Background image of Creek at the edge of green valley.

Priorities

A foundation for custom-built, rapidly deployable decision making and data visualization tools.

The Ecotrust priorities framework allows us to rapidly build custom decision support applications for a wide variety of partners and prioritization efforts.

The decision support framework grew out of a tool first developed with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to prioritize regional watersheds for conservation and restoration. It considers such factors as watershed condition, climate change, and aquatic invasive species. That framework has been expanded and is now able to incorporate new data and planning units for deployment in new geographies with any number of spatial priorities.

It works like this: users specify a set of objectives and constraints based on data summarized to pre-defined planning units. The tool visualizes spatial data and maps outputs of the prioritization process. It also displays global and site-specific summaries.

In addition to supporting the USFWS Region 1 efforts to identify regional aquatic priorities, the framework has been used to support the Bureau of Land Management in identifying aquatic priorities and to identify juniper treatment priorities for the BLM in eastern Oregon. It is currently being adapted for use in identifying priority areas for expansion of the National Refuge System administered by USFWS.

For Developers: The Priorities framework is a web-based system built on Madrona. It is built on a PostGIS database, Redis, Python, and the GeoDjango web framework. Mapnik and Tilestache are used for serving geographic data. Currently, iterations of the system use Marxan for multi-objective optimization, although the framework is capable of plugging in different optimization algorithms. On the front end, Knockout.js, Bootstrap, and OpenLayers are used to create the user interface.  

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Aquatic Priorities Tool
aquatic-priorities.apps.ecotrust.org

The regional aquatic prioritization and mapping tool is a decision support system for Oregon, Washington, and Idaho developed by Ecotrust and the USFWS.

Stream basins color-coded in Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

The decision support system was developed to focus conservation and restoration of freshwater habitats to ensure the long-term sustainability of the region’s aquatic and fisheries resources. It considers factors such as watershed condition, climate change, and aquatic invasive species in guiding regional priorities. Using this tool, Ecotrust and USFWS evaluated a wide variety of watershed priorities at the fourth-field sub-basin scale.

In developing this tool, Ecotrust and USFWS collaborated with partners already involved with strategic, regional-scale aquatic habitat restoration, including the U.S. Forest Service, NOAA Fisheries, U.S. Geological Survey, and Trout Unlimited, among others.

Salmon jumping up a small waterfall.

Bureau of Land Management Aquatic Priorities Tool
aquatics-blm.labs.ecotrust.org

This tool was created by Ecotrust for the Bureau of Land Management to help the BLM identify aquatic conservation priorities down to the fifth-field scale in eastern Oregon and Washington. It now allows users to identify priority species and consider current and future landscape conditions in order to create watershed priorities across or within the North Pacific region. The watershed factors considered are fish distribution, watershed condition, vulnerability to climate change, and vulnerability to aquatic invasion. The tool also considers the extent to which a stream lies within BLM boundaries.

Bureau of Land Management Juniper Tool
juniper-dev.labs.ecotrust.org

Over the past 100 years, scientists have been documenting the spread of juniper at alarming rates across eastern Oregon, down through Nevada, Utah, and into parts of eastern California. Some studies note as much as a tenfold increase since the late 1800s. This expansion comes with a heavy cost to local ecosystems (e.g. sagebrush habitats) and threatened species, such as sage grouse and pygmy rabbits. But addressing the problem is no easy task. Removal of the species at different stages of development and at remote locations can be extremely expensive. Where and how the species are treated can have varied results on restoration of surrounding habitats. It’s a challenge to figure out how to get the most value from limited resources for habitat restoration.

Junipers on a desert plain

To assist the BLM in meeting these challenges, Ecotrust has created the Oregon Juniper Management Tool. This tool allows land managers to review a suite of juniper-related spatial data layers such as juniper canopy, sage grouse habitat, hydrology, and public ownership in an interactive web map viewer, and then build personalized scenarios for juniper removal by defining specific objectives, such as how many acres of juniper to remove or whether or not to prioritize removal in sage grouse habitat.

National Refuge Systems COGS Tool
cogs-dev.priorities.ecotrust.org

Human demands on the environment and environmental stressors, such as climate change, require scientific, landscape-level approaches to conservation and land acquisition beyond U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service boundaries. To ensure the greatest likelihood of conservation success in protecting high-priority lands, there are constraints and opportunities for strategic growth (COGS) that must also be considered in the decision-making process.

The COGS tool is a group of data sets, including economic, social, and political factors, conservation networks, climate change adaptation, and others, that represent constraints or opportunities to land acquisition. The tool is built on sound conservation planning science, is repeatable and transparent, and will give insights into how the USFWS can meet its conservation goals most efficiently and successfully. In the future, this tool can potentially be used with data sets from other programs, such as national scale aquatic assessments, to truly develop a comprehensive look at USFWS priorities.