This report summarizes the results of a series of field-based case studies conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to (1) evaluate the use of nonmarket values in Bureau of Land Management (BLM) planning and project assessments, (2) update existing technical resources for measuring those values, and (3) provide guidance to field staff on the use of nonmarket values. Four BLM pilot sites participated in this effort: Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in Colorado, Red Cliffs and Beaver Dam Wash National Conservation Areas in Utah, BLM’s Taos Field Office in New Mexico, and BLM's Tuscarora Field Office in Nevada. The focus of the case studies was on practical applications of nonmarket valuation. USGS worked directly with BLM field staff at the pilot sites to demonstrate the process of considering nonmarket values in BLM decisionmaking and document the questions, challenges, and opportunities that arise when tying economic language to projects.
As part of this effort, a Web-based toolkit, available at https://my.usgs.gov/benefit-transfer/, was updated and expanded to help facilitate benefit transfers (that is, the use of existing economic data to quantify nonmarket values) and qualitative discussions of nonmarket values. A total of 53 new or overlooked nonmarket valuation studies comprising 494 nonmarket value estimates for various recreational activities and the preservation of threatened, endangered, and rare species were added to existing databases within this Benefit Transfer Toolkit. In addition, four meta-regression functions focused on hunting, wildlife viewing, fishing, and trail use recreation were developed and added to the Benefit Transfer Toolkit.
Results of this effort demonstrate that there are two main roles for nonmarket valuation in BLM planning. The first is to improve the decisionmaking process by contributing to a more comprehensive comparison of economic benefits and cost when evaluating resource tradeoffs for National Environmental Policy Act analyses. The second is to use economic language and information on economic values, either qualitative or quantitative, to improve the ability to communicate the economic significance of the resources provided by BLM-managed lands.
Findings also indicate that the use of existing economic data to quantify nonmarket values (that is, benefit transfer) poses unique challenges because of the scarcity of both resource data and existing valuation studies focused on resources and sites managed by BLM. This highlights the need for improvements in the collection of resource data at BLM sites, especially visitor use data, as well as an opportunity for BLM’s Socioeconomics Program to strategically identify priority areas, in terms of both resources and geographic locations, where primary valuation studies could be conducted and the results used for future benefit transfers. Finally, whereas qualitative discussions of nonmarket values do not facilitate the comparison of monetized values, they can provide a manageable next step forward in providing more comprehensive information on nonmarket values for BLM plans and project assessments.
A Multiscale Index of Landscape Intactness for the Western United States
Landscape intactness has been defined as a quantifiable estimate of naturalness measured on a gradient of anthropogenic influence. We developed a multiscale index of landscape intactness for the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) landscape approach, which requires multiple scales of information to quantify the cumulative effects of land use. The multiscale index of landscape intactness represents a gradient of anthropogenic influence as represented by development levels at two analysis scales.
To create the index, we first mapped the surface disturbance footprint of development, for the western U.S., by compiling and combining spatial data for urban development, agriculture, energy and minerals, and transportation for 17 states. All linear features and points were buffered to create a surface disturbance footprint. Buffered footprints and polygonal data were rasterized at 15-meter (m), aggregated to 30-m, and then combined with the existing 30-meter inputs for urban development and cultivated croplands. The footprint area was represented as a proportion of the cell and was summed using a raster calculator. To reduce processing time, the 30-m disturbance footprint was aggregated to 90-m. The 90-m resolution surface disturbance footprint is retained as a separate raster data sets in this data release (Surface Disturbance Footprint from Development for the Western United States). We used a circular moving window to create a terrestrial development index for two scales of analysis, 2.5-kilometer (km) and 20-km, by calculating the percent of the surface disturbance footprint at each scale. The terrestrial development index at both the 2.5-km (Terrestrial Development Index for the Western United States: 2.5-km moving window) and 20-km (Terrestrial Development Index for the Western United States: 20-km moving window) were retained as separate raster data sets in this data release. The terrestrial development indexes at two analysis scales were ranked and combined to create the multiscale index of landscape intactness (retained as Landscape Intactness Index for the Western United States) in this data release. To identify intact areas, we focused on terrestrial development index scores less than or equal to 3 percent, which represented relatively low levels of development on multiple-use lands managed by the BLM and other land management agencies.
The multiscale index of landscape intactness was designed to be flexible, transparent, defensible, and applicable across multiple spatial scales, ecological boundaries, and jurisdictions. To foster transparency and facilitate interpretation, the multiscale index of landscape intactness data release retains four component data sets to enable users to interpret the multiscale index of landscape intactness: the surface disturbance footprint, the terrestrial development index summarized at two scales (2.5-km and 20-km circular moving windows), and the overall landscape intactness index. The multiscale index is a proposed core indicator to quantify landscape integrity for the BLM Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring program and is intended to be used in conjunction with additional regional- or local-level information not available at national levels (such as invasive species occurrence) necessary to evaluate ecological integrity for the BLM landscape approach.
Federal investments in ecosystem restoration projects protect Federal trusts, ensure public health and safety, and preserve and enhance essential ecosystem services. These investments also generate business activity and create jobs. It is important for restoration practitioners to be able to quantify the economic impacts of individual restoration projects in order to communicate the contribution of these activities to local and national stakeholders. This report provides a detailed description of the methods used to estimate economic impacts of case study projects and also provides suggestions, lessons learned, and trade-offs between potential analysis methods.
This analysis estimates the economic impacts of a wide variety of ecosystem restoration projects associated with U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) lands and programs. Specifically, the report provides estimated economic impacts for 21 DOI restoration projects associated with Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration cases and Bureau of Land Management lands. The study indicates that ecosystem restoration projects provide meaningful economic contributions to local economies and to broader regional and national economies, and, based on the case studies, we estimate that between 13 and 32 job-years4 and between $2.2 and $3.4 million in total economic output5 are contributed to the U.S. economy for every $1 million invested in ecosystem restoration. These results highlight the magnitude and variability in the economic impacts associated with ecosystem restoration projects and demonstrate how investments in ecosystem restoration support jobs and livelihoods, small businesses, and rural economies. In addition to providing improved information on the economic impacts of restoration, the case studies included with this report highlight DOI restoration efforts and tell personalized stories about each project and the communities that are positively affected by restoration activities. Individual case studies are provided in appendix 1 of this report and are available from an online database at https://www.fort.usgs.gov/economic-impacts-restoration.
Tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda spp.) in the Colorado River basin: Synthesis of an expert panel forum
Bloodworth, Benjamin R.; Shafroth, Patrick B.; Sher, Anna A.; Manners, Rebecca B.; Bean, Daniel W.; Johnson, Matthew J.; Hinojosa-Huerta, Osvel
In 2001, the U.S. Department of Agriculture approved the release of a biological control agent, the tamarisk beetle (Diorhabda spp.), to naturally control tamarisk populations and provide a less costly, and potentially more effective, means of removal compared with mechanical and chemical methods. The invasive plant tamarisk (Tamarix spp.; saltcedar) occupies hundreds of thousands of acres of river floodplains and terraces across the western half of the North American continent. Its abundance varies, but can include dense monocultures, and can alter some physical and ecological processes associated with riparian ecosystems.
The tamarisk beetle now occupies hundreds of miles of rivers throughout the Upper Colorado River Basin (UCRB) and is spreading into the Lower Basin. The efficacy of the beetle is evident, with many areas repeatedly experiencing tamarisk defoliation. While many welcome the beetle as a management tool, others are concerned by the ecosystem implications of widespread defoliation of a dominant woody species. As an example, defoliation may possibly affect the nesting success of the endangered southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus).
In January 2015, the Tamarisk Coalition convened a panel of experts to discuss and present information on probable ecological trajectories in the face of widespread beetle presence and to consider opportunities for restoration and management of riparian systems in the Colorado River Basin (CRB). An in-depth description of the panel discussion follows.
Wood decay in desert riverine environments
Andersen, Douglas; Stricker, Craig A.; Nelson, S. Mark
Floodplain forests and the woody debris they produce are major components of riverine ecosystems in many arid and semiarid regions (drylands). We monitored breakdown and nitrogen dynamics in wood and bark from a native riparian tree, Fremont cottonwood (Populus deltoides subsp. wislizeni), along four North American desert streams. We placed locally-obtained, fresh, coarse material [disks or cylinders (∼500–2000 cm3)] along two cold-desert and two warm-desert rivers in the Colorado River Basin. Material was placed in both floodplain and aquatic environments, and left in situ for up to 12 years. We tested the hypothesis that breakdown would be fastest in relatively warm and moist aerobic environments by comparing the time required for 50% loss of initial ash-free dry matter (T50) calculated using exponential decay models incorporating a lag term. In cold-desert sites (Green and Yampa rivers, Colorado), disks of wood with bark attached exposed for up to 12 years in locations rarely inundated lost mass at a slower rate (T50 = 34 yr) than in locations inundated during most spring floods (T50 = 12 yr). At the latter locations, bark alone loss mass at a rate initially similar to whole disks (T50 = 13 yr), but which subsequently slowed. In warm-desert sites monitored for 3 years, cylinders of wood with bark removed lost mass very slowly (T50 = 60 yr) at a location never inundated (Bill Williams River, Arizona), whereas decay rate varied among aquatic locations (T50 = 20 yr in Bill Williams River; T50 = 3 yr in Las Vegas Wash, an effluent-dominated stream warmed by treated wastewater inflows). Invertebrates had a minor role in wood breakdown except at in-stream locations in Las Vegas Wash. The presence and form of change in nitrogen content during exposure varied among riverine environments. Our results suggest woody debris breakdown in desert riverine ecosystems is primarily a microbial process with rates determined by landscape position, local weather, and especially the regional climate through its effect on the flow regime. The increased warmth and aridity expected to accompany climate change in the North American southwest will likely retard the already slow wood decay process on naturally functioning desert river floodplains. Our results have implications for designing environmental flows to manage floodplain forest wood budgets, carbon storage, and nutrient cycling along regulated dryland rivers.
Influence of nonnative and native ungulate biomass and seasonal precipitation on vegetation production in a great basin ecosystem
Zeigenfuss, L.C., K.A. Schoenecker, J.I. Ransom, D.A. Ignizio and T. Mask
The negative effects of equid grazers in semiarid ecosystems of the American West have been considered disproportionate to the influence of native ungulates in these systems because of equids’ large body size, hoof shape, and short history on the landscape relative to native ungulates. Tools that can analyze the degree of influence of various ungulate herbivores in an ecosystem and separate effects of ungulates from effects of other variables (climate, anthropomorphic disturbances) can be useful to managers in determining the location of nonnative herbivore impacts and assessing the effect of management actions targeted at different ungulate populations. We used remotely sensed data to determine the influence of native and nonnative ungulates and climate on vegetation productivity at wildlife refuges in Oregon and Nevada. Our findings indicate that ungulate biomass density, particularly equid biomass density, and precipitation in winter and spring had the greatest influence on normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) values. Our results concur with those of other researchers, who found that drought exacerbated the impacts of ungulate herbivores in arid systems.
Hierarchical spatial genetic structure in a distinct population segment of Greater sage-grouse
Oyler-McCance, S.J., M.L. Casazza, J.A. Fike, and P.S. Coates