Wetlands, Water, & Wildlife: Finding Common Ground among Diverse Stakeholders

ROOM: Room 240 – La Cienega
Water is essential to life and thus the thread uniting all social, economic, and ecological enterprises. In some places in North America, parties are at odds over the allocation and use of limited pools of water resources. Elsewhere, they spar over the consequences of practices that degrade water quality and divert externalities downstream. Without exception, where broad social challenges exist over water – either quality or quantity – wildlife and wildlife habitats are impacted. In this symposium, we will draw together examples from across North America of people and programs involved in promoting protection of wildlife habitat and populations amid water-related challenges. We will explore national perspectives on water quality and wildlife policies and hear from local examples of people and places that took advantage of broad social discourse on water related issues to advance wildlife habitat initiatives. We will also explore persistent challenges and research ongoing to inform decision makers about how wildlife can be affected under different water allocation or treatment scenarios. Presentations will represent diverse entities including university researchers, federal agencies, and non-profit organizations involved in water quality and quantity issues across the country. The symposium will provide examples of successful models, add to conversations about emerging challenges, and provide attendees with tools to advance wetland and wildlife conservation initiatives amidst broad social conversations around water challenges in the 21st century.

1:10PM It’s the Water: A Plea for Integrating Wildlife and Water-Resource Conservation Planning
  Adam Janke; Sammy King; Adonia Henry
Water is essential to life and thus the thread uniting all social, economic, and ecological enterprises. Across North America parties spar over responsibilities and entitlement for use of or discharge into water resources; law suits pit urban vs. rural landowners or neighboring cities and states; and legislatures evaluate funding and regulatory decisions to address the emerging challenges. Without exception, where broad social challenges exist over water – either quality or quantity – wildlife and wildlife habitats are impacted and without careful consideration, unintended negative consequences sometimes prevail. Similarly, without exception, examples from all corners of the country illustrate the potential for successful melding of water resource conservation initiatives to achieve improvements in wildlife conservation. This session will explore the current state of water-resource challenges across North America and offer examples where local and regional efforts have led to changes in water and wildlife habitat that serve as models for effective cross-disciplinary, multi-sector conservation projects. In doing so, our introductory presentation will set the stage for forthcoming presentations in the symposium on integrating water-resource concerns with wildlife habitat projects across the US.
1:30PM Minnesota’s New Riparian Buffer Law
  Jason Garms
The Wildlife Society Conference, Albuquerque, NM – Water Quality Symposium Title: Minnesota’s New Riparian Buffer Law Presenter: Jason Garms, Agricultural Program Liaison, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Abstract: In January of 2015, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton announced his intent to require vegetated buffer strips around all of Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams – the Governor’s Buffer Initiative. The initiative was launched in response to Minnesota’s downward water quality trends and the limitations of Minnesota’s current laws in addressing large-scale phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment issues. Minnesota’s existing riparian buffer laws had become confusion and inconsistency when trying to identifying where buffers are required, the width needed to meet compliance, or even who is responsible for enforcement. The Governor’s Buffer Initiative become a Minnesota law in the spring 2015 and is expected to impact over 100,000 acres of riparian lands. An essential component of the legislation was the creation of a simply, yet comprehensive, statewide Buffer Protection Map. Any landowner owning property adjacent to a waterbody identified on the Buffer Protection Map must, by state law, maintain a vegetated buffer to protect the state’s water resources. The statewide Buffer Protection Map includes two designations, waters subject to a 50′ average width buffer requirement, and waters that are subject to a 16.5’ minimum width buffer requirement. Developing a comprehensive map of Minnesota’s many water features in less than a year was an enormous undertaking for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Politically, passage of the law was also an enormous undertaking for the Minnesota legislature. Advocates and opponents of the law continue to debate the future of the new law. As of April 2017, the Buffer Protection Map has been finalized and Minnesota landowners are nearing the first compliance deadline of November 2017. Website for Minnesota Buffer Protection Map: http://arcgis.dnr.state.mn.us/gis/buffersviewer/
1:50PM LCC Mississippi Basin / Gulf Hypoxia Planning Tool – Precision Conservation Blueprint V15
  Kristin Shaw; Kelley Myers; Gwen White; Bill Bartush; Michael Schwartz
The Midwest and the Mississippi Alluvial Valley currently contribute the greatest nutrient load to the Gulf of Mexico hypoxic zone. Modifying the design or shifting the location of conservation practices can provide multi-sector benefits for wildlife, water quality, energy and agriculture, making program dollars go farther and appeal to more land managers. The Mississippi Basin / Gulf Hypoxia Initiative, led by seven Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs), created an integrated framework consisting of resource objectives and a tiered set of spatially explicit conservation strategies within five agricultural production systems (corn and soybeans, grazing lands, floodplain forest, rice, cotton) in four ecological systems (headwaters, uplands, mid-sized streams, mainstem floodplains). Fact sheets for a dozen conservation practices describe design, configuration, benefits, installation costs, performance metrics, relevant programs, and recent research with a simplified illustration to guide technical assistance for land managers. These spatial analysis and online planning tools complement related ongoing efforts including the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force, Gulf of Mexico Alliance, NRCS Mississippi River Basin Initiative, and state nutrient reduction strategies—but emphasizing ecological and social values of wildlife habitat. The Precision Conservation Blueprint 1.5 is designed to operate at the whole basin scale in the water quality priority zone of the Mississippi River Basin and at the local scale (30m) for seven HUC8 pilot watersheds in the Midwest and Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The multi-LCC conservation Practice Fact Sheets and spatial analysis Precision Conservation Blueprint v1.5, including over 200 data layers, are available online for download and visualization at: tallgrassprairielcc.org.
2:10PM Aligning Actions for Water Quality, Wildlife Habitat, and People in the Chesapeake Watershed
  Jennifer A. Greiner; Christina Ryder
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is actively engaged in conserving wetland and wildlife resources across the Chesapeake Bay watershed, championing wildlife habitat and populations in an estuary faced with significant water quality challenges. Numerous factors (high population density, rapid development, intensive agriculture and animal production, and accelerated sea level rise) have led to excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads in many parts of the Bay, leading to these waters being designated as impaired under the Clean Water Act and impacting the fish and wildlife they support. But innovative partnerships and cutting edge science have combined to guide strategic restoration and protection of habitats within the 64,000 square-mile watershed, whose regional economy supports 8.3 million jobs and $400 billion in annual income. The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership is making progress toward measurable outcomes committed to by State and Federal leaders in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The agreement aligns Federal and State programs to reduce pollutant loads with local concerns such as cultural resources, public access, and levels of crabs, oysters, trout and ducks. Central to success has been a concerted effort to link values of up-watershed communities with actions that result in reduced pollutant loads downstream. Such actions include implementation of ‘best management practices’ or BMPs, some of which are habitat-based. For example, stream restoration results in streambanks that are less likely to erode and more likely to support fish, while wetland restoration results in marshes that retain sediment, buffer coastal communities from storms, and provide important habitat for fish, shellfish and waterbirds. Partners are working to prioritize BMPs that achieve multiple outcomes for water, wildlife, and people. “Nature’s Network” tools developed by the North Atlantic Landscape Conservation Cooperative are assisting with decisions on where to focus funding and effort to maximize such alignment.
2:30PM Draining the Swamp: Water and the Future of Floodplain Forests of the Southeastern United States
  Sammy King; Richard F. Keim
Bottomland hardwoods occupy floodplains of the southeastern United States, with the greatest concentration in the Lower Mississippi River Alluvial Valley. These wetland forests support a plethora of wildlife and have been the cornerstone of conservation efforts for many wildlife species. Altered flooding patterns have affected forest species composition and tree growth. The impacts of flood control activities, such as levees and channelization, on bottomland hardwood forests are well documented. However, the effects of groundwater declines on surface flows and ecological processes have received much less attention, despite some individual cases where links have been found to be strong and the presence of widespread groundwater declines. The development of effective approaches to sustain bottomland hardwood forests is challenged by a lack of quantitative, process-level understanding of water needs, a poor understanding of the interlinkages among groundwater, surface water and ecological responses, legal constraints, and flood control concerns. Furthermore, the structure of wildlife agencies is often compartmentalized hindering progress on water issues that transcend disciplines. In this paper, we synthesize our current understanding of water/forest relationships in bottomland hardwood forests, identify key information needs and policy challenges, and provide a conceptual framework for addressing water challenges.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM It All Goes Downstream: Effects of Altered Riverine Flow on an Estuarine Foundation Species
  Megan La Peyre
Environmental variation influences ecological processes. In large river environments, flow regimes are characterized by variation in their magnitude, frequency, timing, predictability, duration, and rate of change of conditions. However the re-engineering of many of the world’s large rivers has altered cycles of flow such that few exhibit their historic range of flow variability, impacting downstream estuaries by altering the means and variation in physicochemical attributes (i.e., salinity, sedimentation). Along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern oyster, Crassostrea virginica, is highly valued for both its ecological and economic role, but is subject to rapidly changing estuarine conditions, partly due to altered riverine inflow from upstream withdrawals, and managed freshwater diversions. Changes in flow regimes affect estuarine water quality including location of salinity isohalines and sedimentation over oyster beds, ultimately affecting the health and productivity of oyster populations. A series of lab and field experiments examine oyster response to altered flow regimes, specifically focusing on the effects of (1) timing and extent of low salinity events, and (2) timing and extent of increased sediment loads. While tolerant to wide ranges of salinity and turbidity, the timing and duration of these stresses are critical with respect to overall oyster response. Understanding the limits of the oyster’s physiological tolerance to sediment loads and salinity extremes helps managers understand consequences of riverine management, and identify means to minimize impacts to critical foundation species.
3:40PM Wetlands in the Middle Rio Grande, NM: Historic Processes, Perturbations and Fixes
  Paul L. Tasjhan
The Middle Rio Grande in Central New Mexico (MRG) stands at a cross roads between a more functioning riverine ecosystem to the north and a degraded riverine ecosystem to the south. Like most Southwestern US rivers, the MRG has witnessed an onslaught of engineering activities that have degraded historic processes and associated ecosystems in the name of flood safety, irrigation demand and efficient water delivery. The MRG is a good example of both the difficulty and hope for restoring habitat in a heavily modified river system. Historically, the MRG was a sand bed, low gradient river system that was prone to great fluctuations in flow and characterized by a pronounced spring snow-melt run-off flow pulse. The river straddled a meandering and avulsive (delta-like) channel planform that dramatically shifted position in the bottomland after large flood events. During an event, former channel positions became the locations of wetlands and former floodplain wetlands and floodplain surfaces became the locations of a new channel; the system was constantly cycling habitats. Groundwater was shallow throughout the valley width and charged wetlands in topographic lows. Water levels in these wetlands were dynamic, largely driven by seasonal changes in evapotranspiration and river flows. Alterations to the MRG include reservoir operations, irrigation-municipal diversions and channel-floodplain modifications. Restoration activities within the MRG have focused on restoring wetlands on irrigation-managed former floodplain landforms and repairing both the hydrograph and channel-floodplain connectivity within the active river corridor. At Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge a wonderful mosaic of native wetland habitats have been restored through the emulation of historic processes within a historic agricultural setting. Within the active Rio Grande corridor, flow and habitat requirements for endangered species are being addressed through activities that suggest that the spring flow pulse, floodplain connectivity, and recharge wetlands are essential restoration foci.
4:00PM Central Valley California Duck Clubs, Water Districts, and Rice: Opportunities to Enhance Wildlife Habitats
  Frederic A. Reid; Mark Petrie; Catherine Hickey; John M. Eadie
Increased human population results in increased urban and agricultural demand for water. Nowhere in North America is this more evident than California. Despite what seems to be total competition for wildlife use of water, rice and water districts in the Central Valley offer many opportunities for multiple use of water. Timing of flooding, timing of drawdown, and depth of flooding are critical for all usage. Shallow rice flood-up in April and May may be extremely beneficial for shorebird migration and reuse of this water in wetlands may serve as critical irrigation for moist-soil plants in seasonal wetlands. As rice grows in June and July, additional water may provide brood habitat for mallard, gadwall, cinnamon teal, avocet and stilt. Shallow irrigation of wetlands and rice in August may provide early fall shorebird migration habitat, whereas, late September or early October dewatering of rice to be harvested provides early flood-up water for seasonal wetlands. The vast amount of water for seasonal wetlands is historically needed in fall and winter when agriculture and rice are at their lowest needs. Timing of water use for rice, water districts, and seasonal wetlands can be coordinated, so that multiple needs may be met.
4:20PM The Klamath Basin Walking Wetlands: Utilizing Wetlands as a Functional Agricultural Tool
  Dustin Taylor
In the upper Klamath Basin farmers have adopted an agricultural practice commonly referred to as Walking Wetlands. In a Walking Wetlands system farmers utilize wetlands as a rotational tool within their agricultural program. Walking wetlands reduce the need for fertilizer inputs, suppress or eliminate certain agricultural pests, and they provide resources and habitat for a variety of wetland dependent species. This wetland rotation helps organic farmers to deal with problematic agricultural pests and is an important tool for sustaining organic production without pesticides. The concept began in the 1990s at Tule Lake NWR and has since come to be accepted within the Klamath Basin agricultural community as a necessary and useful agricultural practice. This program has grown over the years, and in 2017 there were greater than 3,000 acres of Walking Wetlands in the Klamath Basin. In addition to presenting an overview of the Walking Wetlands program, we would like to discuss factors that have contributed to the success of the program in the Klamath Basin and potential applications of this rotational tool in other geographic regions. We will also discuss information gaps, and potential directions for future research.
4:40PM Using Migratory Waterbirds as a Model for Linking Regional Water Issues
  Bruce Dugger; Megan Zarzycki
Challenges associated with regional water quality and quantity can have additive or interactive effects on wildlife populations at larger spatial scales. Migratory wetland birds that rely on multiple regions throughout the annual cycle may be particularly vulnerable to regional water issues through a mechanism know as cross-seasonal effects, which is when conditions and events in one season that interact to influence changes in reproduction or behavior of a species in another season. We illustrate the importance of cross-seasonal influences on population productivity using a model species, the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), in western North America, then examine how regional droughts or water allocation decisions in one region can influence performance in another. Results indicate that habitat conditions during spring migration can have greater impact on productivity than habitat conditions during the breeding season and that long term changes in habitat in spring may relate to changes in continental pintail abundance. Thus, efforts to increase population productivity should include actions in regions away from the breeding grounds. From a migratory bird conservation perspective, cross-seasonal influences is a critical mechanism linking habitats on breeding, migration, and wintering grounds that can galvanize actions to coordinate conservation policy across large geographic scales and political boundaries.

Organizers: Adam Janke, Iowa State University, Ames, IA; Sammy King, USGS Louisiana Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, LSU AgCenter, Baton Rouge, LA; Adonia Henry, Scaup & Willet LLC, King Salmon, AK
Supported by: TWS Wetlands Working Group

Location: Albuquerque Convention Center Date: September 27, 2017 Time: 1:10 pm - 5:00 pm