Appalachian LCC News

New Habitat Guidelines for Six Species of Eastern Wildlife

The Guidelines for Managing Habitat for Regional Species of Greatest Conservation Need describe landscape and stand-level conditions needed by these six animals. The Guidelines, which range in length from 12 to 20 pages, also identify co-occurring species, such as New England cottontail and golden-winged warbler, that could benefit from the recommended management practices. The publications were developed with input from public- and private-sector foresters, wildlife biologists and conservation planners from 12 states and three Canadian provinces.

The Guidelines were funded by the Northeast Regional Conservation Needs (RCN) Grant Program, with a matching commitment from Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and other collaborating institutions. The Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies administers the RCN program to help states from Virginia to Maine implement their State Wildlife Action Plans.

The six focal species inhabit a variety of settings, forest types and successional stages across the region.

The American marten inhabits large tracts of intermediate to mature softwood, hardwood, and mixed forests in New York and northern New England. Close relatives of weasels and fishers, martens prefer an interconnected tree canopy where they can climb and move from tree to tree. Woody structure and dense vegetation near the forest floor boost prey abundance and increase denning opportunities for martens.

Bicknell’s thrush is a disturbance-adapted bird that breeds in fir-spruce forests at upper elevations in New York and northern New England. Bicknell’s thrushes typically nest in dense, low-canopy stands dominated by balsam fir, especially following fir waves, a common natural phenomenon on the region’s highest mountains. They also nest among paper birch-balsam fir saplings that arise following timber harvests or fires.

The Canada warbler is a colorful songbird that benefits from wetlands conservation and various methods of harvesting timber in upland settings. In the East, it ranges from North Carolina to northern Maine. Habitat managed for Canada wa

The rusty blackbird, one of North America’s most imperiled avian species, requires young northern softwoods for nesting. Rusty blackbirds breed in boreal and Acadian spruce-fir forests across Canada, northern New England and New York State.

The scarlet tanager is among the most brilliantly colored birds of the eastern forest. This canopy-nesting species breeds in multi-aged hardwood and mixed hardwood-softwood forests and also uses young forest habitats before migrating to South America in autumn.

The wood thrush is a ground-foraging songbird that nests in shrubs and young trees beneath a mature, hardwood-dominated canopy. Wood thrushes breed in temperate forests of eastern North America, occurring in every state from Virginia to Maine. Like most birds that breed in mature forests, wood thrushes and scarlet tanagers use areas of high sapling density, including regenerating timber harvest stands, during the post-breeding period. Many other migratory songbirds use such young forest areas, as do box turtles, timber rattlesnakes, and New England and Appalachian cottontails.

Each set of Guidelines includes information on species distribution and status, suggestions on where to create and sustain habitat, desired habitat conditions, recommended voluntary practices, managing for multiple benefits (including other wildlife that use the same habitats) plus a two-page digest of management considerations for quick reference in the office or the field.

Project leaders for the series are J. Daniel Lambert of High Branch Conservation Services of Hartland, VT, and Leonard Reitsma, professor of ecology at Plymouth State University. Additional contributors included a team of environmental biology students at Plymouth State and conservation biologists with the Audubon Society of New Hampshire and the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

The Guidelines can be downloaded for free.

The project leaders write: “We invite you to consider applying these guidelines in forests where you work. If you anticipate using them to help plan conservation or harvest activities, please notify Dan Lambert with information about the location and extent of your project (802-436-4065). This will help us assess the level of uptake in the region. We also welcome inquiries about where the guidelines could be most effectively applied. Complementary spatial prioritizations are available upon request.”

Northeast States Release Report on Hellbender Distribution

The goals of the project were to better document hellbender distribution in the Northeast using environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys and to develop a communication framework and standardized methodologies to coordinate conservation efforts throughout the region. The final report as well as eDNA and egg rearing protocol are now available on the RCN project page.

The eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) is a large, fully aquatic salamander that prefers clear, fast-flowing, well-oxygenated streams and rivers. They are found throughout the Appalachian region from southern New York to Georgia, and in Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri. The hellbender is declining in many parts of its range and has been identified as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The species is broadly distributed and very cryptic, making it difficult to thoroughly map its distribution using traditional approaches that rely on rock-turning to find hellbenders.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) surveys are a relatively new approach to determining if aquatic species are present at a location. The hellbender is well suited for eDNA monitoring because it is rare, secretive, and likely sensitive to disturbance from rock-turning surveys. As aquatic species, hellbenders exude many sources of DNA into their environment including skin, feces, blood, spermatozoa, and eggs.

Like many rare species with distribution among several states, their conservation is improved when states can share knowledge and resources and work together through efficient state partnerships. This study sought to fill major data gaps in hellbender distribution throughout the northeast, and develop standardized protocols for hellbender research and monitoring and a communication framework for hellbender researchers and population managers across the region.

This project provided broad-scale knowledge about the hellbender’s distribution and generated measurable benefits for public education and wildlife conservation by engaging a large group of citizen scientists in eDNA collection. The resulting archive of frozen eDNA samples represents a ‘snapshot’ of entire biological communities at the time of sample collection, which could serve as a valuable resource for future inventory and monitoring of native fauna, introduced species, and aquatic pathogens. Through these collective efforts and the support of the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, this project established an effective framework for region-wide hellbender conservation that has resulted in a better understanding of the species’ distribution, public engagement in conservation efforts, and tangible resources to benefit wildlife conservation in the northeastern U.S.

LCC Network Receives Distinguished Landscape Practitioner Award

This award is given for distinguished contributions to the application of the principles of landscape ecology to real-world problems. This decision was based on a strong nomination from the society’s membership and knowledge of LCCs contributions to sustaining landscapes through the support of 100s of projects that address landscape ecology and conservation challenges.

The award will be announced at the Banquet Dinner of the Annual Meeting of US-IALE in Baltimore from 7:00-9:00 pm on April 11 (http://baltimore2017.usiale.org/).

You're Invited to Help Protect Mallows Bay!

 

Show your support by attending one of these meetings and telling NOAA that you want to protect this special place where history and nature have come together. Meetings will be held at the following locations:
March 7, 2017, 6-9 p.m. Charles County Government Building 200 Baltimore Street La Plata, MD 20646 March 9, 2017, 6-9 p.m. Anne Arundel Community College CALT Building 101 College Parkway Arnold, MD 21012
Can't make it to a public meeting? Submit a comment online
Learn more about this special place!
Mallows Bay on the Potomac River, is located just 30 miles south of Washington, D.C. along the John Smith Chesapeake Trail and is home to the largest visible collection of shipwrecks in the Western Hemisphere. What began as a junkyard in the Bay has evolved into a thriving ecosystem that is full of wildlife. What makes this place even cooler is that you can kayak around and view the shipwrecks at low tide.

 

 

ACJV Flagship Species Initiative

The goal was to select species and habitats that 1) represent the full geography of the partnership; 2) have a high degree of conservation need; and 3) where the Joint Venture partnership can provide the greatest added value.

The result of the retreat was to focus ACJV efforts primarily on coastal marsh habitat, with a subset of flagship species (Saltmarsh Sparrow, Black Rail and American Black Duck) chosen to represent that habitat:

Coastal marshes are one of the most imperiled habitats along the Atlantic Coast, impacted by sea level rise and coastal development. They span the entire geography of the Joint Venture, making the ACJV uniquely responsible for their conservation. The threats to this habitat are high and difficult to address; as a result, a whole suite of tidal marsh birds are in decline – some of which are facing extinction in our lifetimes.

Saltmarsh Sparrow and Black Rail – flagships of the high marsh, these two species are experiencing catastrophic declines of 90% or greater. Arresting and reversing declines will require immediate and coordinated conservation action across their breeding range.

American Black Duck – our low marsh representative, Black Duck populations have declined by half since the 1960s in our region. Restoring the former abundance of this species will require a shared and sustained commitment to coastal marsh conservation.

For all three species, the ACJV will set population goals linked to habitat goals and coordinate efforts to meet them.  Read on to see the progress we have made on flagship initiatives in the past year.

But what about all the other species?!

A common concern and question posed has been “What happens to everything else the JV has worked on in the past?” A strategic focus does not mean the JV is abandoning past priorities, but we must face the practical reality of limited capacity. The JV will invest partnership energies towards a short list of priorities where we can best contribute toward existing conservation efforts. Our flagship initiatives will occupy the bulk of staff and partnership time (about 2/3rds) but we will also continue to work strategically on non-tidal wetlands (waterfowl, shorebirds, waders) and beach habitat conservation through the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative. NAWCA will remain a major tool to meet our goals in each set of priorities.

If you have questions or concerns you would like to share contact Aimee_Weldon@fws.gov.

Fire History of the Appalachian Region: A Review and Synthesis

Download the report here.

The importance of fire in shaping Appalachian vegetation has become increasingly apparent over the last 25 years. This period has seen declines in oak (Quercus) and pine (Pinus) forests and other re-dependent ecosystems, which in the near-exclusion of re are being replaced by re-sensitive mesophytic vegetation. These vegetation changes imply that Appalachian vegetation had developed under a history of burning before the re-exclusion era, a possibility that has motivated investigations of Appalachian re history using proxy evidence. Here we synthesize those investigations to obtain an up-to-date portrayal of Appalachian re history.

We organize the report by data type, beginning with studies of high-resolution data on recent res to provide a context for interpreting the lower-resolution proxy data. Each proxy is addressed in a subsequent chapter, beginning with witness trees and continuing to re-scarred trees, stand age structure, and soil and sediment charcoal. Taken together, these proxies portray frequent burning in the past.

Fires had occurred at short intervals (a few years) for centuries before the re-exclusion era. Indeed, burning has played an important ecological role for millennia. Fires were especially common and spatially extensive on landscapes with large expanses of oak and pine forest, notably in the Ridge and Valley province and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Burning favored oak and pine at the expense of mesophytic competitors, but re exclusion has enabled mesophytic plants to expand from re-sheltered sites onto dry slopes that formerly supported pyrogenic vegetation. These changes underscore the need to restore re- dependent ecosystems.

Appalachian Wildlife Center - Partnering for Wildlife and People in an Economically-Depressed Region

Eastern Kentucky has been identified by the New York Times as one of the hardest places to live in the United States, statistically speaking. Of the 31 counties that make up the eastern coalfields, 17 are ranked in the bottom 100 nationally for levels of median household income. In most, poverty levels exceed 25 percent, and this trend continues to a large degree throughout Appalachia.

The wildlife-tourism concept is to revitalize this blight-stricken region in the post-coal era by capitalizing on the abundance of fish and wildlife resources in the region and the tourism that it can drive. For generations, eastern Kentucky has relied on the extraction of finite resources (coal and gas), which have both created and destroyed quality fish and wildlife habitat. Descendants of coal-miners and other residents are now beginning to realize that the future of the region lies in the unique and often abundant flora and fauna of the region, and the desire of visitors to experience it.

Educating visitors who often have limited time to visit an area takes a special approach. Successful examples include the Cataloochee Valley of the Great Smokey Mountain National Park in east Tennessee and the Elk Country Visitor Center in the central coalfields near Benezette, Pennsylvania. Both locations were developed based on the opportunity to view restored elk populations in the East, and both have been wildly successful – drawing more than 200,000 and 400,000 annual visitors, respectively.

Working from these successful examples, the non-profit Appalachian Wildlife Foundation began incorporating and operationalizing a similar effort in eastern Kentucky. Their concept, the Appalachian Wildlife Center (the Center), is projected to draw more than 600,000 visitors each year to experience the natural beauty of the southern Appalachians. Slated to begin construction in 2017 with a completion date of 2023, the Center’s $24 million budget will fund the construction of a 45,000-square foot visitor’s center as well as habitat improvement projects and a 15-mile trail system across more than 12,500 acres in Bell County, KY. Ultimately, the Center is projected to employee approximately 96 staff, create 2,043 local jobs, and generate more than $441 million in regional economic impact during the first 5 years.

The Center is centrally located in proximity to the largest wild elk herd east of the Rocky Mountains and will be the most accessible location in the eastern United States to see elk. The region is also home to black bear, white-tailed deer, bobcat, wild turkey, numerous small mammal species, and an abundance of bird species. At the Center, visitors will find a museum of natural and regional history, an exhibit dedicated to elk restoration in the Appalachians, and a bird watchers exhibit with information on the more than 240 species that occur in the area. Visitors will also find other regionally-relevant wildlife exhibits, an artisans market where local artists and craftsmen will display their skills and work, a gift shop, food court, and classrooms.

The Center has the real potential to be a windfall for local economies that have been devastated by the collapse of the coal industry. Even though the Center will be a major tourist attraction, its mission will focus on wildlife conservation education and research on the restoration and improvement of coal mines for wildlife habitat and agricultural production. Additionally, accredited conservation education programs that meet state standards in science, reading, and math for students and schools in Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina will be implemented that feature both remote learning and on-site classroom presentations.

Our wild, natural resources remain one of the most important and valuable economic drivers for the United States. Combining the desire for visitors to enjoy the natural history and heritage of southern Appalachia, the poverty-level economics of a depressed, post-coal region, and the abundant and often unique floral and faunal communities that occur in that region once again creates the opportunity to use the natural abundance of fish and wildlife resources to develop unprecedented, renewable economic impact to one of the poorest regions in the United States.

Partnerships are also the key to any large-scale successful conservation endeavor. The work being performed by the Appalachian Wildlife Foundation, the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and others, as well as the active engagement of regional conservation initiatives such as the Appalachian Landscape Conservation Cooperative, the Appalachian Joint Venture, and numerous conservation NGO’s, including WMI, will help to ensure the future of the region’s people, wildlife, and other natural resources.

NFWF Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund 2017 Funding Opportunity

Details are provided in the Request For Proposals, and additional program information can be viewed at www.nfwf.org/monarch. Please note that the 2017 funding opportunity will include a pre-proposal stage; the pre-proposal submission deadline is March 13, 2017.

Grant funding will be awarded in two categories: 
  • Increase the Quality, Quantity, and Connectivity of Habitat
  • Enhance Outreach and Organizational Coordination
Eligible applicants include non-profit 501(c) organizations, federal, state, tribal, local, and municipal government agencies, educational institutions, and international organizations. Approximately $3.7 million is available in this year of the Monarch Butterfly Conservation Fund. Grants may range in size from $50,000 to $250,000.

webinar on Monday, February 13th, 2017 at 12 PM Eastern Time/11 AM Central Time will be hosted by NFWF to learn about the 2017 grant cycle, learn about funding priorities, the application process, receive tips for submitting competitive proposals, and have the opportunity to ask questions. Register here:  NFWF Webinar Registration.

Please contact Caroline Oswald, Program Manager for the Monarch Fund at NFWF at 612-564-7253; caroline.oswald@nfwf.org for any questions about the Fund or submission.

A Conservation Action Map for the TRB Network

The first iteration of this Map is now available on our Web Portal and can be accessed.

Building on this momentum, the Network is now identifying data resources and other information derived from these activities and, when possible, providing access to these resources via the Conservation Action Map and Network portal. Members will continue to be able to enter additional projects to the Conservation Map and tag new resources produced from their efforts.

Biennial Spotlight on National Park Resources

View all the talks and posters here

In partnership with the National Park Service, the Appalachian LCC is providing an online presence for this collection of talks and posters for our many conservation and natural resource partners. The 2016 Spotlight features contributions from parks in the National Capital Region. Issues discussed range from white-nose syndrome to coastal vegetation change, from the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act to integrating cultural resources at a landscape scale.

We like to thank Perry Wheelock, Associate Regional Director of Resource Stewardship and Science, and her natural and cultural resources staff for assistance developing this online presence.

LCC Science Helping to Target Restoration Sites to Improve Water Quality in the Susquehanna and Potomac Watersheds

At a recent meeting with state agency partners, Appalachian LCC science and decision-support tools were presented to demonstrate how they could help identify priority sites for restoration that would also accrue fish and wildlife benefits.

On January 5th, USFWS Science Applications Assistant Regional Director Ken Elowe and Acting North Atlantic LCC Coordinator Mike Slattery attended a meeting in Harrisburg, PA with state agency partners focused on identifying and streamlining restoration activities at priority sites in these key watersheds. The Appalachian LCC riparian restoration decision support tool – which allows users to identify vulnerable stream and riverbanks that lack tree cover and shade in coldwater stream habitats in order to plant trees and provide shade - was of particular interest, as the Commonwealth is planning on using these funds for riparian buffer plantings as well as developing a riparian buffer incentive program.

Following up on the meeting, a science delivery tools workshop has been proposed where personnel from the Appalachian and North Atlantic LCC will present their tools, science products and other information to staff of state fish and wildlife agencies from PA, NY, and perhaps NJ.

Putting LCC Products into Hands of Practitioners in the Southeast

Each workshop will be tailored to the specific interests and needs of participants to better translate the utility of Appalachian LCC resources. These events will also provide staff valuable feedback from end users on how to refine and improve products while continuing a dialogue on how the LCC can better serve partners to improve success in conservation delivery.

The first of these workshops in 2017 will be held in Crossville, TN on February 9th and 10th. Developed in partnership with the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), this workshop will include presentations, facilitated group discussions, and case studies tailored to TWRA staff and their key partners’ current conservation efforts. The objectives are for participants to

  • Walk away with a better understanding of the landscape-level approach to conservation
  • Identify how their efforts fit into this “bigger” picture
  • Develop an understanding and identify the utility of Regional Conservation Designs, and
  • Begin to apply Appalachian LCC resources to their conservation planning and management efforts.


A second workshop is being planned with Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge staff and partners in Alabama for March. If you are interested in learning more about these workshops as well as potential opportunities to host one for your staff/partners, please contact Gillian Bee, Appalachian LCC Landscape Conservation Fellow (gilliab@clemson.edu / 970-342-6034).

Learning from Each Other Within the LCC Family

This great opportunity benefitted both Jean and the LCC and helped expand what it means to be part of the National LCC Network. Jean remarked how this learning opportunity greatly expanded in her mind the conceptual framework of what constitutes the role of an LCC.

Coming from the lower 48 to experience the vast Arctic wilderness was a dramatic landscape challenge given its vast and remote expanse, socio-cultural values of subsistence livelihoods of native communities, and expanding conservation work with land-managers and industry to design for nature, economic growth, and cultural heritage. As one of the original LCC Coordinators, Jean was able to share with the Dr. Wendy Loya and Josh Bradley of the Arctic LCC her experiences in building a collaborative partnership, identifying strategic programmatic and research direction, and sharing current efforts to promote the LCCs science delivery as well as supporting conservation networks, communication, and training in building capacity across the LCC geography. Based in the Anchorage FWS Headquarters, Jean was also able to work closely with the other Alaska LCC Coordinators and staff of the Western Alaska, Northwest Boreal, and Aleutian Bering Sea Island LCCs.

New Student Conservation Associate Provides Educational Outreach Capacity to LCC and Refuge

Through the Student Conservation Association, Kelly is working out of the Refuge's Williamstown, West Virginia location and developing interpretive materials to provide the general public with a greater understanding and appreciation of Refuges and their role in the Appalachian landscape. This position - partially funded by the LCC - is enhancing outreach capacity for the Refuge while reinforcing the mission of the LCC and the message of working at a landscape level.

The Student Conservation Association mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.

Appalachian LCC GIS Analyst and Information Manager Heads Out West

Jessica joined the Appalachian LCC team in a joint position with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program. During her time with the LCC, she was essential in conducting GIS analysis for strategic planning and prioritization activities. The Appalachian LCC family wishes Jessica all the best on her next adventures.

Blue Ridge PRISM Update

RCPP Update
Applications for our landowner assistance program were accepted starting mid-November. The first application period closed on December 17th; the second closed on Jan 20th and the third is now open (ending Feb 17th). So far we have been told that 66 applications have been approved, consuming $437,000 of the available funds, leaving $206,000 left to be committed. 19 applications have already been submitted, but not yet approved. This represents a very fast start for the program and is a testimonial both to the need for the program as well as our ability to reach interested landowners.
In the last two months we ironed out the remaining details of the program with the NRCS and then publicized the program through public presentations, press releases, posters on community bulletin boards and emails to our mailing list and our partners' email lists. In conjunction with the VA Dept of Forestry and the NRCS we developed training courses for the NRCS and VDOF staffs involved in the program and held two training sessions. We also held a separate session for contractors who were interested in learning more about the program as well as how to identify and treat many of the more common invasive plants. Many thanks to all of you who worked to get this program successfully launched and to those of you who are participating in the program. For those of you who are participants please keep us informed of any issues you encounter with the program - or other feedback you care to share.

Education and Outreach
In addition to the RCPP activities described above we tabled or presented at various venues including:
- Rural Ridge Harvest Festival near North Garden in Albemarle County
- Pesticide applicators recertification training session in Nelson County
- Blue Ridge School in St. George, VA

Working with other CWMAs
We are continuing our collaboration discussions with the Potomac Highlands Cooperative Weed and Pest Management Area, a neighboring cooperative weed management area (CWMA) headquartered in West Virginia. We also became aware that another CWMA is being formed in Northern Virginia – we will provide more information as their plans develop.

General Management
We now have eight organizations and individuals who have signed the PRISM’s General Agreement and who now constitute the Steering Committee. The first meeting of the Steering Committee was held earlier this month. They will likely meet quarterly and provide input to the plans of the PRISM and suggestions related to the challenges we face. The day-to-day management of the PRISM is done by your Leadership Team. This group has begun to have regular meetings and phone calls to manage the PRISM’s activities. If any of you would like to learn more about how to join this group, let me know and I will be happy to provide more information. As part of our planning efforts, we are working on revising the PRISM’s strategic plan. An outline of our current thinking is attached (the 3-5 year vision document). Feel free to make comments or suggestions.

Grants and fundraising
For the second year in a row we submitted a proposal to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) Pulling Together Initiative and were turned down. Both times they commended us for the quality of our proposal, encouraged us to continue to apply and explained that they have many, many highly qualified applicants. This year they made 12 awards – all of them to CWMAs – most them seeking funding to form a new CWMA. We will continue to apply there. A variety of other grant related activities are underway, limited only by the availability of our teams time to work on them.

Prevention
Several of us continued to participate with the state level Invasive Species Advisory Council to assist in creating the new regulations that will govern the categorization of noxious weeds and limitations on their sale and movement within the state.

Research
We have a UVA 4th-year student working with us this spring to help assess the feasibility of using drones to identify and map specific invasive plants. If you have an interest in applying high tech to help with invasive plants and want to get involved, let me know.

Next Steps
In my prior email I also indicated we would conduct multiple information sessions around our 10-county area. The first of these will be held Feb 1st at JMU. You can find the dates and venues on our website as they are scheduled. These sessions have multiple purposes, namely introducing new people to the PRISM, providing updates on PRISM activities and providing updates and information on the RCPP program. You are all welcome to attend any of these. Also, we are planning to have our next quarterly meeting on Wednesday, April 19 from 1-4pm at a location to be determined. Please add it to your calendars.

Bringing Back Diversity in Eastern Forests for Landowners, Wildlife

Healthy forests, just like healthy human populations, are sustained by a diversity of ages. Each group has a role to play in maintaining the whole community over the long term.

But healthy, diverse forests are on the decline across the eastern United States. A lack of natural and human-induced disturbances because of fire suppression and certain timber harvest methods have led the forested landscape to become largely homogenous.

These declines have had negative impacts on many different wildlife species, especially birds – like the cerulean warbler – that use different types of forests for different parts of their life cycle. Through a new project, the Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture (AMJV) is working with landowners and conservation partners to sustainably manage healthier forests, benefiting the declining cerulean warbler.

“Because three-fourths of the cerulean warbler’s distribution occurs on private lands, working with private landowners in this region is critical to the successful conservation of this songbird,” AMJV Coordinator Todd Fearer said about the cerulean warbler, which nests and raises its young in the treetops above the Appalachian Mountains.

AMJV, a partnership to restore and sustain native bird populations in the region, is working with landowners in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky to provide assistance in managing healthier forests and restoring forests on mining sites. The AMJV is working with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), American Bird Conservancy and more than a dozen other conservation partners to provide technical and financial assistance to help landowners plan and implement sustainable forestry practices.

“Fortunately, good cerulean habitat is best created using sustainable forestry practices that can improve the health of the forest stand and improve the future value of timber, so it’s a win for both the birds and the landowners,” Fearer said.

Landowners have found these practices help to “reset the clock” on low-value forests by re-establishing a healthier and more valuable stand of trees.

The project has a goal to improve the health of at least 12,500 acres in priority areas. In its first year, the project led to the improvement of about 1,700 acres. The AMJV is also monitoring the response to forest improvement, tracking the use of these managed lands by cerulean warblers and other species.

The Regional Conservation Partnership Program, a Farm Bill conservation program administered by NRCS, is investing $8 million in this project, and partners are leveraging an additional $8 million.

“One of the greatest strengths of the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures is the collective resources the partners bring to the table,” Fearer said. “We have more than 20 AMJV partners across five states assisting with this project, contributing direct, in-kind and logistical support. This gives us the opportunity to address a range of cerulean warbler conservation needs at a scale not feasible by any one organization.”

This project is part of a broader conservation effort in the East to help landowners manage for diverse forests. Through Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), NRCS has helped Appalachian landowners improve more than 13,000 acres for the golden-winged warbler, another iconic migratory songbird that relies on young forests for nesting.

“The Farm Bill provides landowners with a variety of tools to manage for more productive forests, including one-on-one technical assistance and financial assistance,” said Bridgett Costanzo, one of WLFW’s coordinators. “Every forest has different needs and resource challenges, and we work with landowners to tailor forest management plans to meet the needs of wildlife and their operations.”

Landowners wanting to participate in the AMJV’s effort for cerulean warbler are encouraged to reach out to the AMJV or their nearest USDA service center.

Final EPA/USGS Technical Report: Protecting Aquatic Life from Effects of Hydrologic Alteration

This report presents a literature review of natural flow and a description of the potential effects of flow alteration on aquatic life, as well as examples of water quality criteria that some states have developed to support natural flow and maintain healthy aquatic life. The report also describes a flexible technical and scientific framework that state water managers can consider if they are interested in developing narrative or numeric targets for flow that are protective of aquatic life.

This scientific and technical report is non-regulatory and does not affect or constrain state or tribal discretion.

Hydrologic alteration can include an increase or decrease in water volume, seasonal flow disruption, and dramatic variation in water temperature. Hydrologic alteration can affect aquatic species’ ability to spawn, gather nutrients from the stream system, access high-quality habitat, and more. Hydrologic alteration may be further exacerbated through climate change. Recent climate trends have included the change in frequency and duration of extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods, which can have an impact on flow and affect aquatic life. Maintaining flow targets may help increase a stream’s resilience to climate change by reducing or avoiding intensification of existing stressors.

Previously, the report underwent a public comment period, the draft version of this document can be found in the docket EPA-HQ-OW-2015-0335.

Scientists: Strong evidence that human-caused climate change intensified 2015 heat waves

The fifth edition of Explaining Extreme Events from a Climate Perspective presents 25 peer-reviewed research papers that examine episodes of extreme weather of 2015 over five continents and two oceans. It features the research of 116 scientists from 18 countries analyzing both historical observations and changing trends along with model results to determine whether and how climate change may have influenced the event.

The strongest evidence for a human influence was found for temperature-related events --- the increased intensity of numerous heat waves, diminished snowpack in the Cascades, record-low Arctic sea ice extent in March and the extraordinary extent and duration of Alaska wildfires.

“After five years of the BAMS Explaining Extreme Events report, we’re seeing mounting evidence that climate change is making heat waves more extreme in many regions around the world,” said lead editor Stephanie C. Herring, a scientist with NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.  "As we get better at distinguishing the influence of climate change from natural variability, the local significance and impacts of this global phenomenon are becoming clearer."

Evidence of climate change in 2015 flooding, fires – and sunshine

Numerous other events of 2015 were made more extreme by climate change, the report found.  The probability of “sunny day” tidal flooding events in the Miami area, like the one that inundated coastal areas that September, has risen 500 percent since 1994, according to one study.  Human-induced climate change likely contributed to the record high intensity of west North Pacific typhoons and the record amount of winter sunshine in the United Kingdom.

But researchers found no evidence of an overall climate change signal in the delayed onset of the Nigerian spring rainy season or in the extreme daily rainfall totals that inundated Chennai, India in December.  There was likewise no evidence that the extreme cold winter conditions over the northeast United States in 2015 were made more likely by human-induced climate change.

Lessons learned over the past five years

More than 100 papers examining extreme events have been accepted for publication in this special report since its inaugural issue in 2012.  These studies take a place-based and event-specific approach to identifying the role of climate change, and answer the question of how much a particular recent event’s likelihood of recurrence or intensity has changed relative to the past.

While there’s mounting evidence in the role of climate change in amplifying the severity of heat waves, evidence of a climate change signal has not been found in a majority of extreme precipitation studies published in this special edition, Herring said.

However, she cautioned that the lack of clear evidence of a climate signal did not necessarily mean climate change played no role in an event. A “null” result could mean the event fell within the bounds of natural variability. It could also mean that the framing of the research question or the method of analysis chosen requires further refinement and development.

Identifying analytical methods that work better than others

Contributing authors choose the event they wish to study, so the new studies are neither a random sample nor a comprehensive survey of extreme weather events.  They do illustrate how various methods can be applied to extreme event analysis, she said, and in cases where multiple groups look at the same event, the relative skill of different approaches can be compared.

“With this report, we continue to document scientists’ growing ability to identify how climate change influences today’s weather,” said Jeff Rosenfeld, editor-in-chief of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, which independently conducts the peer reviews for studies included in this special report. “These accessible and brief papers show the scientific community and the public that once seemingly impossible insights about climate impacts are now within the capability of timely, rigorous science.”

Five NOAA scientists served as editors of Explaining Extreme Events of 2015 from a Climate Perspective: Herring, James Kossin, and Carl Schreck III of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information along with Martin P. Hoerling and Andrew Hoell with NOAA’s Earth Systems Research Laboratory. Peter A. Stott with the UK Met Office Hadley Centre also served as an editor.

View the full report online

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