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WWETAC: Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center


Introduction

Native wildland forest and rangeland ecosystems of the western United States are currently under threat from a wide range of environmentally damaging stressors and disturbance agents. The impact of these stressors, singly or in combination, can result in severe, long-lasting decline in the function and sustainability of wildland ecosystems as well as the societal amenities they provide. Some of the most important stresses and disturbances include: extensive, severe wildfire; severe drought; multi-year, extensive outbreaks or new behavior of native insects and pathogens, introduction and naturalization of exotic species (all biota); altered timing of temperature and precipitation patterns; extremes in temperature and precipitation; asynchrony of environmental conditions and life cycles; and land use change and disturbances. Wildland managers need state-of-the-art information and tools that help them anticipate and assess potential and existing threats, compare viable treatment options, and devise and implement science-based, strategic management plans.

The Western Wildland Environmental Threat Assessment Center (WWETAC), a research, development, and applications unit of the Pacific Northwest Research Station, was created in 2005 to predict, detect, and assess existing and potential environmental threats to western wildlands. Syntheses, models, and application tools are developed to provide information and assist management of natural resources and the landscapes that provide them. Interdisciplinary and cross-boundary analyses are conducted, such as understanding human perceptions of fire risk, or conducting and combining socioeconomic and biophysical vulnerability assessments to understand how concurrent threats are translated across the landscapes and affect human well-being. Our activities are organized into four focus areas:

WWETAC is co-located with the Ochoco National Forest headquarters in Prineville, Oregon. Our sister center, the Eastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center (EFETAC), based in Asheville, North Carolina, is focused on similar environmental threats in the eastern U.S..

Mission and Objectives

The mission of the Center is to generate and integrate knowledge and information to provide credible prediction, early detection, and quantitative assessment of environmental threats in the western United States. The goal of WWETAC is to inform policy and support the management of environmental threats to western wildlands. The objectives of WWETAC are to:

  • Evaluate the effects and consequences of multiple, interacting stresses on western wildland health.
  • Assess risks, uncertainties, and potential effects of multiple environmental stresses on western ecological conditions and socioeconomic values.
  • Provide science-based decision-support tools for policy formulation and land management in the western United States.
  • Provide land managers with credible predictions of potential severe disturbances in the West with sufficient warning for managers to take preventive actions.

Beneficiaries of our products include federal, state, tribal, and private land managers; policymakers; landowners; communities; and federal, state, county, and community watershed and forest planners.

Partners

WWWETAC is jointly funded by the three deputy areas of the Forest Service: the National Forest System, State and Private Forestry, and the Research and Development. The Center is administratively serviced by the Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, Oregon. We have a small permanent staff, and benefit from a large number of federal and university analysts and scientists. Our cooperators include resource specialists and land managers from the western Forest Service regions (1-6, 10), scientists from the three western Research Stations of the Forest Service, many of the western universities, and a number of agencies (e.g., NASA, USGS, NPS, US EPA).

PNW Research Station Contact:

Nancy Grulke, Center Director
Phone: (541) 416-6583
E-mail: ngrulke@fs.fed.us