The first Technical Advisory Team (TAT) Meeting of the Upper Feather River Basin-Wide Native Fish Assessment and Improvement Strategy took place on April 19, 2016. Our goals were to discuss next steps in the Basin-wide Fish Assessment to help inform our work defining fishery and habitat conditions in the Upper Feather River Basin.
Some 20 representatives from 5 agencies and organizations were in attendance including Trout Unlimited National, Trout Unlimited Feather River Chapter, United States Forest Service Plumas, Lassen and Tahoe National Forests, California Department of Water Resources, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Those in attendance represented many of the fields of expertise most related to fisheries management, including not just fisheries biologists but hydrologists, water resource engineers, and geographers, to name a few. A subset of these individuals volunteered to be part of a Core Group of technical advisors for the Basin-wide Fish Assessment. While the larger group will help with brainstorming and big picture thinking, the Core group will help my TU advisors and me with the more detail-oriented discussion and planning for how these techniques will actually be implemented.
Specific goals of the meeting were to begin to identify framework approaches, habitat condition indicators, habitat condition risks, and the specific scale(s) at which the assessment will take place.
Discussion centered on techniques utilized in existing assessments that have taken place in the Basin and elsewhere, with a focus on identifying physical indicators that will cumulatively best define habitat condition. We also discussed the scale at which these physical indications, such as habitat connectivity, amount of habitat diversity, level of alteration to sediment regime, water quantity & quality, and fish assemblage composition (native v. non-native), have an effect on overall fishery quality and can be meaningfully analyzed. There was also a brief discussion on the applicability of these indicators to restoration goals i.e., identifying which indicators can feasibility be affected and improved by management decisions and efforts on the ground versus those which resource managers have little ability to influence. Additionally, we discussed briefly the primary risks to habitat condition in the future, namely regarding climate change and its probable ecological effects here in the Basin.
While myself and a few others felt that the meeting did not produce as concise of a consensus as desired in terms of obtaining a succinct list of habitat conditions indicators and specific metrics with which to analyze them, there was a broad sense amongst those in attendance that the main goals of the meeting were mostly reached. Additionally, there were a number of fresh ideas aired that had not yet been considered as well as recommendation of a number of data sources that we had not identified.
Most importantly, the group was able to identify 5 broad parameters to be examined in the assessment: 1) Water Quantity 2) Water Quality 3) Biological Community 4) Habitat Connectivity and 5) Risk and Vulnerability. Identifying specific metrics and data-sets for each parameter was tasked to the Core Group.
Overall, there was a definite value in drawing together so many managers and stakeholders. Being able to do so is evidence of the identified need and extraordinary level of support across the board for this effort. Many representatives from other agencies and fields were not able to attend but expressed their support for the effort, indicating a strong likelihood for growing attendance and participation in both the Core Group and larger team. The Core Group of the TAT will meet again in the second week of May while the larger group will meet sometime mid-to-late June.