Report from Diana Tomback, WPEF Outreach and Policy Coordinator
In the Fall 2017 issue of Nutcracker Notes, I reported on the background, goals, and first steps in the development of the National Whitebark Restoration Plan—an inter-agency collaboration led by the Washington Office of the Forest Service in partnership with the Whitebark Pine Ecosystem Foundation and American Forests. The report covered the steps through the National Whitebark Pine Summit, held November 7-9, 2017, in Missoula, MT. We are at the beginning of the data acquisition stage of the process, and according to the timeframe recommended by agency points of contact, anticipate the draft plan now sometime during the summer of 2020. The components of the draft restoration plan are depicted in Fig. 1, and the steps in the process, which have been further developed, are depicted in Fig. 2.
Since the November Summit, the leaders of the effort, Dr. David Gwaze—National Silviculturist for the U.S. Forest Service; Eric Sprague—Director of Forest Conservation, American Forests; and I have had a number of planning conference calls, several held with Bob Keane, technical expert from the Rocky Mountain Research Station, and Julee Shamhart, Executive Assistant of the WPEF. The following is a summary of activities and steps in the process (Fig. 2) accomplished in 2018 to date:
January 30. US Forest Service Washington Office-based conference call with agency “points of contact” (or liaisons). Leslie Weldon, Deputy Chief of the National Forest System, introduced the call and reiterated her support for the restoration plan. The key issues discussed included core area identification and criteria, details of the data call, and data call.
February 14. Dissemination of coarse-scale whitebark pine spatial data layers to agency liaisons, compiled and organized for us by Bob Keane and his staff at the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab. The attachments included: the National Whitebark Pine Restoration Spatial Archive, Geospatial data inventor, Layer library references_NWPRP, and layer library GIS NWPRP.
March 2. Conference call with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (F&WS), Cheyenne Office with US F&WS regional participation. The primary reason for this call was to answer questions concerning timeframe of the status review, whether information could inform Data Call 2 and the writing of the restoration plan, and to organize data sharing. With regard to the latter point, we had hoped that the final NWPRP would include information required for the F&WS recovery plan, but recovery planning specifics are in flux at F&WS, and timing may not work. We are expecting the draft F&WS Whitebark Pine Species Assessment Plan to be available for review at any time.
March 19. The Data Call 1 letter was emailed on this day to all liaisons except Forest Service points of contact. A separate email will be sent to Forest Service liaisons in mid-April, allowing us time to obtain Forest Service distributional data previously sent to F&WS. Target deadline for Data Call 1: May 15, 2018. In preparation for this data call, instructions for submitting data, a WPEF web page, and Forest Service t-drive were prepared by Julee Shamhart, Bob Keane and his staff. The information requested by this data call included spatial layers as GEOTIFF or zipped shapefiles and plot-based data information submitted through the Hi5DB, now administered by Bob through the USFS Rocky Mountain Research Station.
Data Call 2 will request the fundamental information required for development of the NWPRP (Fig. 1). Prior to this Data Call 2, we anticipate that there will be a series of Washington-level inter-agency meetings, two liaison conference calls, and presentations to leadership. These events and outreach efforts are to be tentatively scheduled for the week of May 14, 2018, including a webinar presentation at DOI on the NWPRP. During the week of the 14th, we will work out in detail the information requested in Data Call 2, with input from liaison points of contact, the Forest Service, and other agencies. The information requested may be determined in part by the draft Whitebark Pine Species Status Assessment expected from F&WS at any time. We anticipate that Data Call 2 will occur sometime in late spring or early summer, 2018, with a target deadline of late spring of 2019. For additional information, please email me at Diana.Tomback@whitebarkfound.org.