist in June 2005. Originally from Canada (Toronto), he worked as an ecologist for the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Weyerhaeuser, and consulting firms in Colorado and British Columbia. He earned an M.A. in Biogeography from the University of Wyoming and a B.S. in Environmental Science from the University of Oregon. His Master's thesis was a fire history of a forest in Rocky Mountain National Park. Since joining ORNHIC Arne has managed vegetation inventory, monitoring, mapping, and classification projects for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Umatilla National Wildlife Refuge), Oregon Military Department (Camp Adair and Biak Training Center), the National Park Service (John Day Fossil Beds National Monument), The Nature Conservancy (oak communities in the Willamette Valley), and Ducks Unlimited (riparian vegetation in the Willamette Valley). He also managed predictive GIS habitat modeling projects for Forest Capital, Weyerhaeuser, and Plum Creek timber companies.
Arne is based in ORNHIC's Portland office and can be reached at 503-731-3070 ext. 101, or [email protected].
© 2008 Institute for Natural Resources