Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 65.42
Liaison Matthew Muchna
Submission Date March 3, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Northern Arizona University
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Ellen Vaughan
Manager
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance?:
Yes

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

The NAU Centennial Forest is Northern Arizona University's research, teaching, and demonstration forest -- a cooperative venture between Northern Arizona University and the Arizona State Land Department.
In 1959, the Arizona State Land Department designated 4,000 acres of forest land as an "outdoor laboratory" for the School of Forestry at Northern Arizona University. The research and education programs initiated by the designation helped establish the school as one of the top rated forestry institutions in the country.
An agreement signed by Arizona Governor Jane D. Hull in April, 2000 establishes a new paradigm of cooperation for land stewardship in Arizona. Agencies and community groups actively participate by serving on the Centennial Forest Advisory Committee which provides oversight and helps develop a management plan for the Forest. Northern Arizona University’s School of Forestry and the Arizona State Forestry Division coordinate to manage the 47,500 acre area to provide research and education opportunities, reduce the risk of wildfire, restoring damaged ecosystems, provide ecosystem services such as clean water, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, timber, and livestock forage.

Details of protected areas:
There are three types of legally protected areas on the Centennial Forest. Sections of the forest are protected as critical habitat for Mexican spotted owl, an endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Any management or activities in or around these areas require consultation with US Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act. There are also many cultural resources present on Centennial Forest lands, including historic railroad grades, early Flagstaff settlements, logging camps, and ceramic sherds. These cultural resources are federally protected under the AZ SHPO laws. Lastly, the Rogers Lake County Natural Area, located off of Woody Mountain Road, is protected under a conservation easement created by Coconino County. More information about the Rogers Lake County Natural Area can be found at: http://www.coconino.az.gov/index.aspx?NID=689

Riparian areas, historic grasslands, and portions of the forest within the Woody Ridge Wildlife Corridor serve as priority sites for biodiversity within the Centennial Forest. Northern Arizona is being impacted dramatically by drought and changes in annual precipitation. Subsequently, it is very important that Centennial Forest protect perennial sources of water, including the Rogers Lake area – an important perennial source of water for wildlife travelling through the San Francisco Peaks region. Portions of Centennial Forest also lie within the Woody Ridge Wildlife Corridor, which links the San Francisco Peaks to the Mogollon Rim via a series of protected public lands, which are managed by a variety of entities including Centennial Forest. This corridor is especially important for the conservation of pronghorn, mountain lion, elk, mule deer, black bear, badger, northern goshawk, Mexican spotted owl, turkey, leopard frog, and bats. Lastly, historic grasslands in the northern portion of Centennial Forest are especially important in terms of diversity of grasses and other plant species.


Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

Has the institution conducted an assessment or assessments to identify environmentally sensitive areas on institution-owned or –managed land?:
Yes

The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or environmentally sensitive areas (including most recent year assessed) and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

Before any forest management activity or research project is implemented on the Centennial Forest, a comprehensive survey for sensitive plant and animal species, including endangered and vulnerable species, is conducted to identify possible presence of sensitive species and determine critical habitat areas to be protected if these species are present. This survey involves consultation with wildlife experts from US Fish and Wildlife Service, Arizona Game and Fish Department, Ecological Restoration Institute, and/or US Forest Service. There is also an archeological clearance that must be completed to ensure that culturally sensitive resources are not impacted by potential projects. Lastly, proposed project areas are compared with historic research projects to guarantee that environmentally sensitive areas and valuable research is not compromised by a project.
Centennial Forest operates as the premiere research and educational forest in northern Arizona. Subsequently, there are many ongoing assessments and monitoring mechanisms occurring on the forest at any given time. Presently, research projects encompass climate change, entomology, pathology, decomposition, wildlife, and soil related themes. Also, the a forest restoration treatment of the Rogers Lake area was recently completed. Centennial Forest is monitoring 49 separate plots for various environmental aspects including risk of wildfire, biodiversity, tree growth and invasive species establishment. These plots will be monitored into perpetuity using NAU students to collect and analyze data whenever possible.


A brief description of identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

Vegetation
Geology, geomorphology and climate differences help form a diverse array of vegetation in the Centennial Forest. Regional forest and grassland vegetation types are well represented throughout the forest. Vegetation in the northern portion of the Centennial Forest can be classified into four major terrestrial ecosystems and several minor ecosystem classes. These ecosystems, described by potential climax vegetation include approximately 5,000 ha of grasslands (Bouteloua gracilis, Elymus elymoides, Aristida longiseta, and Agropyron smithii), 5,300 ha of pinyon-juniper (Pinus edulis, Juniperus monosperma) woodlands, and transition zone forests (J. monosperma-P. ponderosa). The southwest portion of the forest is dominated by extensive (7,200 ha) Pinus ponderosa and P. ponderosa-Quercus gambelii forests. Another 425 ha are composed of vegetation types that include Juniperus deppeana, and Fallugin paradoxa as indicator species. In addition to forests and grasslands, the Centennial Forest contains over 1,200 ha of wetland-meadow ecosystems. Carex, Poa, Festuca, Agropyron, Allium, and Muhlenbergia species typify these environments. Minor vegetation types include Quercus turbinella-Arctostaphylos pungens shrublands which represent a transition zone into upland Sonoran Desert, and Populus tremuloides-Pseudotsuga menziesii forests which transition into mixed-conifer vegetation. Throughout the Centennial Forest, transitional zones between these diverse vegetation types and along elevational gradients are particularly well represented.

The Mexican Spotted Owl is the only listed endangered species on the Forest.


A brief description of plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats and/or environmentally sensitive areas:

The Centennial Forest continually seeks funding and support to protect environmentally sensitive areas and plans to conduct projects as these funds area acquired.

The Centennial Forest Management Plan can be found at: http://nau.edu/CEFNS/Forestry/Centennial-Forest/Documents/


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:
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