and Ecosystem Management in the Sierra Nevada
Network for Education and Research (SNNER)
– June 2000
Frank W. Davis,
Principal Investigator (1)
Fraser Shilling, Project Coordinator (2)
David Stoms, Assistant Researcher (3)
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
Other SNNER Activities
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
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
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.
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.
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.