CHARTER

Anticipated Outcomes from the GBRMP

  • An organizational structure to facilitate research and management collaboration.
  • A mechanism for identifying and obtaining consensus on priority research and management issues.
  • Information on research and management groups and collaborative projects in the region, their mission and goals, and their relationships to one another.
  • An information clearinghouse to expand information sharing among researchers, managers, the public and other partners.
  • Science and technical working groups operating within the existing research and management structure that synthesize existing information, and obtain needed information in areas where gaps are identified.
  • Data and information that can be used for science-based management and to develop recommendations for actions by participating agencies, NGOs and other partners.
  • A mechanism to monitor and communicate the results of research and management collaborations to citizens, managers, and policy makers.

Background and Need

The Great Basin is considered to be one of the most endangered ecoregions in the United States. The human population is expanding at the highest rate in the nation, and major sociological and ecological changes are occurring across the region. These changes can be attributed to numerous interacting factors including urbanization, changing technology and land use, climate change, limited water resources, altered fire regimes, invasive species, insects, and disease. The consequences have been large-scale vegetation type conversions, losses of watershed function, and degradation of stream, riparian, and aquatic ecosystems. Biological diversity has decreased, and a high number of species are at risk of extinction or extirpation. Ecosystem services such as water resources for agriculture and fish, habitat for aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals, forage and browse for native herbivores and livestock, and recreational opportunities are being lost at a rapid rate. These losses have adverse social and economic impacts on urban, suburban and rural areas. Managers across the Great Basin are increasingly challenged to maintain or improve the ecological condition of these systems and the services that they provide while meeting the needs of a growing number of user groups with diverse and often opposing interests.

Sustaining the ecosystems, resources and human populations of the Great Basin (Figure 1) requires strong collaborative partnerships among research and management organizations in the region. In November, 2006, a workshop on Collaborative Watershed Management and Research in the Great Basin was held in Reno, Nevada. It was attended by nearly 200 individuals representing federal, state, tribal and local-government land and resource management agencies; non-governmental organizations; representatives of federal legislators; federal, state, university and non-governmental researchers; and other partners of interest. The results of the workshop are summarized in a US Forest Service General Technical Report which includes: (1) overviews of the critical research and management issues facing the Great Basin; and (2) a summary of the workshop sessions on developing collaborative management and research programs to address critical Great Basin issues and devise mechanisms for organizing and communicating (Chambers et al. 2008; http://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_gtr204.html). There was consensus among workshop participants that comprehensive and immediate action was needed to address the many urgent issues facing the Great Basin and that these actions required active collaboration among research and management organizations in the region.

The Great Basin Research and Management Partnership (GBRMP) was developed in response to the collaborative workshop. The desired outcome of GBRMP is to facilitate collaboration among researchers and managers to reverse current ecosystem losses, and to sustain long-term productivity, resource values and services of both natural and managed ecosystems. GBRMP provides an integrated organizational framework to promote comprehensive and complementary collaborations, and to provide leadership, commitment and guidance to ensure that the collaborations are effective.

Map of the Great Basin. Figure 1. The focus of GBRMP is on the Great Basin as defined by similar climatic and floristic relationships. This region encompasses a five state area that is experiencing similar sociological and ecological concerns and includes most of the state of Nevada and parts of California, Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. Because issues that affect the region do not always follow map boundaries, the collaborative efforts of GBRMP extend to adjacent areas that influence ecosystem sustainability within the Great Basin.

The vision for GBRMP is inter-disciplinary, multi-organizational teams working together to develop solutions to the region's ecological and socio-economic issues using existing management and research frameworks. Many excellent collaborative research and management programs and projects already exist within the region. These include those associated with federal (USDI, USDA, DOD, DOE, EPA, NASA) and state research labs and management agencies, universities, local agencies, tribal governments and non-governmental organizations. They also include collaborations developed to address specific research and management needs in the Great Basin. GBRMP complements these collaborative efforts and builds upon their strengths by increasing coordination and communication within and external to these organizations. GBRMP provides a mechanism for facilitating diverse research and management groups working in the Great Basin to: (1) obtain consensus in identifying and prioritizing regional issues; (2) expand and bring focus to existing collaborative efforts; and (3) initiate new team efforts to address emerging issues. It also provides critical information sharing capacity for both existing collaborations and new teams.

GBRMP has partnered with several regional collaborative organizations through the Great Basin Consortium (http://environment.unr.edu/consortium/) to coordinate efforts, reduce duplication, and leverage resources. Members of the GBC include the Great Basin Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Unit (http://www.cesu.psu.edu/unit_portals/GRBA_portal.htm), Great Basin Landscape Conservation Cooperative (http://www.blm.gov/nv/st/en/prog/more_programs/GBLCC.html), Great Basin Restoration Initiative (http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/info/history/sidebars/ecosystems/great_basin_restoration.html), Great Basin Fire Science Delivery Project (http://www.gbfiresci.org/) and Great Basin Environmental Program (http://greatbasinenvironmentalprogram.org/).

Although good progress has been made in understanding Great Basin ecosystems and in developing effective management techniques, the diversity and magnitude of the issues currently facing the Great Basin require innovative approaches. Researchers and managers alike need to address both larger spatial scales and longer time scales than have typically been addressed in the past. Collaborative projects need to be developed that cross administrative boundaries, incorporate the many diverse public entities and address the underlying causes of undesirable ecosystem change. Specific areas that need research and management attention include:

  • Science-based information and large-scale assessments on the interacting effects of primary ecosystem drivers, such as urbanization, changing land use, climate change, fire and invasive species, on Great Basin ecosystems (vegetation type conversion, watershed function, stream, riparian and aquatic systems, and biological diversity).
  • Prediction and modeling of the rates and magnitude of change, areas affected, and consequences for the future.
  • Management tools to address the ongoing and predicted changes in Great Basin ecosystems.
  • Demonstration projects and pilot projects that illustrate science-based adaptive management using collaborative frameworks involving researchers, managers and stakeholders.

Close collaboration between managers and researchers is needed to identify and prioritize focal issues and to develop effective collaborative efforts. Large-scale management experiments and ongoing adaptive management that involve the public and other partners are proven approaches for answering science questions and for developing widely-accepted management techniques. Science information serves as a basis for management planning efforts, for meeting NEPA and regulatory requirements, and for inventories, assessments, and trend monitoring. Increased management and research collaboration will ensure that accurate and reliable information is available to managers and decision makers. Increased involvement of the public and other partners will ensure that these decisions are acceptable to the public.

Historically, both research and management activities in the Great Basin have been severely under-supported. Monitoring information, for example precipitation, ground water and stream gauging data, is the sparsest in the nation, and the Great Basin is the only major ecoregion in the nation that does not have a National Science Foundation sponsored Long-Term Ecological Research site. Emphasis on research and management collaboration through GBRMP makes it possible to leverage limited funds, reduce overlap, and increase efficiency. Having a mechanism in place for effective collaboration will facilitate efficient use of new funds that may become available.

Click here to view the entire Great Basin Research and Management Partnership Charter
Click here to view the Memorandum of Understanding among agencies involved in the Great Basin Research and Management Partnership