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Commentaries and editorials

Council Recommends Funding Reductions
in Fish/Wildlife Data Management Projects

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 9, 2012

In an attempt to bring economies and efficiencies to its Columbia River Basin Fish and Wildlife Program, the Northwest Power and Conservation Council on Tuesday recommended that funding for a number of data management projects be cut back and that one, the Northwest Habitat Institute, be phased out.

The Council also recommended that funding for the "Status of the Resource Report," which was developed by the Columbia Basin Fish and Wildlife Authority, be eliminated.

The recommendations represent refinements of funding recommendations made in July at the end of the Council's assessments of data management projects requesting funding in coming years. A special panel comprised of staff members, -- the Program Evaluation and Review Committee -- was formed earlier this year to review the cost and utility of the data management projects.

The Council this week recommended:

Thomas O'Neill, director of the Corvallis, Ore.,-based NHI on Tuesday pressed his case for a continuation for funding for the project, which was involved in the Council's subbasin planning process; specifically in storing and making available the upland environmental data. O'Neill said NHI's function is still valuable.

"The NHI board feels this process has reached an inappropriate conclusion," O'Neill said.

"A decision to not fund the IBIS project is a decision that goes against your own policies, fish and wildlife program, and the ISRP and ISAB recommendations and their guidance. Regarding the PERC recommendation, IBIS project should be funded according to its proposal and the ISRP recommendations," NHI board member R. Daniel Edge said in an Oct. 26 letter to the Council.

The Interactive Biodiversity Information System is a resource developed by the NHI to promote the conservation of Northwest fish, wildlife, and their habitats through education and the distribution of timely, peer-reviewed scientific data. The Independent Scientific Review Panel and Independent Scientific Advisory Board are called on to judge the scientific merit of Columbia River basin fish and wildlife project proposals.

The letter to the Council say says that the most recent recommendation goes against prior Council and ISRP reviews and prior recommendations without explanation.

Council Fish and Wildlife Program Director Tony Grover said he and other staff members during the PERC process canvassed fish and wildlife program participants.

"We couldn't find anybody that actually used" the NHI data, Grover said. While the NHI data management efforts contributed greatly to the subbasin planning effort it no longer draws many users, he said.

O'Neill also said the NHI work is "identified as a BiOp priority." He said the work contributes to compliance monitoring related to NOAA Fisheries' 2008/2010 Endangered Species Act biological opinion on the Federal Columbia River Power System. That BiOp outlines actions intended to improve survival of fish that negotiate the dams and reservoirs, and prescribes monitoring to evaluate the success of those efforts.

The NHI project was funded at $165,000 during fiscal year 2012.

The Status of the Resource Project was developed by the CBFWA with BPA funding. The SOTR's purpose is to assess the status of fish and wildlife resources in the Columbia River Basin. This project's base unit of measurement is the subbasin.

The CBFWA budget for 2012 was $853,000.

During 2005, the fish and wildlife managers of the CBFWA (17 state, tribal, and federal entities) designed a procedure for a continuous data inventory/reporting exercise that would make data on numbers of fish and wildlife readily available through the publicly accessible CBFWA website and an annual report – jointly titled as the Status of the Resource.

The PERC recommendation to the Council notes CBFWA's memberships and staffing levels have decreased over the past 5 years and no longer represent all the agencies and tribes in the basin, though CBFWA staff continues to provide support to their current members. The CBFWA will manage the Status of the Resource report until April 2013. The PERC is made up of NPCC staff members.

The 2012 Streamnet budget was just under $2 million, the PNAMP budget was $583,000 and the HEP budget was $442,000.

Related Sites:
Council Recommendations

Council Recommends Funding Reductions in Fish/Wildlife Data Management Projects
Columbia Basin Bulletin, November 9, 2012

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