Partnership yields options for adapting to climate change on the Olympic Peninsula

Jan 09, 2012

Federal land managers on the Olympic Peninsula joined in an exceptional partnership with the Pacific Northwest Research Station and the University of Washington to develop a set of science-based options that will help them manage their forests for resiliency and sustainability in the face of a changing climate.

The options—which address management of vegetation, hydrology, roads, fish, and wildlife on the peninsula—are published in Adapting to Climate Change at Olympic National Forest and Olympic National Park, a new U.S. Forest Service report available online at http://treesearch.fs.fed.us/pubs/38702 and in print by request.

"Climate change is a major challenge to resource managers because of the magnitude of its projected effects and because it's uncertain exactly when they will occur," said David L. Peterson, a station research biologist and the project's principal investigator. "These adaptation options can help managers take the first steps to incorporating climate change into their management plans and counteracting the negative effects of climate change."

The options are a direct outcome of a science-management partnership between the Forest Service and National Park Service that began in 2008 and was charged with developing adaptation strategies and activities for federal forests on the . The partnership is an excellent example of the two agencies working together to plan for climate change adaptation.

"This case study was motivated by the desire of Federal forest managers to develop adaptation alternatives to managing resources in our changing environment," said Dale Hom, Forest Supervisor for Olympic National Forest.

Peterson organized the partnership along with University of Washington research ecologist Jessica Halofsky—who served as the project's lead—former Olympic National Forest natural resources staff officer Kathy O'Halloran, and Catherine Hawkins Hoffman, then Chief of Olympic National Park's Natural Resources Division.

The joint team began the study by conducting assessments of just how sensitive the landscapes within Olympic National and Olympic National Park will likely be to the projected effects of climate change. They reviewed the areas' current management activities, then conducted a series of science-management workshops, which served as forums for brainstorming, vetting, and collaborative development of adaptation strategies with the scientists and managers in attendance.

The adaptation options outlined by the study are presented in the new report in tables that summarize current and expected sensitivities to climate change along with the set of recommended adaptation strategies and activities.

In addition to informing management, the case study's process—of first evaluating climate change sensitivities, then assessing current management practices and collaboratively developing adaptation options—can be easily adopted by national forests, national parks, and other federally managed areas.

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