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Restoration Toolbox

This toolbox provides information to support management efforts to restore small sites in wilderness. It features the Wilderness and Backcountry Site Restoration Guide developed by the FS, Missoula Technology Development Center for western mountain sites, a desert site restoration section based on Student Conservation Association and BLM examples, and a restoration research section. In addition to the resources provided here, you may also be able to obtain advice and recommendations through discussion on Wilderness Connect. Date of last update: 7/23/14.
  1. Introduction
    This toolbox has been assembled to help wilderness managers mostly with issues of restoring relatively small sites, rather than larger, ecosystem restoration problems. However, some large-scale guidance is included.

    The second section includes the Wilderness and Backcountry Site Restoration Guide developed in 2006 by the US Forest Service's Missoula Technology Development Center. Though written primarily for restoration in the mountain west, the techniques discussed may be applicable elsewhere. Similarly, documents or links in the subsequent chapters in this toolbox are collated by ecosystem types, but may also include techniques of value elsewhere.

    In addition, not all documents in this toolbox are entirely wilderness-specific, and may contain techniques or procedures that, taken exactly as written, do not conform to the requirements of Wilderness. When utilizing these documents, be sure you apply their contents in a manner that preserves wilderness character.
  2. Law and Policy
    1. The Wilderness Act
      Sections 2 and 4 are relevant to wilderness managers who are considering some kind of restoration action within wilderness, large or small. These sections define and describe wilderness, provide information on its protection, and lists restrictions concerning administrative action within wilderness.

      Section 2.(a) states in part, "…and these shall be administered for the use and enjoyment of the American people in such manner as will leave them unimpaired for future use and enjoyment as wilderness, and so as to provide for the protection of these areas, the preservation of their wilderness character..."

      "Section 2.(c) A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which

      (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation; (3) has at least five thousand acres of land or is of sufficient size as to make practicable its preservation and use in an unimpaired condition; and (4) may also contain ecological, geological, or other features of scientific, educational, scenic, or historical value."

      "Section 4.(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area."
    2. Agency Policy
      1. BLM
        6340 1.6.C.15. Restoration and Vegetation Management
      2. FWS
        Part 610 2.16A.
        A. We conserve fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats (including water resources) in wilderness in a manner consistent with the Administration Act and refuge purpose(s), including Wilderness Act purposes. Fish, wildlife, plants and their habitat are essential and inseparable components of wilderness. On wilderness areas within the Refuge System, we conserve fish, wildlife, and plants by preserving the wilderness environment.

        B. Major ecosystem processes including wildfire, drought, flooding, windstorms, pest and disease outbreaks, and predator/prey fluctuations may be natural ecological and evolutionary processes.

        (1) We will not interfere with these processes or the wilderness ecosystem's response to such natural events unless necessary to accomplish refuge purposes, including Wilderness Act purposes, or in cases where these processes become unnatural.
      3. FS
        FSM 2320.2 Objectives
        1. Maintain wilderness in such a manner that ecosystems are unaffected by human manipulation and influences so that plants and animals develop and respond to natural forces.
        2320.3 - Policy
        1. Where there are alternatives among management decisions, wilderness values shall dominate over all other considerations except where limited by the Wilderness Act, subsequent legislation, or regulations.
        2323.26b Nonstructural Range Improvements
        1. Seeding. Seed only species that are indigenous or naturalized to the area. Use broadcast seeding methods. Approve seeding only for:
          1. Areas where human activities have caused the loss or threaten the existence of indigenous plant species.
          2. Areas where human activities, including their livestock, have denuded or caused loss of soil, providing that the actions or activities responsible for the deterioration no longer exist and that natural revegetation is insufficient and/or ineffective.
          3. Maintenance of livestock grazing operations where seeding was practiced before the area was designated as wilderness.
        2. Plant Control. Approve plant control only for:
          1. Indigenous plants when needed to maintain livestock grazing operations that were in effect before the area was designated as wilderness.
          2. Noxious farm weeds by grubbing or with chemicals when they threaten lands outside wilderness or when they are spreading within the wilderness, provided that it is possible to effect control without causing serious adverse impacts on wilderness values.
        2323.5 - Management of Forest Cover
        2323.51 - Objective
        Manage forest cover to retain the primeval character of the environment and to allow natural ecological processes to operate freely.

        2323.52 - Policy
        1. Permit ecological processes to operate naturally.
        2. Recognize both climax and successional biotic communities as natural and desirable.
        3. Allow, wherever possible, the natural process of healing in handling disturbed communities. Consider structural or vegetative assistance only as a last resort.
        4. Only allow vegetation to be cut or sold when necessary for wilderness purposes or on valid mining claims under specified conditions, or when emergency conditions like fire, insect and disease, or protecting public safety make it necessary.
        2323.54 - Reforestation
        Allow reforestation only if a loss of the wilderness resource, due to human influence, has occurred and there is no reasonable expectation of natural reforestation.
      4. NPS
        2006 Management Policies
        6.3.7 Natural Resources Management
        The National Park Service recognizes that wilderness is a composite resource with interrelated parts. Without natural resources, especially indigenous and endemic species, a wilderness experience would not be possible. Natural resources are critical, defining elements of the wilderness resource, but they need to be managed within the context of the whole ecosystem.

        Natural processes will be allowed, insofar as possible, to shape and control wilderness ecosystems. Management should seek to sustain the natural distribution, numbers, population composition, and interaction of indigenous species. Management intervention should only be undertaken to the extent necessary to correct past mistakes, the impacts of human use, and influences originating outside of wilderness boundaries.

        Management actions, including the restoration of extirpated native species, the alteration of natural fire regimes, the control of invasive alien species, the management of endangered species, and the protection of air and water quality, should be attempted only when the knowledge and tools exist to accomplish clearly articulated goals.
  3. Management Guidelines and Strategies
    1. Interagency
      1. Desert Site Restoration
        1. Standard Operating Proceedures
        2. SCA Wilderness Restoration Corps Video Clips
          1. #1 Introduction & Preliminary Analysis
            1. 2'27" .MPG (25 MB)
            2. View on YouTube
          2. #2 Inventory & Monitoring (part 1)
            1. 29" .MPG (5 MB)
            2. View on YouTube
          3. #3 Inventory & Monitoring (part 2)
            1. 30" .MPG (5 MB)
            2. View on YouTube
          4. #4 Techniques
            1. 4'47" .MPG (48 MB)
            2. View on YouTube
          5. #5 Example
            1. 1'26" .MPG (15 MB)
            2. View on YouTube
        3. Desert Rehabiltation Techniques Brochure
        4. Desert Wilderness Monitoring Brochure
        5. Follow-up Monitoring
          1. Form
          2. Data Definitions
        6. Environmental Assessments for Desert Restoration
          1. BLM El Centro Field Office
          2. BLM Ridgecrest Field Office
        7. Grants and Agreements (Volunteers and Partners Toolbox Section III)
        8. Desert Report Article on Restoration Effectiveness
        9. Paired Photographs
          1. Clipper Mountains Before Rehab
          2. Clipper Mountains After Rehab
          3. Nopah Before Rehab
          4. Nopah After Rehab
          5. Turtle Mountains Before Rehab
          6. Turtle Mountains After Rehab
      2. Wilderness and Backcountry Site Restoration Guide
        1. Description and Citation
          Therrell, Lisa; Cole, David; Claassen, Victor; Ryan, Chris; Davies, Mary Ann. 2006. Wilderness and Backcountry Site Restoration Guide. 0623 2815. Missoula, MT: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Missoula Technology and Development Center. 394 p.

          This comprehensive guide focuses on restoration of small-scale impact caused by human actions in wilderness and backcountry areas. The guide's goals are to:

          • Help practitioners develop plans that thoroughly address the question of whether site restoration is the best management action and, if so, develop a site-specific restoration plan that incorporates ecological concepts and addresses patterns of human use.
          • Provide the latest information on site-specific restoration techniques, including site preparation, soil amendments, planting, mulching, and so forth.
          • Explore the various methods of plant propagation both on and off a restoration site.
          • Provide approaches for project monitoring and documentation.

          Techniques discussed in the guide do not rely on motorized tools or mechanized transport, although those options may be mentioned. Examples are drawn primarily from the Western United States. Many of the techniques could be used in other settings. The laws regulating wilderness management and the philosophy guiding it are considered when discussing whether restoration activities are appropriate in areas designated as wilderness.
        2. Contents (HTML) - Username: t-d, Password: t-d
        3. Contents (PDF)
          1. Contents table, Intro., i-xii, 1-4
          2. Wild. Restoration, Impacts of Recreation, 5-16
          3. Plant and Soil Ecology, 17-30
          4. Planning for Restoration-A, 31-44
          5. Planning for Restoration-B, 45-62
          6. Site Prescriptions-Reference Site, 63-86
          7. Site Prescriptions and Amendments, 87-116
          8. Site Stabilization, Preparation, Delineation, 117-134
          9. Soil Binders, 135-148
          10. Site Delineation, Common Problems, Plant Selection, 149-164
          11. Plant Selection, Collection, Propagation, 165-186
          12. Propagation and Transplanting, 187-200
          13. Plant Protection, Establishment, Documentation, 201-214
          14. Monitoring, Adaptive Mgmt., Program Dev., 215-236
          15. Tools, Resources, References. 237-256
          16. Appendix A - Treatments, 257-262
          17. Appendix B - Propagation Requirements-A, 263-288
          18. Appendix B - Propagation Requirements-B, 289-326
          19. Appendix C - Propagation Methods, 327-336
          20. Appendix D - Case Studies, 337-358
          21. Appendix E - Forms, 359-394
      3. Wilderness Resource Stewardship Model
    2. NPS
      1. NPS "white paper": What Constitutes Appropriate Conservation and Restoration Activities in Wilderness?
  4. Examples of Plans and Analyses
    1. Rocky Mountain National Park Vegetation Restoration Plan
    2. Sanhedrin Wilderness Road Decommissioning MRDG
      1. Photos
      2. Map
      3. WO Brief
  5. Research
    1. Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute
      1. Publications
      2. Research projects
    2. Rocky Mountain Research Station
      1. Cole, David N.; Spildie, David R. 2007. Vegetation and soil restoration on highly impacted campsites in the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Oregon. Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-18 5. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 26 p.
      2. Keane, Robert E.; Tomback, D.F.; Aubry, C.A.; Bower, A.D.; Campbell, E.M.; Cripps, C.L.; Jenkins, M.B.; Mahalovich, M.F.; Manning, M.; McKinney, S.T.; Murray, M.P.; Perkins, D.L.; Reinhart, D.P.; Ryan, C.; Schoettle, A.W.; Smith, C.M. 2012. A range-wide restoration strategy for whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis). Gen. Tech. Rep. RMRS-GTR-279. Fort Collins, CO: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station. 108 p.
  6. Training
    1. The Unique Legal, Scientific, and Ethical Challenges of Restoration in Wilderness: A Preliminary Framework to Help Make Defensible Decisions
      1. Webinar recording
      2. PowerPoint
  7. Other Resources
    1. Interagency (BIA, BLM, FWS, NPS) burned area rehabilitation guidebook: interpretation of Department of the Interior 620 DM 3 for the burned area rehabilitation of Federal and Tribal trust lands (Version 1.3). (2006).
    2. Restoration of the Pinon-Juniper Woodland at Bandelier National Monument. National Park Service. (2009).
    3. Restoring Wildlife Habitat on Rat Island. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. (2007). Includes the Environmental Assessment and Minimum Requirements Analysis.
    4. BLM Native Plant Materials Development Process
      A 1 pager on the steps that facilitate the development of a long-term program to supply and manage native plant materials for restoration and rehabilitation efforts on public lands.
    5. BLM Seeds of Success Program
      A 1 pager on the partnership with the Millennium Seed Bank Project to collect, conserve, and develop native plant materials for restoration.