Thursday, December 10, 2009

AM at the 70th Midwest F&W meeting

I was just doing a bit of editing of past posts and discovered that I apparently forgot to post this one! Ooops ...

I just got back from the 70th Midwest Fish and Wildlife conference, which is a regional meeting shared among 10 states in the Midwest. I was one of the presenters at a symposium on Adaptive Management organized by the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit. One of the best things about the symposium was an opportunity to start doing some "introspection" on AM. What works? What doesn't? What are we doing here anyway?

The show was kicked off by Ken Williams, Director of the Cooperative Research Unit program at the USGS. Ken is a powerful and charismatic speaker who always goes at 100 miles an hour through mind blowing concepts. His message was simple, but direct - if anyone tells you there's only one way to do AM they're blowing smoke. OK, I paraphrase, but that's the gist. The essence of AM however defined is "Do, Learn, Do again".

The next speaker was Jamie McFadden, a graduate student from UNL, who is conducting a review of recent published work describing AM in an effort to identify characteristics of successful AM projects. Of course, her first challenge was to figure out how to define success! Her scheme focused on how close projects came to implementation, defined as actually making a management decision - Doing.

Armond Gharmestani of the EPA made some useful points about the relationship between law and AM - in particular pointing out the requirement of current administrative law to do all the planning "up front", which is extremely problematic for AM. In my opinion this is probably the single biggest institutional hurdle to overcome for folks wanting to do AM.

Clint Moore of the USGS presented two examples of collaborative efforts between the USGS and USFWS to implement AM - the AM consultancies and the AM for Refuges cooperative effort. The first is small scale - 2-3 days to lay out a plan that a single refuge manager can implement. The example was of managing burn treatments to maximize species richness on a refuge in Minnesota. The second type of project is intended for projects that span multiple regions and many refuges with a shared management problem, Reed Canary Grass in the example Clint gave. Clint's talk highlighted one of the key problems with implementing projects at that scale - a lack of people with both the time and technical expertise to maintain the AM project once the direct technical support is withdrawn.

Dave Galat from the Missouri Coop Unit gave a talk on the implementation of AM on the Upper Mississippi River. This is an interesting example for me because the UMR AM effort is a USACE habitat restoration project similar to what I am involved in on the Missouri River.

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