Southern Oregon Climate Smart (SOCS) Working Group

Project Description

In September 2019, the Southern Oregon Climate Smart (SOCS) Working Group was formed to confer about and collaboratively react to perceived and potential climate change impacts on natural ecosystems in southwestern Oregon. We initially focused on proposed federal lands and natural resources management activities but expanded our scope to include state, municipal and private lands.

The SOCS Working Group is composed of individuals and representatives from:

Project Facilitator

Charisse Sydoriak

Goals 

The goal of SOCS is to promote climate-smart natural resources management throughout Southern Oregon.

Strategic Approach 

Education—Develop a “climate-smart” natural resources management guide for use by federal, state, and local entities demonstrating the “climate-smart” adaptation planning process through case studies. Attend, present, and participate in public forums.

Engagement—Collaborate with representatives of federal, state, and municipal organizations working on natural resources management related conservation policies and plans as early as possible. Participate on panels, special working groups, and similar.

Facilitation—Support federal, state, municipal, and property owner efforts to develop “climate-smart” conservation plans. Provide information (including GIS maps), facilitate dialog, consultation services, and advise.

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What does it mean to be Climate Smart in natural resources management

  • Being “climate-smart” is “the intentional and deliberate consideration of climate change in natural resource management, realized through adopting forward-looking goals and explicitly linking strategies to key climate impacts and vulnerabilities” (Stein et al. 2014).
  • It entails INTENTIONALLY making a transition from a paradigm of protection and restoration (resisting change), to one that anticipates and actively manages for uncertain yet plausible future conditions.
  • The challenge is to manage for acceptable outcomes, with uncertainty clearly in mind.

Figure 1: Climate Smart Planning Cycle [note: while this source graphic (Glick et al. 2021) mentions forests, the approach can be applied to other ecosystems]

The approach the SOCS Working Group is using was originally published in 2014 by a consortium of contributors led by the National Wildlife Federation (Stein et al. 2014) and updated in 2021 (Glick, P. et al.). The six-step process (Figure 1) is based on a set of principles that acknowledges historic and desired environments but deliberately questions their viability given rapidly changing and uncertain climatic and socioeconomic conditions.

The approach requires a change in the way we design and select natural resources management strategies and tactics, and is facilitated using geospatial tools, scenario planning, and public engagement. Highly prescriptive solutions are avoided while experimentation, flexibility, reevaluation, and creativity are emphasized.

Key characteristics of the climate smart approach are:

  • Linking actions to climate impacts. Natural resources management strategies and actions are designed specifically to address the impact of climate change in concert with existing threats. Actions are supported by an explicit scientific rationale and understanding of potential climate vulnerabilities.
  • Embrace forward-looking goals. Management goals focus on current and future, rather than past conditions. Strategies take a long view (decades to centuries) but account for near-term challenges and needed transition strategies.
  • Consider broader landscape context. On-the-ground actions are designed in the context of broader geographic scales to account for likely shifts in species distributions, to sustain ecological processes, and to promote collaboration across land management boundaries.
  • Adopt strategies robust to uncertainty. Strategies and actions ideally provide benefit across a range of possible future conditions to account for uncertainties in future climatic conditions, and in ecological and human responses to climate shifts.
  • Employ agile and informed management. Natural resources managers and the public embrace experimentation, continuous learning and dynamic adjustment to accommodate uncertainty–regularly taking advantage of new knowledge to cope with rapid shifts in climatic, ecological, and socioeconomic conditions.
  • Minimize carbon footprint. Adopt strategies that minimize energy use & greenhouse gas emissions and employ tactics that enable systems to naturally cycle and store carbon.
  • Account for climate influence on project success. Monitor the results of actions taken. Avoid investing effort likely to be undermined by climate-related changes unless part of an intentional strategy.
  • Safeguard people and nature. Adopt strategies and tactics that enhance ecosystems’ capacity to protect human communities and co-beneficial biota from climate change impacts.
  • Avoid maladaptation. Avoid choosing activities that ostensibly reduce vulnerabilities to climatic change but actually have unintended adverse consequences on human or natural communities.

SOCS Accomplishments in 2019

  • Formed the Working Group and developed the SOCS charter.
  • Developed a shared resources library and files management plan.
  • Provided comments on the Medford and Roseburg District BLM Integrated Vegetation Management Plan for Resilient Lands Programmatic Environmental Assessment (EA)

SOCS Accomplishments in 2020

  • January -Met with USFS staff at Star Gulch Ranger Station to discuss Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration Plan in the context of climate smart principles.
  • Reviewed and submitted written comments on the USFS/BLM Upper Applegate Watershed Restoration Project EA and Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for its “climate smartness” relative to proposed actions for forest and woodland vegetation treatments, wildlife conservation, recovery of the endangered Gentner’s fritillary, and ecosystem services. Presented our findings to the Siskiyou District Ranger and staff on January 28, 2020 and responded to questions.
  • Reviewed the Ashland OR Climate and Energy Action Plan (CEAP) for climate smartness
  • Reviewed the Ashland OR Forest Plan (AFP) for climate smartness

SOCS Accomplishments in 2021

  • April–Formally submitted Ashland CEAP and AFP review comments through public testimony at an Ashland Climate Policy Commission session.
  • August–Provided public comment to the Oregon Global Warming Commission requesting clarification of the term “climate smart” in relation to natural resources management. The subsequent final version of the OGWC Natural and Working Lands Plan included a brief statement regarding climate smart management.
  • November–Met with the Medford District Ranger and staff to review climate change adaptation work at the Upper Table Rocks for inclusion as a possible case study in a climate smart adaptation planning guide and provided educational materials on the climate smart approach.

SOCS Accomplishments in 2022

  • March–Introduced Jennifer Sanborn, new Siskiyou Mountains District, Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forests, to the SOCS team, climate-smart natural resources management principles, and our goals and service approach. Opened the door to future collaboration.

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Connection to SOCAN Mission

Although the SOCS Working Group is not a SOCAN project, the following explains SOCAN’s engagement in the Working Group:

Our natural and working lands are critical elements of the climate solution since management practices both result in greenhouse gas emissions and can increase or decrease the carbon sequestration capacity of these lands.  Climate-smart management not only promotes adaptation of our ecosystems to future climatic conditions, but also seeks to reduce their contribution to the greenhouse gas emissions problem.

References Cited

Glick, P., B.A. Stein, and K.R. Hall. 2021. Toward a Shared Understanding of Climate-Smart Restoration on America’s National Forests: A Science Review and Synthesis. Washington, DC: National Wildlife Federation.

Stein, B.A., P. Glick, N. Edelson, and A. Staudt (eds.) (2014). Climate-Smart Conservation: Putting Adaptation Principles into Practice. National Wildlife Federation, Washington, D.C.

Resources