California Department of Fish and Wildlife

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Resource Assessment Program
1812 9th Street
Sacramento, CA 95811
(916) 445-0411

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Resource Assessment Program

For many years, the Department of Fish and Wildlife has considered "resource assessment" as one of our highest priorities. A review of our history indicates some of our most valuable assets are scientifically-based data on the distribution and abundance of fish, wildlife, and native plant species and the natural communities and habitats in which they live. A substantial part of a proud legacy will be to continue to develop reliable data, information, and analyses for California's decision-makers and the public to use in orchestrating the future of California's wildlands and wildlife. To enhance our capability in this area, we are initiating our Species and Natural Communities Monitoring and Assessment Program, or simply, our Resource Assessment Program. The goal of this effort will be to develop and implement a long-term and strategic program to inventory, monitor, and assess the distribution and abundance of priority species, habitats, and natural communities in California.

This strategic program will bring many of CDFW's varied data collection, compilation, and dissemination efforts under the "umbrella" of a systematic and more comprehensive effort. The program will enable the Department to more effectively address resource assessment priorities and refocus many of our existing efforts in the collection, analysis, and use of data on native fish, wildlife, plants, and communities.

Defining Monitoring and Assessment

Monitoring is a necessary component of CDFW's mission "to manage California's diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend" While the Department doesn't have specific definitions, we generally define species and habitat monitoring as the collection and analysis of observations or data repeated over time and in relation to a conservation or management objective. Over time, monitoring develops information on trends (increasing, decreasing, static) in species or habitats that can be related to conservation and management activities.

Inventories are frequently discussed in the context of monitoring. We consider an inventory to be a snapshot-in-time, or an initial baseline set of observations or data collected (such as presence/absence) for a monitoring effort on the distribution and abundance of species and habitats. We generally define an assessment as the analyses, compilation, and evaluation of the available monitoring data so that more comprehensive information on species and habitats can be produced. Assessments are developed to provide products such as reporting of species status, environmental conditions, recommendations for management, conservation, possible mitigations, effectiveness of actions, and/or compliance with law. An important aspect of monitoring and assessment will be to employ "learn as we go" approaches of adaptive management that may involve more complex investigations including applied study/experimentation of cause-and-effect relationships among species, habitats, environmental conditions, and/or land use.

The Resource Assessment Program will focus on integrating several of CDFW's existing units/branches (primarily those on the right of the graphic). Other efforts and programs, however, that are either Departmental or multi-agency (such as the ones on the left), have focused missions that may or may not overlap with the program, and/or established strategies for monitoring and assessment that achieve some level of integration from an ecosystem approach. Development of the program will benefit from existing efforts and will link with other efforts in terms of collaboration and monitoring where priorities overlap.

Program Responsibilities

Program Objectives

Important aspects of the program will be to enhance consistency, coordination among biological disciplines, and ensure that our specific monitoring programs and activities throughout the state are focused on obtaining important and useful information for the Department, decision-makers, and the public. The program will work to implement multi-species approaches for inventorying and monitoring, and at varying geographic scales. Identification of species, habitats, or other biotic (or abiotic) variables that can be effectively monitored will be used to serve as representatives of a larger set of species and a larger system where feasible (e.g., indicators, keystones, or umbrella). Over the long-term, existing/current monitoring activities will be reviewed to determine the most efficient means to integrate them with this program. To initiate the program and then begin implementation, we have identified several objectives of varying specificity (some are overlapping) and complexity to work towards:

  • Establish and describe the mechanism to prioritize resource assessment for species, natural communities, and habitat elements.
  • Develop or acquire systematic data collection and assessment reporting protocols (subject to peer-review).
  • Acquire baseline information for strategic species, natural communities, and habitat elements currently not addressed through other monitoring efforts.
  • Integrate, to the extent possible, monitoring across the various biological disciplines in the Department
  • Compile inventory and monitoring data for use in regional and statewide assessments.
  • Evaluate current biological data for utility and validity.
  • Identify important biological data gaps.
  • Investigation of how abundance and distribution of species change due to natural and human-caused factors.
  • Implement an adaptive management strategy that applies management as an experiment and allows for management review, responses/actions, and program modification.
  • Develop and implement data management procedures for the program.
  • Provide information/data products in an accessible data management system to help researchers, managers and planners conserve the resources.

Need for a Comprehensive Monitoring Program

The Department is entrusted by the State to protect, maintain, and restore fish, wildlife, native plants, and the habitats they depend upon. Data obtained and analyzed from inventories and monitoring is crucial to fulfilling statutory mandates for species conservation, management, and restoration; habitat conservation and planning; and environmental review. These are examples of how we meet our public trust responsibility and are dependent on knowledge gained from monitoring and assessment activities. Similarly, monitoring of the effectiveness of mitigation and of compliance with State law is necessary for developing successful long-term conservation strategies.

Each year, Department staff collectively provide expert comment and review on hundreds of environmental documents and impact reports related to proposed developments, roads, timber harvest plans, livestock grazing, streambed alterations, land management planning activities, and hunting/fishing regulations. These documents describing the anticipated environmental impacts and consequences of a proposed project are developed as required by the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) or by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for proposals on public lands. A primary purpose of Department review is to assess the environmental implications and consequences of proposed projects on the natural resources and provide recommendations to avoid or mitigate negative impacts.

In developing our reviews and comments, we rely on the best-available data. Inventory and monitoring information can provide new information and knowledge on species and habitats that may be affected by a proposed project, and can enhance scientific credibility for assessing relative value of parcels under consideration for restoration, protection, or acquisition. Further incentive to develop an improved system for monitoring our trustee resources is provided by the growing number of significant efforts that are simultaneously developing in California. Our monitoring program will enable the Department to provide data, analysis, and assessments for efforts where information on species, habitats, and natural communities will be needed. These efforts include the Resource Agency's California Legacy Project (CCRISP) and Coastal Watershed Planning and Assessment Program (CWPAP); the state and federal CalFed Bay-Delta program; California Environmental Protection Agency's Environ-mental Protection Indicators Program (EPIC); the Department of Parks and Recreation's Inventory, Monitoring, and Assessment Program (IMAP); and the State Water Resources Control Board's Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP).

To the extent possible, the Department needs to develop cooperative relationships with private landowners and local governments for monitoring species and habitats so that development of a seamless program can occur across land ownerships. Key federal agencies such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and U.S. Forest Service can also be important collaborators, and have developed, or are developing monitoring programs that would be beneficial to our program development.