Forest Service, Climate Change Scorecard, Climate Hubs and National Overview


Organizers: Dixie Porter, Brian Logan, Anne Marsh, Patty Klein, Tracy Grazia, Brice Hanberry, and Mary Rowland

 Supported by: USDA Forest Service

In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) implemented the first “Climate Change Performance Scorecard” (Scorecard) for all national forests and grasslands across the nation encompassing 193 million acres and the Scorecard was expanded in 2020. Climate change, including increased temperatures, variable precipitation, and extreme events, is expected to disrupt the composition of plant and animal communities and destabilize existing ecosystems. Climate change will affect resources, such as water, food, cover, and breeding habitat, resulting in reduced survival, growth, and reproduction of wildlife. Over longer time periods, vegetation shifts may disorder current assemblages as species respond uniquely in distribution and abundance. Species may respond to habitat changes by adapting within their current range, shifting to new distributions, or by decreasing population sizes in isolated and increasingly contracting refugia. Wildlife will face climate-related challenges through habitat loss or degradation, fragmentation and connectivity issues, phenological changes, extreme weather and related disturbance events, physiological stress and increased vulnerability to disease, and disordered interspecific relationships. Interactions will likely result in a cascade of stressors because poorly nourished animals are less resistant to drought, temperature fluctuations, fire, land use pressure, insecticides, and disease. Climate change may favor generalist and non-native species, possibly resulting in lower biodiversity. Consideration of the myriad of climate change effects on wildlife, resources, and ecosystems when developing wildlife management plans will benefit wildlife and the ecosystems that support wildlife. These four sessions will highlight national and regional approaches using the Climate Scorecard and collaborations with the USDA Climate Hubs and provide examples of work the Forest Service is doing to identify climate change vulnerabilities, develop adaptive management strategies, and address challenges in aquatic systems. We will provide information on how the Forest Service is tracking progress on climate change using its Scorecard and supporting land managers through the USDA Climate Hubs.

Climate Change Scorecard: 10 Years of Climate Change Activities in the U.S. Forest Service
Dixie Porter, Jennifer Balachowski
In 2011, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) implemented the first “Climate Change Performance Scorecard” (Scorecard) for all national forests and grasslands across the nation encompassing 193 million acres. Our goal was to assess climate change vulnerability, adaptation, and related metrics, and to increase awareness and education throughout the USFS about climate change. Since then, we have worked with collaborators across the agency to make the Scorecard more efficient and more useful to managers. We will present our most recent results for the six Scorecard elements, which include vulnerability, adaptation, monitoring, carbon stewardship, watershed stewardship, and sustainable operations. In summary, we have found that USFS has made the most progress in assessing climate vulnerabilities and risks, and less progress across the other Scorecard elements. We will also provide examples for each element that illustrate our national forests’ varied approaches to successfully building climate resilience. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recommending using the USFS Scorecard as a model for the other USDA agencies and the USFS is the only federal agency with a climate change scorecard. Finally, we will discuss next steps in our journey toward climate resilience. This presentation will explore USFS’s approach to scorecard development, refinement and lessons learned for those who might be considering outcome-based adaptation and resilience measures in their agencies or organizations.
USDA Climate Hubs and Forest Service Climate Change Research
Anne Marsh, Georgia Basso
The USDA Climate Hubs were established in 2014 to develop and deliver science-based, region specific information and technologies so that agricultural and natural resource land managers are empowered to make climate-informed decisions to improve the productivity and resiliency of working lands.  The ten regional Hub produce science and data syntheses, co-develop and support implementation of tools and technologies, and provide outreach convening and training on a range of climate issues including those critical to wildlife management.  This talk will provide an overview of the USDA Climate Hub program as well the Forest Service’s climate change research program, as it relates to wildlife. It will highlight several of the recent national science syntheses, developed to understand forest and rangeland ecosystems, their vulnerabilities in a changing environment, as well as opportunities for adaptive management.
Holistic Restoration for Tribes and Wildlife
Jonathan Long, Serra Hoagland
Native American tribes manage over 56 million acres of land in the US and have an incredible opportunity to help lead the next generation of natural resource management, combat climate change and conserve wildlife populations. Given tribal land stewardship practices and their long-standing commitment to protecting resources for the next 7 generations, tribes will continue to be important partners and co-managers in implementing climate smart management practices as well as mitigating the impacts of a changing climate. The USDA Forest Service Research and Development branch developed the Tribal Engagement Roadmap to help guide our relationship with federally and non-federally recognized tribes. This presentation will discuss the value of the Roadmap and the opportunity to connect with tribes on shared stewardship and cross-boundary climate change issues.  
Long Term Research to Support and Enhance Wildlife Resilience: Work of the Forest Service Experimental Forests and Ranges
Anne Marsh, Sara Grillo
The USDA Forest Service runs 81 Experimental Forests and Ranges (EFRs) across the United States and Puerto Rico, encompassing a range of ecosystem types, from boreal to topical forests to peat bog deciduous forest to chaparral and desert. Data have been collected on some of these sites for over 80 years (e.g.  Bent Creek, San Dimas, Priest River), proving a valuable resource to examine natural resources trends and disturbance processes over time––and the effects on wildlife habitat and populations. The EFRs have served as a natural laboratory for the Forest Service and partners to examine the impacts of a wide range of land management practices.  They have also provided an opportunity to better understand ecological implications of potential future conditions, including elevated CO2 and warmer soils.  The EFRs could be used not only to provide critical place-based information, but to conduct unique studies that address issues related to wildlife across the landscape, including the effects of forest productivity, carbon storage, water quantity and quality, and wildfire on wildlife.
Wildlife in a Changing Environment: The Wildland-Urban Interface Plus Climate Change
Jay Diffendorfer, Wayne Zipperer, Sara Grillo
The United States projected human population increase is 70 million individuals by 2060 and a high percentage of these individuals will inhabit the wildland-urban interface (WUI). The WUI describes an area where housing intermixes with or abuts wildland vegetation. From 1990-2010, the WUI expanded from 581,000 to 770,000 km2. Currently, more than 43 million homes (32% of homes in the conterminous U.S.) occur in the WUI. To evaluate the effect of this settlement pattern on natural resource management and native habitats, in conjunction with climate change, the USDA Forest Service conducted a national assessment: Wildland-Urban Interface Forests and Rangelands in a Changing Environment. The assessment is a synthesis of current information and examines ecosystem structure and function, demographics, human health and governance as well as the WUI influence in individual regions in the U.S. based on the National Climate Assessment. Here, we report key findings from the wildlife synthesis. Taxonomic and subject matter experts synthesized >280 publications related to bird, mammals, herpetofauna, insect, and human-wildlife interactions at the WUI. WUIs are also complex socio-ecological systems where management goals and actions affect both wildlife and humans such that trade-offs between cultural norms and wildlife conservation may be common. However, win-win scenarios may also be numerous. Because humans experience nature at WUIs, they are fertile ground for science and conservation programs that engage the public. WUIs are understudied, with most of our current knowledge gleaned from studies across rural to urban gradients. Observed effects include changes in species communities, population demography, and behavior. Future research in WUIs could focus on wildlife, people, and trade-offs associated with managing wildfire risk. Climate change will likely alter social and ecological processes at WUIs, and research related to this issue is expected to become more important in the future.
Dealing with Uncertainty: Managing for Wildlife in National Forests Under a Changing Climate
Angela White
As the effects of climate change are becoming increasingly evident, it has become necessary for Forest Service managers to consider the implication of climate change on the resources they manage. In the Colorado Front Range, climate change predicts a warmer future, but climate change projections vary in the magnitude and timing of temperature changes, and the direction of change in precipitation and whether it is experienced as rain or snow. The uncertainty in being able to accurately predict how climate change will influence local conditions can make it challenging to manage effectively for these species, let along the suite of species that will be impacted. Using the bird community as an example, I will present a framework for better understanding factors that should be considered when evaluating the effects of climate change on biodiversity and how best to target management efforts. This example shows the degree to which communities are likely to shift and highlights the need to approach climate change uncertainties from multiple directions.

Location: Virtual Date: November 2, 2021 Time: 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm