Judges’ Queries and Presenter’s Replies

  • Icon for: Joseph Yavitt

    Joseph Yavitt

    Faculty
    May 20, 2013 | 10:07 p.m.

    There is a bit of jargon and unfamiliar terms on the poster. Please describe specifically some of the ecological patterns in forest structure that saved money. Is there really bad data? How do you counter my argument that data is either useful or not useful?

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 20, 2013 | 11:41 p.m.

    The question surrounding the soundness of data is applied to whether or not the data is being utilized at the proper scale. After my thesis was completed, I was able to explain to the tribe the connection between my work using FCCS and the LANDFIRE data products. We discovered the national LANDFIRE datasets were being used within the HFPAS system to determine local/regional funding allocations. This is how the thesis helped save money for the tribe. An unintended benefit of my thesis demonstrated the amount of updates necessary, in order to reflect local conditions for the tribe thus, correcting the LANDFIRE data. Based upon the amount of data that would need to be corrected, the tribe argued in Washington DC that the LANDFIRE and HFPAS systems require updates in order to adequately reflect local or regional fire serverity and until those updates were completed, their funding levels should not be determined using the HFPAS system. They were successful in getting money restored to their budget, essentially moving away from the funding allocation plan that was originally established. That was the story for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe. I am not aware of my work impacting other tribal budgets however, my work did provide the other tribes a methodology, that I shared with tribes via the Intertribal Timber Council, to update their LANDFIRE data for their reservations.

    So in this case the data was not useful because it was utilized at the wrong scale.

  • May 21, 2013 | 01:10 p.m.

    Your video and poster required some insider knowledge that I unfortunately do not have so my question is a bit general. Broadly, how does climate change impact land use policy on a local scale; i.e., are many other “corrections” going to be required to achieve an equitable and sustainable policy?

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 01:18 a.m.

    Climate change impacts and/or policy were not addressed in my work. However there are impacts identified at the tribal level that could be associated with climate change, as with other forested areas in the vicinity. Their high elevation forest a re impacted by the changes in forest health conditions that could be related to climate change. My specific work within the research shared here is impacted by the policies established via the LANDFIRE and HFPAS connection because the tribe could lose funding for the fire and fuels programs, in the future? The future of fuels funding is still jeopardy in future years. The degrading conditions in their forest are creating more fire and fuels hazards in their higher elevation forests. The policy can only be considered equitable, if the model is adjusted to reflect local conditions. I hope that answers your question and thank you for identifying a broader issue, climate change is an issue that all tribes may be addressing in the near future.

  • Icon for: Daniel McGarvey

    Daniel McGarvey

    IGERT Alumni
    May 21, 2013 | 09:14 p.m.

    If I follow the story correctly, the “eureka” effect of this research was to show, at a relatively large/regional scale, that a lot more fuel is lying on the ground than previously believed? This in turn had the effect of restoring fire management program funding for the Tribes. If so, were the model predicted data ground truth-ed? On a related note, will it be possible for other Tribes and/or BIA to generate defensible CLUSTER-type models/inventories if they do not have the benefit of the Continuous Forest Inventory data that CSKT had? This inventory seemed like the real keystone to the project.

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 01:32 a.m.

    Thank you for the question. Yes, that is a fair assessment of the work. In my understanding of the history of the development of the LANDFIRE modeling, the fuelbed conditions that were predicted from the model were never ground-truthed.

    The continuos forest inventory (CFI) data is designed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and implemented for tribes, in part, to ensure sustainable harvest. The National Indian Forest Resources Management Act (NIFRMA) requires sustainable harvest practices when dealing with “trust” resources. Tribal forests are held in trust by the federal government.

    So, BIA CFI is an inventory data set that is collected by all Tribes/BIA agencies that manage significant tribal trust resources. This is why my work provided a methodology that other tribes could use to update their own LANDFIRE definitions. Other tribes may not have the seral cluster scheme that CSKT employs but they do have CFI and that is the primary data set used to update landfire, via the Fuel Characteristic Classification System.

  • Icon for: Daniel McGarvey

    Daniel McGarvey

    IGERT Alumni
    May 23, 2013 | 09:45 a.m.

    Thanks for clarifying, Laurel. Science projects that lead directly to real, tangible benefits for specific communities are more the exception than the norm. It’s great that you’ve been able to pursue and succeed in such a role!

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 02:01 p.m.

    Yes. I actively pursued a tangible end product for the thesis research but could never have imagined this outcome. I began this work by trying to give the tribe a modified fuelbed so that they could use other forest and fire modeling tools, developed by the forest service. This whole LANDFIRE issue came out of nowhere. So this was an added benefit to the work. Thank you!

  • May 21, 2013 | 10:39 p.m.

    The impact of this project was certainly financially significant to the local tribe, has served as a “starting point procedure” for other tribes, but I am most humbled by the message that you have sent to your national IGERT colleagues that they can impact environmental and economic decision-making and action. Your reply to Dr. Yavitt answered my other question- thanks!

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 01:33 a.m.

    Thank you very much. I really do appreciate your words.

  • Icon for: Volker Radeloff

    Volker Radeloff

    Faculty
    May 21, 2013 | 10:42 p.m.

    Dear Laurel,

    Having worked quite a bit with LANDFIRE data myself, I certainly share your scepticism about it. I wasn’t aware though how much the LANDFIRE data affected funding allocations.

    The differences between the two approach of mapping fuelbeds is very striking, and generally, I tend to believe that more local data is better. But how could one quantify which of the two fuelbeds maps is ‘right’, or how accurate eiter is?

    Best,
    Volker

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 01:44 a.m.

    Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your knowledge of LANDFIRE.

    Yes, the differences between the two approaches are very striking. Within the past year, I’ve come to understand that the BIA was also looking at other methodologies to address this issue for tribes? I don’t know if my methodology will be considered the ‘right’ one? Mainly, because whether or not refinements to data/mapping models is completed, it does not change the fact that the funding allocation plan (HFPAS) is using data at the wrong scale. It is the economic impacts of that allocation plan that has caused the greatest impacts to tribes. Unless the entire country is updated in LANDFIRE, the problem remains. The BIA is only one agency within the Department of Interior (DOI) and this funding mechanism impacted all of DOI agencies.

    To have an equitable platform, the scales need to be adjusted. Either local data is rolled into LANDFIRE across the nation then, used in HFPAS? Or, HFPAS is rolled back to remedy the need for local data? That is how I see it after hearing from CSKT and other tribes that have been impacted by this funding policy.

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Poster Discussion

  • Icon for: Daniel Schwartz

    Daniel Schwartz

    Faculty
    May 20, 2013 | 08:37 p.m.

    The impact of your work at the landscape scale (on the CSKT reservation) and national scale (through the congressionally-mandated Indian Forest Management Assessment Team) is outstanding. Congratulations, Laurel!

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 20, 2013 | 11:11 p.m.

    Thank you, Professor Schwartz. Seeing first hand the impacts for CSKT and understanding the totality of the situation for tribes across the nation, via my work on Indian Forest Management Assessment Team, made this work extremely rewarding.

  • Icon for: Keala Hagmann

    Keala Hagmann

    Trainee
    May 20, 2013 | 09:01 p.m.

    Well done, Laurel. Kudos for matching the scale of the analysis to the scale of the question and for integrating relevant data from multiple sources. Very glad to hear your analysis so strongly positively influenced the outcome on the ground.

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 20, 2013 | 11:15 p.m.

    Thank you, Keala. That is precisely the issue. A modeling program that establishes a national platform is ok, in and of itself. However when you take a national model then try to measure data at a regional level, is disastrous when funding levels are determined by those measurements. It was fortuitous that my work was completed right when the tribe needed to respond to this new funding mechanism. Thank you.

  • Icon for: Thomas Hinckley

    Thomas Hinckley

    Faculty
    May 20, 2013 | 10:22 p.m.

    Without Laurel’s critical and detailed comparison of the differences in the estimated fuel loading of various forest types on the lands of the Salish-Kootenai Tribes, proposed funds allocated by the Federal Government to support fuel management on tribal lands would have fallen far short of those actually justified by her more detailed analysis. Because all fire and fuels funding allocations were to be based upon the stand type/fuel loading mapping system that emerges when the USDA Forest Service’s LANDFIRE system is applied to land, Laurel’s work was able to demonstrate how the inclusion of local data and knowledge is an important step in correcting these model outputs. Instead of the original proposed allocation of $69,000, the Tribes actually received $900,000. $831,000 goes a long ways to improving forest lands and their ability to provide goods and services to the Tribes as well as jobs for Tribal members. Great job, Laurel.

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 20, 2013 | 11:20 p.m.

    Thank you, Professor Hinckley. That was precisely the situation. My work provided the necessary detailed information to demonstrate the need for incorporation of local data, in order to correct the national model. In addition, it helped demonstrate a a pathway that other tribes (that were also facing this situation) could use to update their fuelbed definitions. That was an added benefit to my work and it was extremely rewarding!

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    LaVerne Bitsie-Baldwin

    Guest
    May 21, 2013 | 10:33 a.m.

    This is a great example of scientific data supporting the needs of the Tribal Forestry department. Congratulations on keeping funding where it is necessary to support the ecosystem and forestry industry of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana.

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 21, 2013 | 12:50 p.m.

    Yes. Helping gain funding for the tribe was extremely rewarding. We all hope our research makes a difference. For my research to have such a large impact, immediately was tremendous. Very gratifying! Thank you, LaVerne Bitsie-Baldwin.

  • May 22, 2013 | 04:20 p.m.

    Good job Laurel. Using the best data to set policy is a priority. I’m happy to see your efforts have such a positive impact. Keep it up.

  • Small_default_profile

    Daniel Hart

    Guest
    May 22, 2013 | 05:20 p.m.

    This is terrific, Laurel. Clear, strong, compelling. Keep up the good work!

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 05:21 p.m.

    Thank you, Professor Perez-Garcia. I appreciate your review of my work!

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 22, 2013 | 05:24 p.m.

    Thank you, Professor Hart. I appreciate the review and I’m encouraged by the positive feedback from everyone on this site and via Facebook!

  • Icon for: Victoria Walsey

    Victoria Walsey

    Trainee
    May 23, 2013 | 10:30 a.m.

    Great Job!

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 02:02 p.m.

    Thank you, Victoria!

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    Lloyd Nackley

    Guest
    May 23, 2013 | 05:33 p.m.

    It’s wonderful that the results of your research were able to have tangible benefits. Congratulations!

    Do you know if the “BIA and other Tribes who are updating their LANDFIRE data” are, or will be, using similar methods to you and the CSK?

    Thanks for sharing the work!

  • Icon for: Laurel James

    Laurel James

    Presenter
    May 23, 2013 | 06:41 p.m.

    Thank you, Lloyd for reviewing this work. I don’t know if other tribes or the BIA in general is using my methodology? I know of another individual that worked on a ‘fix’ to the problem but his approach was using GIS and not incorporating stand data (CFI). That individual is now a part of my IPhD committee and he works in that field, for the BIA. He has not indicated what route is being taken thus, I’m not sure if one general ‘fix’ has been selected. There are a lot of tribes to consider.

  • Small_default_profile

    L. Moskal

    Guest
    May 30, 2013 | 03:08 p.m.

    Nice work Laurel, thanks for sharing and keep up the great work.

  • Further posting is closed as the competition has ended.

Icon for: Laurel James

LAUREL JAMES

Presenter’s IGERT
U of Washington
Years in Grad School: 3

Bad data makes bad policy in fire-prone communities

“Fuelbeds” are a set of descriptors used to quantify the amount of flammable materials in a forest. They are based on landscape and eco-physiological variables. IGERT students discovered that bad data was driving bad policy on the Reservation of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT). This participatory action research project developed more accurate data sets to describe fuel bed that were consistent with the environmental goals and management practices of the tribe.

Modified fuelbeds were designed based on Bureau of Indian Affairs – CSKT continuous forest inventory data. A seral class approach was used and combined with fire regime condition class information then, applied to the landscape to create the modified fuelbed. This crosswalk of data served as the Nation’s first example of tribally-driven corrections for a federal fuel modeling system. The discovery that bad data was driving bad policy on the CSKT reservation resulted in a major restoration of funding for forest and fuels management on the reservation.