The Montana Wetland Coordination Council (multiple Federal & State agencies) has identified riparian-wetland mapping and corresponding geospatial layers as a top priority throughout the state.
Since 2008, the BLM has collaborated with numerous funding partners to map the locations
credit: TRB Blogs
and key attributes associated with riparian-wetland systems.
These collaborative efforts have led to one of the most comprehensive inventories in the Western U.S., which is improving riparian-wetland management by all interested parties.
Now that we know the locations of these systems, we need to leverage the power of the embedded attributes and related datasets to prioritize conservation, restoration, and management.
Consequently, the next step is to use the existing datasets and supplemental information to extract new geospatial representations and develop conceptual models that depict riparian-wetland functions, resource values, and management priorities.
This will essentially create information from data and thereby improve the Montana Wetland Coordination Council Memberâ¿¿s (and others) ability to manage riparian-wetland habitat.
This project will seek to produce geospatial products and corresponding reports/guidebooks to improve riparian-wetland resource management, including but not limited to the following general statewide needs:
(1) New geospatial layers that represent riparian-wetland characteristics.
Now that riparian-wetland mapping is nearly complete for most areas throughout the state, individual layers that represent unique riparian-wetland characteristics will maximize the utility of those efforts because the attributes that need to be considered for a project depend on the proposed actions and facilitating access to the various geospatial representations will enable resource specialists to analyze key features at multiple scales and thereby improve their ability to develop holistic management plans that include the physical, biological, and ecological components of riparian-wetland management.
New geospatial layers should help groups across the state to develop Resource & Drought Management Plans, identify desired resource values (fisheries, water quality, wildlife, etc.), and describe the corresponding Affected Environment and Environmental Consequences sections of NEPA documents (or MEPA documents associated with Montana State authorizations under the Montana Environmental Policy Act).
Examples of potential geospatial layers include:
Risk/Vulnerability rating for livestock grazing during drought (i.e.
low slope, fine grained sediment, broad valley type, dominance of herbaceous vegetation, permanent water regime, and distance from other perennial water sources).
This layer could be used to identify areas that are most likely to be impacted by livestock grazing during hydrologic drought and may be good locations for effectiveness/compliance monitoring; Topographic Position Index & Modified Topographic Position Index, Landscape Context/Human Disturbance Index; An aggregation of LLWW classes into a handful of physically-based HGM classifications that correspond to BLM management strategies; Area/density based classification of anthropogenically modified riparian-wetland systems; Density of wetlands per watershed; Index of beaver activity; Heat map depicting susceptibility of grazing operations to hydrologic drought (i.e.
via water regime and estimated distances of livestock travel to water); Riparian-Wetland layer depicting the type of hydrologic modification (Note:
must add â¿¿natural conditionâ¿ to the hydrologic modifiers list); Riparian-wetland subsystems (i.e.
lotic, emergent; lotic, scrub shrub; etc.); Combinations of biological layers with riparian-wetland data (i.e.
classify riparian-wetland types most commonly used by sage grouse & located within Priority Sage Grouse Habitat polygons as â¿¿priority for sage grouse managementâ¿); Once new geospatial layers are complete, a summary document that describes the methods, assumptions, cautions, and example uses for each layer should be made publicly available to assist individuals most likely to use the data (including the BLM).
In addition to the information provided in the â¿¿General Descriptionâ¿ section for each layer, the metadata should meet the standards required by state and federal land managers.
(2) Run the Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT) for Montana and sections of eastern South Dakota (i.e.
within the vicinity of BLM surface estate).
This should include a summary report with a chapter on validation, so that all users can cite the information in future decisions, public grants, etc.
Output layers (including adequate metadata) should be formatted to simplify interpretations & cover the full spectrum of the BRATâ¿¿s estimates.
(3) Finalize riparian-wetland mapping of priority quads.
Data should be mapped according to NWI Plus standards, so that itâ¿¿s compatible with the rest of the existing data across the state.
(4) Reclassify the LLWW mapping and related attributes into several HGM classes that are most useful to the Integrated Riparian Management Framework and develop a corresponding document that identifies key attributes of each riparian-wetland category.
This document should be designed to help field specialists complete proper functioning condition assessments by providing information such as:
Hydrogeomorphic riparian-wetland functional groups.
When binning the riparian-wetland classes into increasingly homogeneous groups, characteristics that are most important to riparian-wetland function and sensitivity to disturbance should be considered.
The â¿¿potential natural conditionâ¿ of each riparian-wetland class, as well as discussion & photos of the spatial variability that can be expected within each respective class; The common degradation pathways for each riparian-wetland type (i.e.
channel evolution models and/or conceptual diagrams similar to those included in â¿¿Characterization & Restoration of Slope Wetlands in New Mexicoâ¿ for slope wetlands).
photos & written descriptions of the â¿¿statesâ¿ that commonly exist along a degradation sequence of each riparian-wetland type (to help staff identify the current â¿¿potential,â¿ realizing that many degraded systems will not return to PNC, but can achieve a better state (like channel evolution models, but also include wetlands).
Common symptoms of degradation and/or recovery for each riparian-wetland class.
Ideally, the symptoms will be identified in photo and narrative form and correspond to the various states in the evolution sequences (Note:
BLM has a PowerPoint for lotic systems that can provide a reasonable template for expanding the concept to lentic systems); common disturbances that lead to degradation of each riparian-wetland class; key management considerations for each riparian-wetland class Overall Objective:
To provide the best available/easily accessed data and reference documents for managing riparian-wetland habitat and developing conservation strategies in Montana and sections of the Dakotas.
To accomplish the overall goal, the aforementioned project elements are tied to specific objectives, identified below:
Finalize Riparian-Wetland Mapping and Create New Geospatial Layers Objective:
To identify the location and key characteristics of riparian wetland systems & make the full spectrum of geospatial information that can be obtained from the mapping project readily available to resource managers for analysis in GIS.
Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool (BRAT:
To provide riparian-wetland managers the data required to develop a cohesive framework for improving riparian-wetland conditions & drought resiliency through beaver management and corresponding restoration strategies.
Reclassify LLWW & related attributes into HGM classes & develop a corresponding field guide that helps riparian managers improve the quality of their assessments; Objective:
To bin riparian-wetland classes identified in the mapping project into a handful of hydrogeomorphic classes & then â¿¿step downâ¿ that information to a field guide that provides riparian-wetland managers the information required to improve the accuracy and precision of riparian assessments & prioritize actions in the Integrated Riparian Management Framework.
The public would directly benefit, as the geospatial layers and corresponding reports will cover the entire state and be publicly available through the Montana National Heritage Programâ¿¿s website.
This data will assist all interested groups with riparian-wetland habitat management and could likely even lead to the formation of new partnerships.
Public benefits associated with each project element include:
Finalize Riparian-Wetland Mapping and Create New Geospatial Layers:
Now that riparian-wetland mapping is nearly complete for most areas, individual layers that represent unique riparian-wetland characteristics will maximize the utility of those products.
This is because the attributes that need to be considered for a project depend on the expected impacts associated with the proposed actions.
However, creating the individual layers/indexes from the core riparian-wetland mapping products can be time consuming, requires a thorough understanding of the datasets (assumptions, variance, resolution, etc.), and often involves research/validation studies.
Consequently, it will benefit riparian-wetland managers if a single entity with a long history and thorough understanding of the riparian-wetland datasets creates the new geospatial layers statewide and then distributes them to the end users.
This will ensure that everyone:
(1) is working with the same standardized datasets that have been vetted by the stateâ¿¿s top subject matter experts and properly documented, (2) is aware of the information that is currently embedded in the various geodatabases, (3) spends less time formatting and extracting information from datasets and more time analyzing it and implementing corresponding management actions, (4) can utilize studies that are built from the same datasets, but cross jurisdictional boundaries (enabling coordination & collaboration with partners), and (5) maximizes efficiency because the research and validation studies required to produce new geospatial layers only have to be completed once, for the entire state.
Furthermore, once these geospatial layers are standardized, the BLM can develop geoprocessing tools that extract key data for recurring projects throughout the field offices.
Beaver Restoration Assessment Tool:
The BRAT output is expected to help land managers throughout the state account for the beaverâ¿¿s role in supporting healthy ecosystems, ensure that their habitat needs are considered when authorizing land use activities, and prioritize restoration actions in areas that are best suited to beaver and least likely to conflict with human infrastructure (i.e.
canals, roads, culverts, railroads, stream crossings by road etc.).
Since the modeling will be statewide, the results should help focus the efforts of diverse stakeholders onto the areas that will produce the â¿¿biggest bang for the buckâ¿, thereby increasing coordination and collaboration, and enabling landscape-scale restoration.
Reclassify LLWW & related attributes into HGM classes & develop a corresponding field guide that helps riparian managers improve the quality of their assessments; Binning the LLWW classes & related attributes into a smaller group of riparian-wetland classes that (1) have similar vegetative, geomorphic, and hydrologic characteristics; (2) produce similar functions; and (3) respond similarly to disturbance, will help prioritize management efforts.
For example, identifying riparian-wetland systems that produce similar resource values and respond similarly to management will help resource specialists customize management plans to address those factors and monitoring strategies that stratify and sample accordingly.
Furthermore, reducing the LLWW classes into a handful of HGM classes will enable the creation of a guidebook that describes functions, defining characteristics, conceptual models for disturbance cycles, common indicators of condition, and even a framework for associating the ecologic utility of the various wetland types.
This will help resource specialists account for these key characteristics when completing condition assessments & identifying resource objectives, which should greatly improve the accuracy and utility of the resulting data.