Another update from me, Sarah, a Natural Resource Policy Fellow (NRPF) working for the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) on their Tribal Spill Response Plan (TSRP). Last week I had the amazing opportunity to visit the places I had only seen on maps in person, with a tour of CTCLUSI’s water resources in Coos Bay and of their forestry lands. I also completed field training for oil spill response, along with members of Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, EPA, NOAA, and CTCLUSI. .
This SCAT (Shoreline Cleanup and Assessment Technique) training is run through NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration and was developed for 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. This is a replicable method of recording the spill type, cover, any wildlife damage, and cleanup method suggestions. Completing this training in person helped me to envision what a real oil spill may look like (without the potential smells) and apply some of the oil spill response information I have been learning about through my work with the TSRP. It is critical that the SCATers identify both environmental and cultural sites of importance and record those for the cleanup operations. Ideally, there would be a SCAT representative from tribal, federal, state, local and any important stakeholder in the area.
If you are interested in signing up, consider registering with your organization!
After completing the training in Portland, I made my way to Florence, Oregon where I was shown the Lower Smith Tract of CTCLUSI’s Tribal Forest. This tract is in the Siuslaw National Forest and is adjacent to some land managed by Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This was a fantastic opportunity to see a natural resource of great importance to CTCLUSI, that is outside of my career focus in the marine sciences. Everything is connected – land and sea, environment and culture. I also saw some sites of importance in Coos Bay and surrounding areas, including Coal Bank Slough and a lookout north of Cape Arago State Park. This was an awesome opportunity to connect with the people from the Department of Natural Resources at CTCLUSI and to see the land that we’re working towards protecting.
I was also gifted some CTCLUSI gear, including this hat with a logo created by Ashley Russel, the Assistant Director of the DNR. The logo art is based on a historical tale of a sea serpent that comes to shore to hunt for dear. Looking forward to wearing this the next time I’m out in the field!
Just a quick introduction – I’m Sarah, a recent master’s graduate of Oregon State University where I worked on a project on ghost shrimp in the Benthic Ecology lab. I have had an interest in both science and policy throughout my education and the Natural Resource Policy Fellowship provided an excellent opportunity to engage in both!
These past few months since I started my fellowship with Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians (CTCLUSI) have been an exciting time in which I have learned a slew of information on environmental policy at various governmental levels and emergency response. My specific task is to edit the Tribal Estuary Response Plan which outlines policies and procedures related to hazardous materials spills. I recommend checking out the abundance story map available here, which goes over the history and culture of CTCLUSI. There are three separate languages of the people who inhabited the ancestral territory– Hanis Coos and Miluk Coos (Coos Languages), Sha’yuushtl’a uhl Quuiich (Siuslaw and Lower Umpqua language). While updating the list of foodstuffs and ecological resources, I learned that the name for ghost shrimp of the scientific name Netorypaea californiensis is ‘wayaq’ in Hanis Coos and Miluk Coos and ‘chimws’ in Sha’yuushtl’a uhl Quuiich.
At the end of February, I was able to virtually attend an annual meeting for the Region 10 Regional Response Team (RRT10) and the Northwest Area Committee (NWAC). At this meeting, there were members from tribes, federal agencies, state agencies, local government as well as industry. This included people from the EPA, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Interior, Washington State Department of Ecology, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, NOAA, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Makah Tribe, Yakama Nation, the Stillaguamish Tribe, and CTCLUSI. It was interesting to hear everyone’s input, updates, and perspectives on hazmat and emergency response.
Key takeaways from that meeting include:
The importance of overlap and consistency among regional response plans and local response plans.
The array of spill response methods and opportunities – particularly in industry.
Washington State Legislation SB 5344: This requires certain vessels transiting in Juan de Fuca to fund an emergency response towing vessel in Neah Bay. I was unfamiliar with this legislation; vehicle towing could be an additional section in our own document.
In the Tribal Subcommittee meeting, the objectives included tribal access, delivery of service to tribal groups, development of outreach and communications, and timely notification of issues and initiatives for tribal feedback.
These were just a few out of many topics that I learned about from attending that meeting. It was interesting to hear updates from all of the agencies and partners and to see how many people come together to work towards emergency preparedness. I’m looking forward to updating you next time on participating in emergency response training and visiting CTCLUSI on the Oregon Coast!
It’s hard to believe a year has passed already! I’ve been working with colleagues at The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to write a report exploring the state of the science for Oregon’s Blue Carbon ecosystems. The report gives a broad overview of existing science of blue carbon pathways in Oregon—including opportunities, limitations, and uncertainties—to a stakeholder audience who may not be familiar with the details of blue carbon as a natural climate solution. We found that extensive research has already been done within Oregon’s tidal wetland ecosystems to understand the dynamics of carbon sequestration and storage within estuaries. There are demonstrated benefits of conservation and restoration on maintaining and expanding Oregon’s natural carbon sinks. The remaining questions are focused on the magnitude of climate mitigation benefits at a site-scale and determining restoration opportunities. Nearshore blue carbon, on the other hand, needs more research. We know that our ocean ecosystems like kelp forests are highly productive, but it is critical to determine the likelihood and amount of carbon that ends up in stable ocean carbon sinks. More details can be found within this report, linked here.
I’ve had lovely opportunities to share what I’ve learned with several audiences over the last few months. I was invited to speak about the work of NGOs for a conservation biology class of undergraduates at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology. It was a surreal feeling to be on the other side of the classroom since I had been in their seats just a few years prior. I also presented to TNC Oregon’s board about coastal blue carbon as part of the important work we do in Oregon’s estuaries. I felt fortunate as a fellow to be invited into that space to share my work and learn more about high-level functioning and priority setting of an organization like TNC. Lastly, I gave a (long!) talk at the Elakha Alliance’s Sea Otter Symposium where I discussed the details of our blue carbon report and learned about a ton of exciting kelp forest work on the coast.
I’m so excited to continue my fellowship for the next few months and continue sharing about Oregon’s coastal blue carbon and more!
While coming to an end with my red abalone conservation and management project with Sea Grant and ODFW, I’ve come to appreciate the resources and reflections I’ve been fortunate enough to have throughout this experience.
In particular, through the collaboration of this fellowship between ODFW and Oregon Sea Grant, I was provided with a unique opportunity that allowed me to utilize my biological knowledge of marine species in the Oregon environment and apply that information in a real and effective way. Creating tangible change in the world of biological management can be difficult to achieve without understanding political boundaries, conservation constraints, and management collaboration. I was fortunate enough to be able to combine information I gathered in my master’s program at the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology with a key fisheries and conservation issue facing Oregon’s dynamic subtidal environment. Through guidance by fisheries management personnel, I drafted a conservation and fishery management plan for the recreational red abalone fishery in Oregon.
Working with complex and advanced networks of scientists, managers, and administrators came with it’s own set of advantages and complications. One of the most important lessons I learned throughout this process was that effective management can only be implemented through careful consideration of diverse stakeholders, scientific investigation, historical understanding, and contextualization through current socioeconomic factors. A breakdown of any one of these considerations will diminish the long-term application of scientific understanding to conservation and management policies. As an undergraduate at OIMB, I learned a wide variety of biological concepts and processes of marine invertebrates that were fascinating and exciting. However, I rarely considered what the application of these concepts could look like within a social, economic, or historical context. When I began working at ODFW following graduation at OIMB, it became clear that while understanding the biological processes of marine organisms was a vital component of managing resources, it was not useful without proper communication and implementation of this information. In particular, my master’s project focused on increasing the biological and ecological body of information available for a large marine snail that has garnered the attention of divers and fishery participants worldwide, the red abalone. Investigating the history of red abalone presence in Oregon was a particularly fun adventure, as I was able to create a timeline of agency biologists’ involvement with red abalone as a resource and through a changing environment. A favorite of mine was the documentation of an exploratory commercial fishery effort in the late 1950s, in which a series of photos of a biologist at the time, Dale Snow, pictured with a contracted SCUBA diver and a red abalone showed the staging of this particular moment, complete with a pencil behind the ear of the biologist, and a cigarette lit just for the picture in the hand of the diver (see below).
Having the ability to look back in time and see the history of work done by agency biologists allowed me to have a deep appreciation for each era of management and science. Moving towards a more ecosystem-based management strategy allows scientists and managers to work together to collaborate on advancing scientific understanding of marine resources and applying that knowledge directly to conservation and management. New technologies have allowed scientists to investigate data-deficient situations, such as the red abalone population in Oregon. I was able to collaborate with scientists at UC Davis in California to add to the body of information on red abalone populations throughout Oregon and California using genetic data. Collecting genetic samples in Oregon required further collaboration with academic researchers, commercial and recreational divers, and agency knowledge from previous biologists that detailed the habitat and presence of the elusive and cryptic red abalone in Oregon.
Utilizing historical understanding, agency management frameworks and advice, and application of modern data techniques allowed me to create a conservation and fishery management plan that relies on the strength of collaboration and inclusion. I have learned how vital positive communication techniques are to the scientific and management process through my Oregon Sea Grant Fellowship with ODFW. I hope to continue to grow and learn more about effective application of biological information through careful communication and informed policy throughout my career. I look forward to continuing to work with Oregon Sea Grant through my next role as a Marine Reserves Science Communications Fellow with ODFW beginning in 2023.
Thank you to all of the incredible collaborators, scientists, managers, and friends that have encouraged me and contributed to this project. And of course thank you to Oregon Sea Grant and ODFW for making this project possible, and the quirky and elusive red abalone in Oregon that I hope to positively affect through this work!
Hello all! I am writing with the final update on my project to develop procedures for how the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) coordinates with tribes during federal consistency reviews, as I finished up my fellowship last week.
To return to the cliffhanger of my last blog post, I am happy to report that our proposal to incorporate additional policies related to archaeological resource protection and Native American grave protection into the suite of policies considered during federal consistency reviews was approved by NOAA. With this change, the OCMP will be able to further highlight and raise awareness of the state of Oregon’s commitment to the protection of these sites of significance to the tribes. During a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide applicants with information to help them learn more about these standards. This includes resources about inadvertent discovery of human remains on the Legislative Commission on Indian Service’s website and guidance about the issuance of archaeological permits from the State Historic Preservation Office’s guidance on the issuance of archaeological permits.
I am also pleased to say the tribal coordination procedures were distributed to tribes via formal consultation letters at the beginning of October, marking a significant milestone in this fellowship project. The OCMP’s goal in implementing these procedures is to bring the tribes to the table during federal consistency reviews and management decisions to ensure their voices are heard and their expertise is considered. To ease implementation and sustainability, the procedures are designed to be simple and common sense, and nested naturally in existing processes. They are built on a few commitments to standardize communication and coordination which we shared with the tribes:
Do the “pre-work”
As federal consistency comes with a unique lingo and timelines established by federal regulations, it can be difficult to step into the federal consistency “world” without some orientation. In February of 2022, the OCMP took an early step in the “pre-work,” to provide some background on federal consistency and how it “works.” We also provided the tribes with summaries and graphics to describe the process with our formal consultation letters. Those letters also requested specific information from the tribes to tailor the procedure as appropriate: 1) confirmation that the tribe wants to be informed of federal consistency reviews; 2) types of activities of interest, whether there is particular geographic extent or topic area; and 3) who should be the primary contacts the OCMP should include in our mailing lists.
Upon initiation of a federal consistency review, the OCMP will provide notification to tribes. This will be as early as possible in the process to ensure the tribe has enough time to review. It will be separate from the public comment period, as the federally recognized tribes are not members of the public – they are sovereign nations. This notification includes standard and clear information; templates have been developed to support.
Communication and coordination
The notification message specifically requests comments on the project, but we leave the door open for different levels of coordination. This means that there could be informal staff-to-staff coordination and communication up to formal consultation between OCMP leadership and the Tribal Councils, whatever the tribe requests. Any comments received would be acted on. This might mean facilitating coordination between the federal agency issuing the permit or taking the action and the tribe.
This last commitment is about “showing the work.” The OCMP is maintaining records of communication with the tribes. Any actionable comments will be documented in decision letters, though we will be mindful of not including potentially sensitive information. Copies of decision letters will also be provided to tribes if they provided comment or upon their request.
As I wrap this up I want to say thank you to everyone at the Department of Land Conservation and Development and the Oregon Coastal Management Program for the opportunity to work on this project! It has been a real privilege to be able to dig into these issues and develop some processes that will hopefully work in the long-term.
The first half of my fellowship has been such an incredible experience of working with experts in conservation science and policy and learning how science can support policy and vice-versa. My fellowship project is a general exploration of how blue carbon pathways operate in Oregon’s coastal ecosystems, how they may contribute to the state’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, and who is currently doing the work. Blue carbon as a climate mitigation strategy is a fairly recent development, and the research is still in its early stages in the Pacific Northwest. My fellowship work will hopefully help inform how blue carbon can fit into Oregon’s natural and working lands.
To be honest, it’s hard to think about climate change daily without having to manage some amount of climate anxiety. The crisis we face is at a scale bigger than comprehension, and at times it’s hard to imagine blue carbon alone having a large enough impact to offset—let alone reduce—carbon emissions to have a positive climate effect. At the same time, defeatism is less than helpful, and it’s simply incorrect to believe that nothing we do can mitigate climate change and its effects. There will not be one solution. It will take a lot of people working in lots of ways to tackle the challenge, to change systems and turn the tide. Natural climate solutions (NCS), including blue carbon, is one tool we have to approach climate and biodiversity issues. NCS use conservation and restoration strategies to enhance climate benefits but does not elevate carbon reduction above ecosystem function. This is one aspect that I appreciate about NCS—it does not look at nature as a technology to maximize carbon sequestration but instead values ecosystem health and function for multifaceted benefits.
I had struggled initially because carbon crediting seems to focus simply on the most ‘productive’ estuarine systems that build carbon-rich soils However, many of the people working on blue carbon do not think of carbon projects as simply carbon farms that are separated from ecosystem function. There is deliberate consideration of the inherent value of coastal and nearshore ecosystems alongside the many ecosystem services, of which carbon is one. This attitude shared by my new colleagues is really a heartening one, and I’ve been supported in considering the role of complex oceanic ecosystems (like kelp forests) that are critical Oregon coastal habitat and sequester carbon.
Since my last post, the direction of my fellowship has shifted yet again. I have hinted in previous posts that I have been given a lot of latitude to take the work in any direction I see fit – so the project has grown and shrunk and grown again as I learn more about the system in which I’m working. This is really my favorite type of environment to work in – I like dynamic work, following random threads, learning new things, and not always knowing what’s next. That being said… this latest shift was not as welcome because it came as a result of the departure my mentor from state service: over the last three months, I have been taking on a lot of the tasks of the State-Federal Relations Coordinator and minding the federal consistency review shop while the Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP) has been hiring my mentor’s replacement.
Though it has been unfortunate I have not had as much time to dedicate specifically to the further development of tribal coordination procedures, I’ve been leaning into the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of a federal consistency review. I thought I had a decent grasp, but I’ve found I was just scratching the surface. (hubris!) With my new appreciation for the complexity of the position and requirements of a federal consistency review, I feel better positioned to generate procedures that will work for the next Coordinator.
For example, being in the Coordinator’s shoes has really underlined the importance of developing effective, clear, and fairly simple procedures for involving the tribes. The reality of the position (and, really, I think this is true for lots of dynamic/ high-tempo professions) is that things sometimes have to fall off the plate. Therefore, procedures have to be realistic and mindful of varying levels of bandwidth for them to outlast their creator. So, I have been thinking quite a bit about where I can create efficiencies – generating message templates, simplifying methods to identify who needs to be contacted, and updating checklists that help the Coordinator track where they are in the process. My appreciation for reasonable and sustainable processes is a common theme throughout my professional career so far, and has probably already come up in a previous blog post…
In other news, I am really happy to report that a major component of my main project has been able to continue during these last months. Working with one of my Tribal advisors and the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), I have been developing a proposal to add more policies related to archaeological resources into the suite of policies that are considered during a federal consistency review. Policies must meet certain criteria to be called “enforceable” and be approved by NOAA for inclusion in a coastal management program. Enforceable policies are the backbone of a federal consistency review – federal permit applicants and federal agencies proposing actions must make a statement that they believe their project is consistent with these policies. The OCMP then concurs, concurs with conditions, or object to the applicant’s determination that their project is consistent based on our independent review and the input of our network partners.
For this reason, the inclusion of these additional enforceable policies of importance to the Tribes is a substantial step forward in emphasizing the OCMP’s commitment to the protection of archaeological resources. I am currently developing letters to distribute to the Tribal Councils to provide notification about the change, discuss the significance, explain the implementation process, and request their feedback. This is a months-long process that will very likely outlast my tenure with the OCMP, so I am excited to get it moving!
It is the end of the second quarter of my Natural Resource Policy Fellowship working with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn more about applying biological information to an imperiled shellfish fishery and it has been a challenging task so far. The recreational red abalone fishery in Oregon is unique due to its small size of users, limited information about the population level biology of the target species coupled with the intense enthusiasm of users. I have been working on using other fishery management plan frameworks as a guide for forming the hybrid conservation and fishery management plan for red abalone here in Oregon and it has illuminated some major differences between those established management plans and my work-in-progress plan. Mostly, I have found that we have limited quantitative data to work with when attempting to establish Harvest Control Rules, including biological reference points, total allowable catch and spawning potential ratios. This is a challenge I knew was on the horizon, but it does make it difficult to determine an effective strategy for management while still considering the conservation needs of this species. Currently, I am utilizing other frameworks in conjunction with unique fishery management techniques in other similar fisheries with limited data. In its completion, this would look like a limited fishery with established regions that will be managed separately based on index survey efforts and utilizing data from nearby fisheries that have a similar population structure but more established biological understanding and increased funding for monitoring. I am looking forward to creating a completed first draft in the coming months and continuing to further develop this unique management framework.
I am also enjoying the immersive and intersectional experience of working on a campus that connects the academic side of marine biology to the management side due to the close proximity of the University of Oregon Marine Biology campus with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife field station in Charleston. It is unique and helpful to have both entities as well as the fishing industry at the fishing plant Pacific all within one location!
Since my last post, the scope of my project has shifted to developing tribal coordination and consultation procedures for the entire Oregon Coastal Management Program (OCMP), rather than just for federal consistency reviews. In part, this is because it was proving difficult to separate the activities of the federal consistency review program from those of the larger OCMP. The project team also recognized that the strategy for tribal engagement during federal consistency reviews is somewhat limited by nature. As my recently departed (and sorely missed) mentor, Deanna Caracciolo, likes to say… the federal consistency review is usually the “caboose” of a federal permitting process. By the time the OCMP initiates its review, the federal agency and any OCMP network partners with permitting responsibilities (i.e. state agencies) may have already communicated with potentially impacted Tribes about the proposed action. Therefore, to limit duplication of effort and respect the limited resources of our partners – including the Tribes – the OCMP will aim to “complement” any previous tribal engagement efforts and offer an opportunity for a final double-check for any emerging concerns. This strategy roughly mirrors that of our neighboring coastal management program in California. As this is a fairly common sense and straightforward solution, there is fortunately bandwidth in the scope of this project to branch out to the wider OCMP!
As I move forward in this project, my approach to the development of the tribal coordination and consultation procedures is to:
Use the existing Department of Land Conservation and Development policy for government-to-government relations as the framework: This policy is required per Oregon Revised Statutes 182.162 through 182.168. My project is essentially implementing the policy through the development of procedures specific for the OCMP. It is an important – and complex – distinction that the requirement is to set up a program that promotes positive relations between the state and the Tribes through cooperation and communication. Big “C” consultation (formal consultation) is part of it, but the wider focus on cooperation recognizes that ongoing opportunities for collaboration and coordination between the state and the Tribes are critical to developing the underlying relationships.
Normalize communication: Establishing a fairly standardized cycle of routine communication and coordination helps with the building of relationships and pathways for information flow. These relationships and pathways can then be leaned on as the need for non-routine communication arises or when there are emerging issues. More frequent communication also means more opportunities to get feedback and adjust, as needed. In setting up this communication cycle, it is my goal to leverage existing processes to maximize sustainability and not create more work than is necessary. For example, each agency is required to submit an annual report to the Legislative Commission on Indian Services regarding the previous year’s tribal engagement activities: we are aiming to set up reporting and monitoring forms that can easily be fed into the annual report.
Clarify roles and responsibilities: Part of this project has been seeking to understand what the OCMP is currently doing when it comes to tribal engagement – identifying who is currently coordinating with the tribes and any future opportunities for coordination. We don’t want to fix anything that isn’t broken and want to build on whatever is already working. Ultimately, the goal is to develop a structure of roles and responsibilities internal to the OCMP for monitoring and advocating for tribal engagement opportunities. Again, we want to make this as painless as possible – so we are proposing relatively simple solutions like a standing agenda item at the all staff meeting regarding tribal engagement to keep this at the front of everyone’s minds.
Develop robust but flexible procedures: Uncertainty can be a hurdle to efficient and effective communication, so we are developing procedures and best practices to help staff determine what type of coordination is appropriate for different types of activities. For example, the process of initiating formal consultation through letters to the Tribal Council can feel a little stressful. We want to get in front of this (and the possible stress) by identifying the types of activities that are generally suitable for staff-to-staff coordination. These procedures will also capture communication strategies and roles and responsibilities.
We shared our proposed framework for procedure development with the Tribes during a workshop in late February 2022. We were extremely grateful and excited that representatives of seven of the nine federally recognized Tribal Nations in Oregon were able to attend. This was an opportunity to share more information about the OCMP, its authority, its programs, and federal consistency reviews and get some feedback from the attendees. The workshop was advertised as the first of many opportunities to communicate and coordinate with our tribal partners. Over the next few months, I am looking forward to facilitating further conversations between the OCMP and tribal staff to learn more about the Tribes’ interests in the coastal zone and ensure the procedures we are developing meet their needs.
Hi all! My name is Joanna and I’m excited to join the community of Oregon Sea Grant Scholars for the 2021-2022 Natural Resource Policy Fellowship. I matched with The Nature Conservancy as my host organization to explore Blue Carbon in Oregon. Blue Carbon refers to any carbon stored within soils or biomass in coastal and marine ecosystems: think salt marshes, eelgrass, and kelp forests, for example. There has been recent focus on protecting and restoring these habitats, in part because they are so good at absorbing and sequestering atmospheric carbon and can be part of the solution to mitigate the effects of climate change. (Although, of course, the greatest reduction effects would be seen from drastically reducing fossil fuel consumption.) Natural Climate Solutions—including Blue Carbon—provide this essential service in addition to myriad co-benefits that support coastal biological and human communities.
Much of Blue Carbon science has been conducted in the tropics and typically framed in terms those tropical ecosystems. Salt marshes and seagrasses are common to both the tropics and the Pacific Northwest, but mangrove forests—understood to be the most effective carbon storage ecosystem—do not occur in the PNW. We do, however, have Sitka spruce swamps which tolerate the salinity of tidally influenced wetlands and store incredible amounts of carbon in soils and woody biomass. Additionally, many of the oceanic sources of Blue Carbon are not well incorporated into our understanding of carbon pathways in Oregon. My project seeks to understand the potential role of Blue Carbon to reach Oregon’s carbon reduction targets and to finance restoration through carbon credits.
The first few months of this fellowship have been a whirlwind of learning about Blue Carbon science, meeting many of the amazing people who work and are interested in this space, and changing the way I think about science and the ways it’s applied in the world. My background in marine science led me to approach problems using a fairly rigid framework—formulating research questions, deriving hypotheses, constructing methodologies—but working in applied science and policy has certainly challenged the way I think about approaching projects. Scientific rigor is, of course, still needed as the foundation for effective climate policy, but I’ve learned to put more emphasis on human elements—relationships between people and the lands and waters on which they depend, and connections between partners and stakeholders to implement change. I’m excited to continue exploring established and frontier Blue Carbon pathways, and connecting with partners and policymakers during the course of my fellowship.