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Volume No. 11, 2002


Long-Term Implementation Strategies for Biodiverse Lands

Karen M. Dvornich1, Katherine Brooks2, John Garner3, and Michelle Tirhi4

1Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Washington, Seattle

2Pierce County Planning and Land Services Department, Tacoma, Washington

3Metro Parks Tacoma, Tacoma, Washington

4Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington


In order to assist county governments in Washington State who are drafting plans for wildlife and habitat as required by the state Growth Management Act (GMA), the University of Washington’s Department of Urban Design and Planning (UW-UDP) in collaboration with the Washington Gap Analysis Project (WA-GAP) and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) has been implementing a series of pilot projects that explore the utility of GAP analysis at the local level.  The Pierce County pilot project provides a springboard for exploring stewardship opportunities and protection methods within private lands in greater detail (Grue et al. 1999).  A multi-disciplinary team from the UW Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, WDFW, Metro Parks Tacoma, and Pierce County Planning and Land Services is approaching implementation of the defined biodiversity management area (BMA) Network.   Implementation will be a long-term project designed to educate and affect local land use decisions and includes ongoing monitoring and assessment.


The primary goals of assessing long-term implementation of the BMA Network are to (1) educate and involve local governments and the public on the biodiversity planning process, (2) establish new surveys and monitoring programs where necessary, (3) empower citizen scientists to collect monitoring data through The NatureMapping Program, (4) provide a level of quality assurance through the use of experts, and (5) develop biodiversity management plans that will provide detailed information on habitat quality and species presence/viability, restoration opportunities, and priorities for conservation and land acquisition for each defined BMA.


Education and Public Involvement - There are multiple components of education and public involvement.  Through regional meetings, county and city planners will be informed of the Pierce County biodiversity planning process and its use in updating critical-area regulations.  County- and state-sponsored workshops will be held to educate local governments throughout Washington State.  The goal of the workshops will be to inform and garner support of the BMA Network and the finer detailed biodiversity management plans.  Federal and state legislators will be introduced to the GAP methodology, as applied in their districts within Pierce County.  They will be educated about how this biodiversity planning process could be utilized in other counties throughout the state and how it could be integrated into existing Washington State legislation for the development and implementation of a statewide biodiversity strategy (Iolavera et al., this issue).

The NatureMapping Program will organize existing data collection efforts conducted by land trusts, Audubon chapters, local watershed groups, and schools.  These volunteer groups, our citizen scientists, will be given training to increase their data collection and monitoring skills.  Their work will complement the ongoing fieldwork of agency experts.  Citizen scientists will do more than collect data for experts; they will be encouraged and trained to conduct their own scientific projects, thus expanding the biodiversity research efforts.  A network of training centers will help accomplish this task and provide experts for quality assurance.  Metro Parks Tacoma facilities such as Point Defiance Zoo, Northwest Trek, and Tacoma Nature Center have agreed to become NatureMapping training centers and serve as local contacts and resources for the public and schools.  Over time, additional training/data collection centers (e.g., national parks, state parks, wildlife refuges) will be added throughout the county and state.

Monitoring and Quality Assurance of Data– Pierce County includes 1,793 square miles of land area that encompasses a geographic diversity ranging from the lowlands of Puget Sound at sea level to the summit of Mount Rainier at 14,411 feet.  The BMA Network covers 29% of the county.  Citizens who are concerned with their communities and their quality of life can provide important data from locations inaccessible to wildlife managers, assist with monitoring programs, and identify areas that need further inventorying by experts.

Rather than starting from scratch, monitoring efforts will build upon the WA-GAP and WDFW data sets.  WA-GAP implemented the National Gap Analysis methodology at a finer resolution.  Although the minimum mapping unit (MMU) was 100 hectares, coastal islands and Nature Conservancy lands were mapped well below the MMU.  WA-GAP searched museums throughout the US for historical species location records.  More than 360,000 historical and current records (e.g., museum specimens, Breeding Bird Atlas, research projects, private databases, WDFW Heritage data, etc.) were used to build and assess the habitat-relationship models using an iterative process; first to identify habitats occupied by individual species, then to assess and improve the habitat-relationship models with new data.

An analysis comparing predicted species distributions to WA-GAP specimen records, updated WDFW Heritage and Priority Habitats and Species data (PHS; administered by the WDFW to collect species occurrence data), and NatureMapping data was conducted for Pierce County.  A total of 247 species were predicted to occur in the county.  More than 8,600 specimen records were collected for 234 species.  Fifty-nine percent of all the updated WDFW Heritage/PHS data points for the county fell within the BMA Network.  WA-GAP identified 80 species-at-risk throughout the state, of which 24 (30%) were predicted to occur in Pierce County.  This may be because the geographic area of the county spans such a wide range of elevations.  Of the 24 species-at-risk, 3 species of salamanders did not have supporting data within the county.  At-risk species are poorly adapted to development, agriculture, and logging; declining for reasons other than habitat loss (e.g., overtrapping, competition by nonnative species); or have poorly known habitat requirements, especially species with limited distribution in the state (Cassidy et al. 1997).

New survey needs within the Pierce County BMA network, such as Breeding Bird Survey routes and banding stations, have been identified.  Additional mammal, butterfly, and amphibian/reptile surveys will allow wildlife managers to confirm “predicted” species and record unpredicted species that may occur or may be invasive or expanding their range.  NatureMapping data collected by citizen scientists for these surveys will complement professionally collected data.  Finally, new species information obtained through monitoring will be integrated into state and local data sets.

Biodiversity Management Plans - Biodiversity management plans will bring together all monitoring and habitat/species assessment information; analyze this information to determine habitat quality, species presence and viability, restoration needs and opportunities, protection status and vulnerability to development pressures; and outline options for protection and restoration goals.  The planning process will involve all key stakeholders including but not limited to tribes, federal and state agencies, local jurisdictions, environmental groups, university researchers, park districts, and zoos.  The authors envision dividing the BMA Network into five discrete areas and writing a management plan for each area.  This phase will take approximately five years to complete.


The National Gap Analysis Program and WA-GAP provide a good starting point for identifying potential priority areas for biodiversity within a given geographical boundary.  But for this initial work to be meaningful at the local level, it must be incorporated into land use management policies and practices.  It must also prioritize educating everyone who will be affected by these policies.  The finer-resolution mapping and habitat quality assessment is funded for completion in 2003.  However, the county is still seeking funding sources to complete the biodiversity management plans, monitoring, and public education and outreach programs described in this paper.

Literature Cited

Cassidy, K.M., C.E. Grue, M.R. Smith, and K.M. Dvornich, editors.  1997.  Washington State Gap Analysis–Final Report.  Washington Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.  Volumes 1-5.  1,450 pp.

Pflugh, D., W. Turner, P. Iolavera, F. Westerlund, and C. Grue.  1999.  Incorporating protection of biodiversity into county land use planning: A Gap Analysis pilot project in Pierce County, Washington.  Gap Analysis Bulletin 8:43-47.

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