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Chapter 7 -- Synthesizing an Ecosystem Restoration Strategy (continued)

Step 3 -- Integrate Values and Ecosystem Information into a Cohesive Strategy

A) Evaluation of future trends and proposed actions

1) Estimate future trends in the system. Based on trends in geomorphic processes, indicator species, and habitat complexity, estimate probable future trends in the system. Given where we are in the regional cycle of disturbance and recovery, consider various scenarios and resulting future trajectories of the system. For example, consider the hypothetical effects of various levels and patterns of timber harvest, ocean productivity cycles, intense storms, and climate change. Estimate how management can influence these trajectories.

2) Evaluate candidate actions in relation to their effect on ecosystem integrity, life history diversity, habitat productivity, and habitat quality. The most important aspect of biological performance to maintain is life history diversity. Although productivity and capacity of the ecosystem can be renewed over time, loss of genetic diversity is irreplaceable. Therefore it is important to maintain fish stock populations at levels that retain genetic diversity.

Evaluation must include understanding of the factors that limit anadromous fish populations. For example, when anadromous salmonids are restricted by habitat quality, increasing habitat quantity will do little to increase population size (Lestelle et al. 1996).

3) Evaluate proposed restoration actions, monitoring programs, and methods of utilizing biological productivity in relation to community-defined values and goals (Savory 1988, Rakha personal communication 1995). Analyze potential benefits and risks of proposed actions.

4) Determine whether, given the productive capacity of the ecosystem, the potential tools and methods can meet the social, economic, and ecological goals set earlier. If the selected tools and methods are insufficient, either select alternatives (return to step 2) or scale back general goals (return to step 1).

5) Proposed actions that pass these tests are nominated for inclusion in the restoration strategy.

B) Adaptive management

Identify adaptive management learning opportunities. Devise adaptive management strategies for monitoring effects of management and other actions. Whenever possible, management and monitoring should be designed to test hypotheses about ecosystem dynamics especially in relation to human activities. Use the "paper trail" to maximize learning and refine methods and assumptions over time (Lee 1993).

C) Synthesis of a strategy

1) Using the RBER strategy (Frissell et al. 1993), combine selected actions and learning opportunities into an ecosystem restoration strategy. As described in the section on stratifying the watershed, the RBER methodology focuses on protection and expansion of undisturbed high quality habitat. Although the primary aim is not restoration of particular species, the presence of sensitive species helps identify biotic refuges that shelter remaining fragments of biodiversity. In the Smith River, streams that support coho, spring chinook, and "summer" steelhead are candidates for special protection as focal and nodal habitats over the short-term (2-10 years). Medium-term tactics (10-50 years) should also be identified that aim to restore degrade stream segments adjacent to biotic refuges and connecting links. This is intended to facilitate re-establishment of additional populations of sensitive species. Long term tactics (20-200 years) should undertake more difficult restoration projects such as restoring important downstream habitats including estuaries, flood plains, and wetlands. It is important to apply conservation biology principles related to habitat reserve design and maintenance of viable populations (Frissell et al. 1993).

2) In addition to the overall habitat protection and enhancement goals selected using RBER methodology, the Smith River restoration strategy should also include projects specifically targeting anadromous fisheries enhancement. Patient-template analysis should be used to identify the most important needs for maintaining and strengthening anadromous salmonid stocks. Various methods of meeting these needs should be considered and the best should be included in the strategy.

In the long run, the strategy should aim to restore ecosystem processes that create high quality habitat rather than constructing habitat that simulates natural habitat. Although human manipulation of habitat, such as building instream structures, may be included in the restoration strategy, it is more effective to address the root causes of problems rather than treat the symptoms. The capacity of ecosystems for self-maintenance, self-renewal, and self-creation is part of their beauty and inspiration, and human manipulation of habitat is expensive and its cost-effectiveness is debatable.

3) For uncertain situations, margins of safety, similar to engineer's "factors of safety", should be used to avoid irreversible changes (Bella 1992).

Community Dialog -- Foundation of Restoration

It should be emphasized that participation of all concerned parties in goal-setting and decision-making exponentially improves the chances for successful restoration. More specifically, unless there is widespread public participation, management of the Smith River estuary may be insensitive to community, regional, or national needs and therefore lack adequate political support.

Obviously, there are huge political pressures for fisheries restoration at the state and national levels. Popular support for fisheries restoration is not going to fade away. If the local community does not assume a leadership role in fisheries restoration, others will do so. In that case, management decisions to restore the fisheries of the Smith River are likely to overlook important concerns and needs of the local community. It is in the enlightened self-interest of the local community to devise a restoration strategy that integrates local needs with the legitimate concerns of the greater society.

Because of widespread support for fisheries restoration at the state and national levels, extensive funding for estuary and floodplain restoration is possible. Restoration could be phased in over decades. Funds may be available for relocating economic activities. Therefore, removing dikes and reflooding reclaimed tidal marshes is not necessarily harmful to local industries. This is not a plea for removing the dikes and reflooding agricultural lands. It is a plea for logical open-minded consideration of alternatives to the status quo. Let's set aside our adversarial relationships and engage in a dialog. Together we can build an even better way of life for our children and grandchildren.

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