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Columbia Plateau Ecoregion Conservation Planning

Abstract of article in Parks
Final Report to TNC

Problem Statement

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) identifies portfolios of sites and strategies that will maintain viable native species and representative plant communities. TNC wants to modify its approach such that it can produce a conservation plan that will provide guidance for TNC field offices and agency and non-governmental partners on how to pursue protection of this portfolio of sites, and how to integrate various conservation strategies (which might include actions such as influencing particular policies, zoning, and identifying key influences on critical ecological processes) with land acquisition and/or management designation of particular sites. Further, TNC needs recommendations for how they should implement this ecoregional conservation planning approach throughout the organization, in contrast to its current state or national scope of planning.

TNC is looking to develop a prototype planning process for the Columbia Plateau ecoregion. Three questions are germane to the development of this prototype application:

1. What set of site selection rules provides the most efficient method for designing and assembling a portfolio of sites to maintain all viable native species and community types within a target ecoregion (i.e., how can TNC maximize the amount of biodiversity protected relative to the given number of conservation sites or amount of land area)?
2. How sensitive is the portfolio to the way in which biodiversity is measured (e.g., what are the effects of using a coarse-filter (alliances from Gap Analysis) or fine-filter (rare element occurrences for species and plant community associations from Natural Heritage programs)?
3. How can TNC integrate programmatic, economic and socio-political factors into the portfolio design process without sacrificing its biodiversity goals?

The UCSB Biogeography Lab (UCSB) proposed to adapt preserve selection models we have developed for other recent projects to the task of setting alternative conservation priorities in the Columbia Plateau. Through discussion with TNC about its goals for the project, the BMAS model developed originally at UCSB for the Sierra Nevada Ecosystem Project is being adapted to this project. We will be on working with TNC to define a reasonable set of alternatives with explicitly defined sets of assumptions, objectives, measures of biodiversity, and other model parameters, and then to apply the model. The output of this analysis will be alternative sets of planning units that satisfy the multiple objectives of each alternative portfolio strategy.

Email stoms@bren.ucsb.edu