Step 1: Develop Management Objectives

Step 1: Develop management objectives; select additional ecosystem attributes and indicators to monitor

Step 1a: Develop management objectives or goals

  • One of the first and most important steps in the AIM process is identifying management objectives that will be the focus of your monitoring effort.  Management objectives should provide the context for why monitoring information is needed and how it will be used. Together, management and monitoring objectives (Step 2b) inform all subsequent decisions, including where and how points are selected and what will be measured and at what frequency.  
  • During this step, it is helpful to think broadly across programs and jurisdictions to identify the desired conditions in the landscape of interest.  Then determine whether efficiencies can be gained in the combination of monitoring and assessment efforts if they share similar management objectives. Generally, each additional management objective will require some additional sampling effort. If multiple management objectives are to be addressed, ensure that adequate resources exist (e.g., sample points, crews, funding) to assess them all.
  • After gaining management approval, assemble an interdisciplinary team to review existing documents which describe management history, planned management actions, previous data collection efforts, and relevant policy. Some examples of documents that should be included in your review are listed below:
    • BLM Land Health Handbook (4180)
    • Land Health Standards (click here for an overview of the relationships between land health standards, land health fundamentals, and AIM indicators)
      • Ecological processes
      • Watershed function
      • Water quality and yield
      • T&E and Native Species
    • Sage grouse habitat management objectives
    • Resource Management Plans
    • Commitments in NEPA documents or Biological Opinions
  • Based on this review, what management goals would you synthesize?  Provide citations to the relevant supporting background documents.  Since many of these documents relate back to the Land Health Standards for the area, Land Health Standards are a good place to start.  Then add objectives not covered by Land Health Standards as needed.

Step 1b: Select additional ecosystem attributes and indicators to monitor

  • Review the terrestrial and aquatic core and contingent indicators (indicator tables below; BLM Tech Note 440, BLM Tech Reference 1735-1, BLM Tech Reference 1735-2) and think about how these indicators relate to your management goals.   
  • The core and contingent indicators were selected because they are relevant across BLM managed ecosystems and can be used to address many BLM monitoring and assessment requirements, including Land Health Standards. For example, vegetation cover and composition data might be useful to address habitat, grazing, and fire recovery objectives.
  • If there are management and monitoring goals which will not be satisfied by the core or contingent Indicators, consider adding supplemental indicators. See additional guidance in Step 4.
Terrestrial Indicators Table

Aquatic Indicators Table

Step 1 Example: Management Objectives or Goals and Ecosystem Attributes

Step 1: Develop management objectives; select additional ecosystem attributes and indicators to monitor

Step 1a: Monitoring Objectives or Goals

Field office management objectives are presented in the State Land Health Standards (LHS), Resource Management Plan (RMP) and the Sage Grouse RMP Amendment. All highlight the importance of healthy ecosystems, including vegetation, soil, water, and wildlife. In addition, RMP goals highlight the importance of monitoring for improving understanding of ecosystem functioning and carrying out adaptive management.

The following represents a synthesis of ecosystem management objectives from the LHS, RMP, and Sage Grouse RMP Amendment:

  • “Upland” soils exhibit infiltration and permeability rates appropriate for the soil type, climate, landform, and geologic processes. Adequate soil infiltration and permeability allows for the accumulation of soil moisture necessary for optimal plant growth and vigor and minimizes surface runoff. (LHS#1; RMP)
  • Riparian systems function properly and have the ability to recover from major disturbance such as fire, severe grazing, or 100-year floods. Riparian vegetation captures sediment and provides forage, habitat, and biodiversity. Water quality is improved or maintained. Stable soils store and release water slowly. (LHS#2; RMP; Sage Grouse Plan Amendment)
  • Healthy, productive plant and animal communities of native and other desirable species are maintained at viable population levels commensurate with the species and the habitat’s potential. Plants and animals at both the community and population level are productive, resilient, diverse, vigorous, and able to reproduce and sustain natural fluctuations and ecological processes. (LHS#3; RMP)
    • Emphasis on sagebrush biome (RMP; LHS#4; Sage Grouse Plan Amendment)
  • Special status, threatened, and endangered species (federal and State), and other plants and animals officially designated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and their habitats are maintained or enhanced by sustaining healthy, native plant and animal communities. (LHS#4)
    • Emphasis on greater sage grouse (RMP; Sage Grouse Plan Amendment)
  • The water quality of streams and rivers located on or influenced by BLM lands will achieve or exceed state water quality standards. Water quality standards include the designated beneficial uses, numeric criteria, narrative criteria, and anti-degradation requirements set forth under State law as found in Rule 317-2 in the Utah Administrative Law, and as required by Section 303(c) of the Clean Water Act. (LHS#5; RMP)

Step 1b: Select additional ecosystem attributes and indicators to monitor
Information about populations of threatened and endangered species is also necessary but should be gained through partnership with the state wildlife agency.

The BLM AIM terrestrial and aquatic core indicators (TN440; TR 1735-1, TR 1735-2) are relevant to all of the above objectives (e.g., Terrestrial and Aquatic Indicator Tables). At terrestrial plots, we will also monitor sagebrush shape, distance to the nearest sagebrush patch, and the distance to Pinon-Juniper trees or other tall structures to meet the requirements of the Sage Grouse Habitat Assessment Framework (HAF). E. coli samples will also be collected from stream reaches that are heavily impacted by cattle grazing or that are immediately downstream of urban areas.


Helpful Documents and Links

Monitoring Design Worksheet

Monitoring Design Worksheet Instructions

BLM Land Health Handbook (4180)

Tech Note 440

AIM National Aquatic Monitoring Framework Field Methods, TR 1735-1

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