Multiscale, Multiresource Monitoring Using the BLM’s AIM Strategy Northeastern California and Northwestern Nevada

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Figure 1: AIM monitoring locations in Northeastern California and Northwestern Nevada, located in the Eagle Lake, Surprise, and Alturas Field Offices. The Surprise and Alturas offices were consolidated in 2015 and are now part of the Applegate Field Office.

Introduction

In 2013, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Eagle Lake and Applegate Field Offices began a multiscale ecosystem monitoring program to address multiple resource concerns in northeastern California and northwestern Nevada (Figure 1). The three field offices created a monitoring program to address health of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems in the broader Land Use Plan area and in individual management areas. While designing the project in 2012, the 315,557 acre Rush Fire ripped through the study area, necessitating additional monitoring to address post-fire treatment effectiveness. Questions the three field offices sought to answer included:

  • What is the quality of Greater Sage-Grouse habitat?
  • Were wildfire restoration and rehabilitation treatments effective?
  • Is wildfire recovery sufficient to support livestock grazing?
  • Which reaches of rivers and streams are deviating significantly from expected conditions, or in comparison to field office averages?
  • Numerous additional applications of the data (10-plus) include understanding wildlife habitat trends; wild horses and burro impacts; location and abundance of juniper, aspen, and nonnative plants; whether certain grazing allotments are meeting land health standards; and more.

Methods

NorCal2AIM is a tool used to answer questions derived from management needs in the field. The design, collection, and analysis of data for this project reflects the needs of these particular field offices. At all sample locations, indicators were measured using AIM’s core and contingent methods (see documents on right). Managers desired data to inform both fine scale local management of ecological resources (e.g. grazing allotments) as well as broad scale regional understanding of resource condition and trend (stream health, Land Use Plan effectiveness, Greater Sage-Grouse habitat, etc.).
In order to make inferences from the site level to a regional Land Use Plan level, monitoring locations were randomly selected in an unbiased manner, with all locations in a stratified area having some probability of being chosen. Due to budget, time, and personnel
constraints, high-intensity monitoring was not feasible across the study area. The flexibility of AIM allows for intensification of
monitoring where needed.

  • In 2013 and 2014, 297 terrestrial locations were monitored using the terrestrial core indicators and methods. Data collection continues.
  • In 2013 and 2014, 69 aquatic locations were monitored, covering 207 km of streams and rivers, using aquatic core indicators and methods

NorCal3Data were collected in the field then applied to management by the Eagle Lake, Alturas, and Surprise Field Offices with support from the National Operations Center, National Aquatic
Monitoring Center, and Agricultural Research Service when needed.

Informing Management

Results of the data produced by this AIM monitoring effort are providing managers with accurate and reliable information pertaining directly to management questions identified at the outset.

For instance, three reseeding techniques were used as part of the Emergency Stabilization and Rehabilitation treatments (aerial seeding, drill seeding 1 and drill seeding 2). Drill seeding 1 and 2 utilized different seed mixes. There was also an untreated control and an unburned control. The efficacy of each technique was variable (figure 2). Monitoring allowed for comparisons on different aspects of effectiveness, such as annual & perennial plant foliar cover and susceptibility to erosion.

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Figure 2: A comparison of vegetation seeding restoration treatments, untreated burned areas, and unburned areas surrounding the Rush fire.

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Figure 3: Sagebrush cover on BLM lands across three field offices. Darker green areas are meeting the thresholds for good sage-grouse habitat, whereas light green areas are not. Most areas not meeting thresholds were burned in the 2012 Rush Fire. This information, along with other sage-grouse habitat indicators derived from the AIM monitoring, indicates areas with primary sage grouse habitat which should be prioritized for protection

 

Perennial grass cover, perennial forb cover, annual grass cover, and shrub cover were all used to classify Greater Sage-Grouse habitat condition. Managers now know that
potential suitable Greater Sage-Grouse habitat is present in the north and western portions of the study area where perennial grass cover is greater than 20% and shrub cover is greater than 20% (figure 3) . However, low forb cover throughout the study area may not provide suitable breeding and brood-rearing habitat for sage-grouse.

A paucity of consistently collected aquatic data was also hindering proper management of the region’s aquatic resources. From this monitoring effort, minimal, moderate and significant departures from reference condition on 74% of perennial streams in the three field office have been classified. Managers have a better sense of the location of degraded stream reaches, which indicators (nutrient levels, bank stability, invasive invertebrates, etc.) are likely causing the degradation, as well as the possible drivers of these aquatic changes (livestock grazing, erosion, climate change, etc.). This information informs our understanding of the condition of aquatic ecosystems at an allotment scale and can also be aggregated to field office or regional scales (figure 4).

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