Priority Landscapes

Expert opinion on spatial priorities provided by partners in the Cascadia Partner Forum in 2015-2016.

Expert opinion on spatial priorities provided by partners in the Cascadia Partner Forum in 2015-2016.

Our work on priority issues to date has led to a recognition of the importance to also coordinate with our network on spatial priorities throughout Cascadia. Organizations prioritize landscapes for a wide variety of reasons all the time. This prioritization can focus investments, foster coordination amongst partners, and/or highlight an area of importance.  Additionally, scientific analyses in recent years have informed our understanding of priority landscapes vital to increasing our ecosystems and species ability to adapt to predicted changes in climate.

Through 2016 our partner forum led an Cascadia-wide effort to do two things:

1. Identify and inventory existing spatial priority landscapes for natural resource conservation and management in Cascadia. It is important to be aware of existing spatial priority landscapes identified by different entities throughout Cascadia. In understanding where these places are, why they are highlighted, and what the goals are within the landscape our hope is that in many cases this awareness can lead to increased coordination and resources towards efforts to strengthen resilience in these special places.  The inventory includes spatial priorities that have been identified in 4 areas:  Science analyses that identify spatial priorities, designated priority areas, expert opinion, and species presence/habitat spatial information.  This living inventory is maintained in a working group for the Cascadia Partner Forum on Databasin, where layers can be viewed and downloaded.
2. Review and synthesize existing relevant climate science analyses within or overlapping Cascadia to inform a process for identifying spatial priorities for climate adaptation. To provide focus in scope to this process we will prioritize this review to spatial priorities identified in existing climate adaptation strategies, and review of climate science relevant to the priority issues and conservation targets addressed by the partner forum to date.  At the request of our partner forum, Meade Krosby of the University of Washington’s Climate Impacts Group prepared a memo entitled “Identifying Cascadia Conservation Priorities Under Climate Change: A memo to the Cascadia Partner Forum “ summarizing recommendations on how to move forward in building a living climate adaptation blueprint for Cascadia, while partners also identified relevant analyses and layers to integrate into our Databasin spatial priorities gallery.

As we shared this work to date with practioners and partners from across Cascadia at WildLinks 2016, we heard that having access to all of this data is a great first step but it is not enough.  This winter we are exploring ways to synthesize the information, share key findings and areas of overlapping priorities, and lay plans for future work towards creating a shared climate blueprint for this landscape.

In all of our work it is important to always update our inventory to reflect emerging science and spatial priorities, you can help us by sharing any information we should be aware of – download this worksheet and send it back to us (we’ve found the easiest way for partners to complete this is to print, write and draw on the worksheet, scan, then email).

Some spatial priorities we have identified to date include:

Priority watersheds in Cascadia identified in TRACS by US Forest Service Region 6. Map produced by Danny Hertel.

Priority watersheds in Cascadia identified in TRACS by US Forest Service Region 6. Map produced by Danny Hertel.

  • Arid Lands Initiative Shared Priority Areas.  This public-private collaboration utilized existing scientific analyses and on-the-ground knowledge to map spatial priorities for terrestrial species and habitats as an information tool. Data layers from this effort are available on a project page on Databasin.  This effort does not extend into the arid lands of British Columbia, but does include priorities within the arid lands of Washington’s Cascadia.
  • Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program’s Critical Conservation Areas.  Critical Conservation Areas (CCAs) are designated by the Secretary of Agriculture and represent an opportunity for many stakeholders to come together at a regional level to address common natural resource goals while maintaining or improving agricultural productivity. Partners, working closely with producers and communities, define and propose projects that will achieve regional natural resource goals while also meeting complementary local conservation priorities.  Within the eastern foothills of Cascadia lies a portion of one of the Critical Conservation Areas – the Columbia River Basin.  Funding in this program in addition to these areas is established by state and national priorities as well.
  • Puget Sound/Snohomish River Watershed through the Resilient Lands and Waters Initiative recognized by Department of Interior, Environmental Protection Agency, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  In October 2014, the President’s Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience released the Priority Agenda Enhancing the Climate Resilience of America’s Natural Resources that included direction for federal agencies to work with partners to identify flagship landscapes with priority areas for conservation, restoration, or other investments to build resilience in vulnerable regions, enhance carbon storage capacity, and support management needs.  In an April 21st press release they announced four landscapes nationally including this one in Cascadia.
  • The Nature Conservancy’s Ecoregional Priorities.  Ecoregional Assessment is one of two methods that The Nature Conservancy uses with partners both and to establish priorities for its conservation actions. This planning process assesses relatively large geographic areas delineated by large-scale patterns of climate, geology, biodiversity, and other ecological and environmental patterns.  Priorities within specific sites in Cascadia can be viewed utilizing their online mapping tool.
  • US Forest Service Region 6 Terrestrial Restoration and Conservation Strategy (TRACS).  Identifies the most important terrestrial species, habitats and watersheds by ecoregion, and provides examples showing how this information can be used to design integrated restoration projects that unite Forest Service disciplines and accomplish multiple objectives simultaneously.  Includes discussion on integration of climate change considerations.
  • US Forest Service Watershed Condition Framework.  Approaches watershed restoration by targeting the implementation of integrated suites of activities in those watersheds that have been identified as priorities for restoration. Primary emphasis is on aquatic and terrestrial processes and conditions that Forest Service management activities can influence. The approach is designed to foster integrated ecosystem-based watershed assessments; target programs of work in watersheds that have been identified for restoration; enhance communication and coordination with external agencies and partners; and improve national-scale reporting and monitoring of program accomplishments.  View an interactive map of the watersheds identified as priorities, and download a PDF map of these watersheds in Washington and Oregon.