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Blue Mountains Biodiversity Conference
Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA May 26-29, 1992
This conference, co-sponsored by BMNRI, was directed to land managers
and members of the public interested in enhancing biodiversity in
the Blue Mountains of northeast Oregon and southeast Washington.
The conference sought to:
- Increase understanding about what is known about biodiversity--the
science, the observations, the management situation, and the legal
- Identify the role of biodiversity in maintaining/restoring forest
health in the ecosystems of the Blue Mountains.
- Increase understanding of the problems in and threats to the
forest, what's being done, and what should be done.
- Identify the role of fire and other management tools in the
establishment and maintenance of landscape-level biodiversity.
- Identify opportunities for monitoring, adaptive management,
and research in biodiversity.
The conference agenda included presentations on concepts and theory
of biodiversity, legal and social aspects of biodiversity, management
perspectives of biodiversity, risk and role of fire, silviculture,
ungulates, non-game wildlife, and fishes.
Concurrent sessions explored levels/kinds of biodiversity, cultural
values of biodiversity, planning to achieve biodiversity, and implementation
Conference sponsors were BMNRI; the Wallowa Whitman, Malheur, and
Umatilla National Forests; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla;
National Audubon Society; and Blue Mountain Native Forest Alliance.
The keynote speaker was Jerry Franklin, Bloedel Professor of Ecosystem
Studies, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. He began with the
theme echoed by many others throughout the week: the need to focus
on ecosystems rather than species. There are too many species to
do management species-by-species. In doing so, we are doomed to
failure. Biodiversity is more than just species diversity and includes
functional, compositional, and structural diversity.
If we provide habitats appropriate for species diversity, we enable
ecosystems to function, enhancing species health. Much is unknown
about the function of smaller micro-organisms, especially in belowground
subsystems, and they are vital to forest ecosystems. Also, although
forest reserves are important, we need to focus on the larger task
of stewardship on all landscapes. Reserves alone will not ensure
loss of ecosystem function and species. Specific to the eastside
of Oregon and Washington, Franklin recommended limiting clearcutting,
and allowing fire in the ecosystem.
Concluding remarks were given by Hal Salwasser, USDA Forest Service,
Washington, D.C. He reiterated the need to plan on the ecosystem
level. Such large-scale planning necessitates integration of resource
disciplines and cooperation among landowners. Sustainable, healthy
ecosystems require consideration of the land, the people, economic
prosperity, and equity and balance. Resource management and resource
use must be balanced. We must be careful not to overproduce at the
expense of ecosystem health. We must also guard against shifting
our resource demands to other nations as a result of over-protecting
our resources. In making difficult management decisions, managers
and policymakers need to focus on objectives, plan for change, think
in different scales, think ahead at least one generation, maintain
options, and involve the public.