What's New
Research & Projects Publications

| Home | Contact | UCSB | Bren | ICESS |

Conservation Planning and Ecosystem Management in the Sierra Nevada

Activities of the

Sierra Nevada Network for Education and Research (SNNER)

July 1999 – June 2000

Frank W. Davis, Principal Investigator  (1)
Fraser Shilling, Project Coordinator (2)

David Stoms, Assistant Researcher (3)

(1) Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106-5131
(2) Department of Environmental Science and Policy, University of California, Davis 95616

(3) Institute for Computational Earth System Science, University of California, Santa Barbara 93106

Table of Contents (September 1, 2000)

  1. Overview
  2. Implementation Board
  3. Workshops
  4. Watershed Groups
  5. Other SNNER Activities
  6. Current Activities
  7. Budget

1. Overview

The SNNER was established in the mid-90s in parallel with the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project (SNEP). Don Erman procured initial funding for SNNER from the UC Office of the President (UC Merced Academic Planning) and hired Fraser Shilling as the Program Coordinator. Shortly thereafter Frank Davis replaced Dr. Erman as the Principal Investigator. For the past two years the SNNER program at UCD has been productively involved with local watershed groups, regional planning/assessment efforts, state and federal agencies, and other UC scientific bodies. At UCSB we have developed a decision support tool for siting a new UC reserve for UC Merced. Over the next five months we will conduct a conservation planning analysis of the Sierran Foothill Zone. This new work is being funded by The Resources Agency of California.

SNNER information and reports are disseminated via the web at http://snepmaps.des.ucdavis.edu/snner/home.html.

2. Implementation Board

The SNNER Implementation Board is comprised of individuals knowledgeable about and influential in the Sierra Nevada Region, who contribute their time and effort to help articulate, refine and advance the SNNER mission. Members include Laurel Ames, Art Baggett, Michael Barbour, Lucy Blake, Dave Campbell, Bill Frost, Jim Gaither, Charles Goldman, Bob Gracey, Bob Heald, John Hess, Dennis Machida, Terri Pencovic, Carl Rountree, G.B. Tucker, and Robert Twiss. The Implementation Board met in December 1999 to review the status of ongoing projects and to discuss possible themes for a regional conference.

3. Workshops

Roads: In October of 1999, we designed and organized a technical workshop on the “Sociological and Ecological Consequences of Roads in the Sierra Nevada”, in collaboration with the Institute of Transportation Studies (UC Davis). The conference web site resides at http://www.ucmerced.edu/courses/roads/roadspost.htm. This very successful workshop brought together 60 agency, academic, and non-profit scientists and staff to hear presentations about impacts and uses of road systems and to discuss the variety of issues that have brought roads to the fore in discussions regarding the Sierra Nevada. A preliminary report from this workshop was developed in 12/99 and is available upon request.

Technical outreach: We have organized several small workshops with local watershed groups as part of our larger interaction with these groups to explain the function of spatial data in watershed decision-making and to introduce them to geographical information systems (GIS). We developed a companion CD, using the Yuba Basin as an example unit, which showed examples of spatial data displayed with the non-proprietary ArcExplorer and included explanations of general principles of GIS and spatial data. We have also joined in and organized workshops for watershed groups on water quality monitoring and the relationships between land use and water quality.

Watersheds: At the December 1999 meeting of the SNNER Board, agreement was reached that a workshop/conference should be organized around the idea of “technical assessments of watersheds” and the nexus of science and policy at the watershed scale. Over the ensuing 6 months, we found several partner organizations to join us in developing this workshop (notably, CSU-Chico’s Watershed Projects program and “FishNet4C”, the central coastal county salmon restoration program). We also discovered that a group in the Northern Sierra Nevada, including UC Cooperative Extension staff and various agency personnel (see “4a” below), was interested in a similar idea and decided to merge proposals as much as possible. The workshop has been delayed until at least Spring 2001 due to lack of Year 3 funding.

4. Watershed Groups

Yuba Watershed Council (YWC): As has been described in previous reports, we have interacted primarily with the YWC in terms of providing expert assistance and links to other resources. This Council has over 60 members (signatories to the Memorandum of Understanding) and is regularly attended by an average of 30 people once a month. We developed a web site for this group, including links to online resources (e.g., SNEP chapters), interactive digital mapping, and a photographic atlas of the watershed (http://snepmaps.des.ucdavis.edu/snner/ywc.html). Beyond attending every general meeting, we also have participated in three committees (monitoring, finance, and education) within the group in order to provide more detailed input and achieve a greater understanding of the needs and processes of the group. We have also provided a conduit between UC projects in the Sierra Nevada (e.g., water quality monitoring, frog population distribution, and aquatic insect studies) and design of publicly-funded restoration and monitoring projects in 3 watersheds. We will continue to support the activities of the YWC through participation in their volunteer-monitor program, design of a model watershed assessment, and construction of a spatial and non-spatial data management system.

American River Watershed Group (ARWG): The interaction with the ARWG was at a lower intensity than with the YWC. We attended general meetings as well as the “GIS Committee” meetings. We participated in grant proposal construction, provided suggestions for their activities based on our experience with the YWC, and may receive support from them for 2000-2001 in order to continue to advise and design processes and products important to their watershed management strategy as well as participate in their “watershed education program” in cooperation with the local school districts.

Bear River CRMP: This CRMP group receives its funding through a contract originally written under the auspices of the YWC, but functions separately. Our interaction with this group has been to suggest ways to collect spatial data, design of a watershed monitoring strategy, and ways that a watershed assessment could be carried out. We expect to continue working with them next year as they get their volunteer-monitoring program going and begin developing a “disturbance inventory” for the basin.

National Forests: We interacted with Tahoe National Forest personnel to develop a prototype “roads analysis and decision-support system” for the TNF roads. The USFS would like this to be a pilot for the Region and has included it within their 2001 budget request. A short PowerPoint presentation is viewable at http://snepmaps.des.ucdavis.edu/snner/tahoe_nf/roadmodel.html.

5. Other SNNER Activities

Search protocol for Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project report: In response to feedback from users of SNEP information, we have been developing procedures for searching and retrieving information in the report and accompanying databases using keywords and geographical names. This has been in collaboration with CERES, using files and data available through the UC Berkeley digital library, UC Davis’ Information Center for the Environment, and other sources.

Northern Sierra Nevada Science Symposium: An ad hoc group of a dozen people from throughout the region has developed a strategy for bringing SNEP and other information into public forums, much as the SNNER has intended to do. We have participated since the outset of this discussion and are co-organizing a series of conferences with them aimed at mixed audiences (from lay public to academic scientist), beginning with a summary of SNEP findings and data and where things have gone since then. The second workshop/conference will coincide with the watershed workshop discussed above and will fall under the rubric of “adaptive management” at the watershed scale.

UC Merced Reserve Siting Analysis: Development of a new University of California campus near Merced stimulated interest in establishing one or more additional research and teaching reserves for the Natural Reserve System (NRS) in the Sierra Nevada or the San Joaquin Valley.  We developed a generic decision support tool for selecting new sites to expand the NRS, based on University guidelines, and applied the model to identify parcels for addition to the NRS network.  These guidelines are organized hierarchically.  The topmost level is organized in three categories of criteria–scientific, academic, and administrative.  Scientific criteria refer to the biological significance of the site as well as the integrity ("viability") of its ecosystems.  Academic criteria include the number of disciplines that could use the site for teaching or research and the accessibility to the campus for those purposes.  For sites with high scientific and academic importance, the final set of criteria deals with filling "gaps" in representation of California's natural ecosystems and the costs and manageability of the site.  These criteria are only general guidelines, however; few specific variables are mentioned with threshold values to define minimal acceptable levels.  It is left to an assessment committee to determine how the guidelines will be interpreted in individual cases.

The analysis process is organized into three distinct stages of increasing spatial detail as the geographic scope of the problem is systematically reduced.  Stage 1, completed in 1999, evaluated the suitability of all potential reserve locations in the broadest reasonable geographic domain, using, of necessity, moderately low-resolution spatial data.  An innovative approach was developed in which the guidelines were translated into a hierarchical logic network linked ultimately to a GIS database.  The spatial data were assessed according to the logic network to create a suitability score for each site.  Sites with the highest suitability were assessed in greater detail in Stage 2.  A slide show describing Stage 1 research is available online at http://www.biogeog.ucsb.edu/projects/snner/phase1slides/index.htm.

In Stage 2 the NRS guidelines were interpreted into a logic network that was similar to Stage 1.  In addition to using more detailed spatial data, the second stage specifically focused on vernal pool habitat, which is one of the most significant habitat types in the vicinity of the Merced campus site.  Information about the number of landowners and size of largest parcel was used to estimate the degree of difficulty in acquiring parcels for a new reserve.  The most suitable sites according to UC guidelines are all clustered closely around the new campus.  These are some of the finest remaining examples of Northern Hardpan vernal pool habitat.  These same locations are also important to the San Joaquin Endangered Species Recovery Plan. Stage 2 is summarized online at http://www.biogeog.ucsb.edu/projects/snner/phase2slides/index.htm.

In Phase 3, we evaluate individual land parcels in the area including and immediately surrounding the proposed campus site.  The guidelines are being adapted to the level of information that can be reasonably obtained for these parcels.  The outcome of this assessment will be a list of specific parcels that might be nominated to the NRS for final evaluation.

6. Current Activities

SNNER has been awarded $77,000 in funding from The Resources Agency to conduct a conservation analysis of the Sierran foothill zone. This project, which was initiated in July 2000, is being conducted at UCSB and involves integrating and refining existing biological data and combining those data with socioeconomic data and information to help prioritize foothill sites for conservation and restoration activities.

7. Budget

The total SNNER budget for 7/99-6/00 was $144,000. The SNNER-UCD portion of this was $71,000. This supported Fraser Shilling (PGR 8) at 100%, Evan Girvetz (PGR 1) at 50%, and a student assistant at 10 h/wk. It also allowed for a modest travel and supplies budget. The $74,000 UCSB budget provided partial salary support for Assistant Researcher David Stoms, Computer and Network Technologist Michael Colee, and Graduate Research Assistant Jennifer MacDonald. Travel funds and partial summer salary were provided to PI Davis.

University of California Office of the President Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project Homepage (CERES) SNEP GIS data on-line (UC Davis--ICE) Sierra Nevada Network for Education and Research Homepage UC Merced Homepage Biogeography Lab Home Page

Email stoms@bren.ucsb.edu