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Multiscale guidance and tools for implementing a landscape approach to resource management in the Bureau of Land Management

January 19, 2017

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) is implementing a landscape approach to resource management (hereafter, landscape approach) to more effectively work with partners and understand the effects of management decisions. A landscape approach is a set of concepts and principles used to guide resource management when multiple stakeholders are involved and goals include diverse and sustainable social, environmental, and economic outcomes. Core principles of a landscape approach include seeking meaningful participation of diverse stakeholders, considering diverse resource values in multifunctional landscapes, acknowledging the tradeoffs needed to meet diverse objectives in the context of sustainable resource management, and addressing the complexity of social and ecological processes by embracing interdisciplinarity and considering multiple and broad spatial and temporal perspectives.

In chapter 1, we outline the overall goal of this report: to provide a conceptual foundation and framework for implementing a landscape approach to resource management in the BLM, focusing on the role of multiscale natural resource monitoring and assessment information. In chapter 2, we describe a landscape approach to resource management. BLM actions taken to implement a landscape approach include a major effort to compile broad-scale data on natural resource status and condition across much of the west. These broadscale data now provide a regional context for interpreting monitoring data collected at individual sites and informing decisions made for local projects. We also illustrate the utility of using multiscale data to understand potential effects of different resource management decisions, define relevant terms in landscape ecology, and identify spatial scales at which planning and management decisions may be evaluated.

In chapter 3, we describe how the BLM Rapid Ecoregional Assessment program and Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring program may be integrated to provide the multiscale monitoring data needed to inform a landscape approach. We propose six core, broad-scale indicators of natural resource status and condition: the amount, spatial distribution, patch size and connectivity of ecosystems and wildlife habitats, and the pattern of existing development across the landscape. Additional supplemental broad-scale indicators may include fire return intervals, distributions of invasive species, and vulnerability of ecosystems to a changing climate. Landscape intactness is an additional derived indicator that is calculated from one or more of the core and supplemental broad-scale indicators. We then outline a process for assessing broad-scale indicators that is consistent with the overall BLM Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring process, facilitating development of a multiscale natural resource monitoring program. Finally, we describe how broad-scale indicators of natural resource status and condition may guide field monitoring implemented through the BLM Assessment, Inventory and Monitoring program and help address complex management questions.

In chapter 4, we consider the specific question of assessing the ecological integrity of rangelands across the western United States. We first define ecological integrity and its relation to land health. We then suggest that a combination of six local-scale indicators collected through field sampling at individual sites and five complementary broad-scale indicators together provide information on the composition, structure, and function of rangelands. The terrestrial monitoring indicators collected at the level of individual field sites are the amount of bare ground, vegetation composition (including invasive plants and plants of management concern), vegetation height, and the proportion of the soil surface in large intercanopy gaps. The broad-scale indicators are vegetation amount, distribution, patch size, connectivity, and productivity, along with the pattern of terrestrial development. Our suggested approach to quantifying ecological integrity focuses specifically on informing management of public lands for multiple resource uses, and illustrates how existing data collected through BLM monitoring and assessment programs may be used together to provide multiscale information on land condition across broad extents.

In chapter 5, we develop a method for quantifying landscape intactness and apply this method to the western United States. Our multiscale index of landscape intactness is designed to be defensible, decomposable, and easy to understand. The foundation of the multiscale index of landscape intactness is the surface disturbance footprint of anthropogenic development, including energy and urban development, roads and railroads, cultivated croplands, surface mines and quarries, and energy transmission lines and pipelines. The index represents a gradient of anthropogenic influence as represented by development summarized at two spatial scales of analysis: 2.5 and 20 kilometers. We provide several example applications of the index, illustrating how these data may inform natural resource decisions at the spatial extent of BLM field and district offices, states, ecoregions, and the western United States. We find that 19.2 percent of lands managed by the BLM across the 17 western states of the conterminous United States had the highest landscape intactness. The largest intact areas occur on public lands at high elevations or in the Great Basin.

We believe the frameworks, processes, and analyses provided in this report will improve the ability of the BLM to identify and evaluate potential direct and indirect effects of management actions (such as habitat restoration and renewable energy development), and assist the BLM in further implementing a landscape approach to resource management.

Publication Year 2017
Title Multiscale guidance and tools for implementing a landscape approach to resource management in the Bureau of Land Management
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161207
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2016-1207
Index ID ofr20161207
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Fort Collins Science Center