Landscape Conservation Forecasting (LCF) for the Truckee River Watershed
The RIOS watershed assessment by Podolak et al.(2017) indicates that management of the upper Truckee River watershed, in the form of increased land protection and dirt road maintenance, would reduce sediment delivery and improve water quality and water security for downstream users.
Thus, the Nevada Chapter of TNC has undertaken a targeted second study that will use landscape Conservation Forecasting (LCF; Provencher et al. 2013), a mapping and state-and-transition modeling approach that simulates vegetation succession under different management scenarios for conservation, coupled with hydrologic and sediment modeling. Scenarios of climate change and disturbances such as wildfire, floods, and droughts will be simulated, followed by an assessment of water resource impacts that would result from those disturbances.
Through the RIOS study and stakeholder process, the forested portion of the Truckee River watershed was identified as a potential management area that would be suitable for a “water fund” that raises capital for investments in high return-on-investment management actions (Podolak et al 2017).The final product of the LCF study will be a forested watershed management plan emphasizing water resource protection for the headwaters from the outlet of Lake Tahoe to Verdi, including the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada. The LCF-based Truckee River watershed study will:
- Assess and quantify the potential for disturbances, including wildfires and climate change, to impact the forested watershed’s snow pack retention, runoff characteristics, and erosivity
- Quantify the expected change in sediment runoff and sediment loading of the mainstem, key tributaries, and reservoirs of the Truckee River system
- Quantify the economic impacts that may be realized of these disturbances and subsequent sedimentation and changes in flows
- Assess the potential to avoid economic impacts through more effective land management actions, including forest thinning and prescribed fire
This program satisfies the TRF Grant Priority VIII – Leverage Stakeholder Assets and Participation. The LCF study stems from an assessment of various stakeholder interests in all aspects of river water quality, watershed protection, source water protection and species enhancement completed through the previously TRF-funded RIOS study. Also, leveraging available funds and other assets is one of the longer term goals of the proposed study and stakeholder outreach, as we will use the results as a tool in our effort to attract new investments to leverage existing land manager budgets and existing sources of conservation/restoration funding.
The long-term goals of the project would also fall under TRF’s Grant Priority II – Watershed Improvements, as the new investments would be directed to increasing the pace and scale of land management activities to address erosion and the resulting sediment and related pollutant discharges to the river.