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Managing Ecological Water Requirements for Groundwater-dependent Wetlands on National Forests: A View from the Bottom Up and the Top Down

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  • Presented at The Oregon Water Conference, May 24-25, 2011, Corvallis, OR.
  • The USDA Forest Service and The Nature Conservancy are collaborating on developing a method for setting Ecological Water Requirements (EWRs) for groundwater-dependent wetlands on National Forests and Grasslands to inform groundwater management from the site to the national scale. This method is one piece in a growing Forest Service groundwater resource management program across the United States. The Forest Service has responsibility for management of more than 190 million acres of National Forests and Grasslands located in 42 states and Puerto Rico. In Oregon, approximately 25 percent of the land is managed by the Forest Service. Water from National Forests and Grasslands provides irreplaceable high quality habitat for aquatic, riparian, and terrestrial species, and a sustainable supply of water for humans. In the Western United States, over 65 percent of the water supply for domestic, agricultural, and industrial uses comes from National Forests. The need for a more comprehensive view of water resources is now critical. Until recently, the focus of Forest Service water management has been above ground, but attention has turned to including subsurface flows and groundwater resources. The Forest Service groundwater resource program is organized around management of groundwater-dependent ecosystems (GDEs). Considering the water needs of these GDEs is important to protect and sustain these ecosystems. Methods for determining EWRs for GDEs, is one piece of the inventory and monitoring component of the groundwater program. National protocols for two levels of inventory, broad level characterization and project level support, are completed. Field tests at five pilot sites across the country were completed in 2010. Level 3 Inventory and Monitoring and EWR protocols are under development. The methods for determining EWRs are being developed and tested as part of a grazing management plan revision on the Fremont-Winema National Forests. The concepts and lessons learned will be tested in other settings and refinement of the approach will translate into the National EWR protocol.
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  • Corvallis, Oregon, USA
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