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Habitat Metrics and User Guides

There is a growing interest in measuring conservation “outcomes” as opposed to just implementing management practices in scattered locations and hoping for the best. The habitat metrics on this site are among several ecological measures that have been developed to help managers determine where to invest limited resources and how to calculate the ecological impact and improvement associated with the implementation of conservation actions. Where the development is regulated, or where developers are willing to invest voluntarily in habitat offsets, these metrics may be used to measure the impact to habitat on development sites, and to measure the habitat improvement on sites managed for conservation.

The metrics listed below are consistent with the national framework described in the Measuring Up report, which was sponsored by the national Office of Environmental Markets. It will be included in a suite of other ecological measures under a program of the Willamette Partnership called Counting on the Environment.

Metric users who expect to be buying or selling habitat credits in a regulatory context (as in Candidate Conservation Banking) may wish to have them verified and registered on the Ecosystem Crediting Platform. See the Willamette Partnership Ecosystem Crediting Platform for more detail on the crediting platform and requirements for participation.

Floodplain Habitat Metrics and Users’ Guide

Floodplains, or former floodplains, are among the most endangered and most ecologically significant lands in the United States. As rivers have been ditched, diked, dammed and dredged for navigation, irrigation, power production, agricultural and industrial development, floodplains have disappeared. For example, the Willamette Valley floodplain once meandered across a seven-mile wide area, with oxbows, meanders, side-channels, and frequent changes in the path. Now, only a less complex channel with narrow vegetative strips along the sides remains. The cost has been impaired water quality, adverse impacts to native fish caused by reduced habitat, warmer water, and toxic chemicals, increased vulnerability to flooding, loss of wildlife habitat.

Restoration of floodplains is an important conservation goal, but given the nature and extent of the impact of development and water management programs over the last 100+ years, it is very challenging. Ideally, some streams and rivers would be allowed to flood naturally without affecting human communities. However, without broad scale assessments and detailed engineering studies, planners cannot be certain what the impacts of flooding will be. Some ecological benefits can be restored on isolated sites where native vegetation remains or can be replanted, and where seasonal flooding occurs, but it is especially important in this case for contiguous properties to be involved in coordinated efforts. In addition to restoring some hydrologic function, restoration of bottomland sites generally involved removing invasive species, especially English ivy, blackberry and reed canary grass, and planting native species like cottonwood, ash, and alder or facilitating natural re-vegetation after flooding.

Several federal and state agencies are investing substantial amounts of money in floodplain conservation efforts. Are they working? How do we know?

Where the floodplain development is regulated, or where developers are willing to invest voluntarily in habitat offsets, this metric may be used to measure the impact on development sites, and to measure the habitat improvement on sites managed for conservation.

This metric (calculator and user’s guide) may be updated periodically. Be sure to use the most recent version of the calculator and user’s guide for each assessment. Before evaluating a project site, check back here to confirm the most current versions of the calculator and user’s guide are being used. Once a project assessment has begun, use the same version of the calculator and user’s guide throughout the life of the project. Do not transfer data to a newer version if one was released during the period of time the assessment was taking place.

Download the Floodplain Habitat Metric Users’ Guide [PDF]
Download the Floodplain Habitat Metric Calculator and User Guide [ZIP]

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Oak Habitat Metric and Users’ Guide

Oak woodlands and oak savannah were once widely distributed across the Western United States, especially in the valleys of Western Oregon and Washington. Generally found at mid-elevation, most of these lands are in private ownership and have either been converted to other uses or remain vulnerable to conversion. They are particularly likely to be developed for residential or agricultural uses, especially vineyards. They are also threatened by the invasion of Douglas fir, a commercially valuable conifer species that thrives under conditions in which fire is suppressed. Oak woodlands, despite their ecological importance, are generally not regulated by local, state, or federal agencies. However, there are a number of incentive programs and philanthropic investments that prioritize oak woodlands.

There are a variety of different approaches to the conservation of oak woodlands and savannah. Invasive species, like ivy, blackberry, scotch broom and other invasive species can be removed, thereby enhancing the potential for oaks to thrive. Often it is necessary to remove over-abundant conifers like Douglas fir. Cattle can be managed to avoid damage to young seedlings. In areas where human structures are not an issue, fire can be reintroduced to the system. Several federal and state agencies are investing substantial amounts of money on conservation efforts. Are they working? How do we know?

Where the development of oak woodland is regulated, or where developers are willing to invest voluntarily in habitat offsets, this metric may be used to measure the impact to oak habitat on development sites, and to measure the habitat improvement on sites managed for conservation.

This metric (calculator and user’s guide) may be updated periodically. Be sure to use the most recent version of the calculator and user’s guide for each assessment. Before evaluating a project site, check back here to confirm the most current versions of the calculator and user’s guide are being used. Once a project assessment has begun, use the same version of the calculator and user’s guide throughout the life of the project. Do not transfer data to a newer version if one was released during the period of time the assessment was taking place.

Download the Oak Habitat Metric Users’ Guide [PDF]
Download the Oak Habitat Metric Calculator and User Guide [ZIP]

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Sagebrush/Sage Grouse Habitat Metric and Users’ Guide

Despite its relatively widespread distribution across the Intermountain Western United States, sage-dominated ecosystems are in decline, and little remains in areas dedicated for conservation. They have been impacted by poorly managed grazing, invasive species, the invasion of juniper, energy development and transmission, and a variety of other human activities. Symbolic of this ecological decline is the Sage grouse, a species dependent on sagebrush for survival. The Sage grouse is a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act. If the bird is listed, it will have social, economic and political consequences across the region. Addressing the conservation needs of the Sage grouse and the sagebrush ecosystem is a high priority for resource agencies and conservation organizations, who hope to implement conservation programs that make it unnecessary to list the bird.

There are a variety of different approaches to sagebrush conservation. Invasive juniper can be removed, thereby enhancing the potential for sagebrush to grow. Cattle can be managed to avoid damage to the system. The construction of roads, power lines, renewable and non-renewable energy facilities can be located away from areas used by Sage grouse. Perches that allow raptors to prey on Sage grouse can be placed away from the birds. Several federal and state agencies are investing substantial amounts of money on conservation efforts. Are they working? How do we know?

The Sagebrush/Sage Grouse metric may be used by state and federal wildlife agencies to measure the impact to sagebrush habitat on a development site, and to measure the habitat improvement on a site managed for conservation. It is part of a larger effort to provide information on the overall ecological context within sage ecosystems and to implement mitigation programs more strategically.

This metric (calculator and user’s guide) may be updated periodically. Be sure to use the most recent version of the calculator and user’s guide for each assessment. Before evaluating a project site, check back here to confirm the most current versions of the calculator and user’s guide are being used. Once a project assessment has begun, use the same version of the calculator and user’s guide throughout the life of the project. Do not transfer data to a newer version if one was released during the period of time the assessment was taking place.

Download the Sagebrush/Sage Grouse Habitat Metric Users’ Guide [PDF]
Download the Sagebrush/Sage Grouse Habitat Metric Calculator and User Guide [ZIP]

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