Managing and preserving the delicate environment of the Central Wasatch is a key focus of Central Wasatch Commission. The Accord set out to find consensus on critical new programs that will monitor and help reduce the impacts of growth, use, development, and climate change.
During the Accord process, stakeholders developed the concept of an Environmental Dashboard. The Dashboard is a tool for decision makers to track the Central Wasatch’s environmental health and evaluate impacts in future planning discussions. We are creating a tool to ensure that the health of the Central Wasatch’s natural landscape is fully considered now and far into the future.
It is the intention of the CWC that the Dashboard be a legacy project to be used to measure and quantify the state of the target at a given time and will be updated on a regular basis. It is scientifically based, data rich, and technically credible.
The Dashboard compiles data currently collected throughout the Central Wasatch Mountains designed to provide a picture of the complete health of the mountain range, as well as a mechanism for measuring the health moving forward. The Dashboard will include an online connection for people interested in tracking the progress of the key indicators.
The first phase of the Dashboard effort will result in a written report that will be accessible in PDF format. It will also include development of a digital data information system to store all data collected from the process. The second phase of the Dashboard effort will translate the written report and data information system into an online, publicly accessible tool that provides both spatial and graphical results.
The Environmental Dashboard will feature spatial data using a Geographic Information System (GIS) linked data information system. Data sources and maintenance will be widely dependent upon the indicator and available data. For some indicators, live connections to existing online data sets or platforms are expected, automating the update and maintenance process. For other indicators, periodic updates to or refreshing of data sets will be required for ongoing maintenance of the Dashboard.
During the assessment of current conditions for each indicator, data sources will be inventoried and reviewed for suitability. In the event that adequate data are not available for an indicator (due to format, coverage, lack of data, or other reason), this will be noted as a data gap. After all data gaps are identified, a list of data gaps that are a priority to fill will be developed, including recommended parameters for new data collections or amendments to currently collected data. Since the Dashboard is an ongoing project, these priority data gaps may be addressed and filled over time.
The indicators selected and availability of data for those indicators will determine the frequency of updates. As part of the Dashboard Framework and written report, the anticipated frequency of and recommendations for updates will be identified. It is hoped that this Dashboard will provide the framework and administrative structure to become a legacy project for the ongoing monitoring of the region’s environmental health.
Yes, the full Central Wasatch area will be included – both back and front. We know that watersheds do not follow jurisdictional boundaries and therefore the project will use a holistic watershed approach.
Data Platform and Logistics
Check the Mountain Accord website (MountainAccord.com/Environmental-Dashboard) for the latest information about the Environmental Dashboard project including meeting notes, event notices, and draft materials. Contact the Project Managers (see contact information at right) with any questions or to provide comments on the Dashboard. The overall project schedule is provided on the final pages of this handout for reference.
The vision is for the Dashboard to be a data-rich, and technically credible tool that anyone can understand and use. Some may use it to simply better understand current environmental conditions and monitor changes over time. Others might use it as a framework to consider benefits and tradeoffs of future projects, plans, or other decisions.
The Environmental Dashboard will help establish a common baseline of current conditions against which potential decisions can be tested and considered. The Dashboard will support decision-making at the watershed scale, showing the current conditions of an area, applicable indicators, and the stressors that could be impacting the environmental health now and in the future. Thresholds for each indicator will provide the levels of magnitude or intensity that define its health and scope, and decision-makers can assess whether a proposed plan or project will impact an indicator and if so, how it might impact the overall indicator health or threshold level.
Scientific Basis and Framework Rationale
Climate change is an overarching stressor that may impact all of the Dashboard elements and indicators. At first, the Dashboard will simply document current environmental conditions for each Dashboard indicator. Over time, stressors on the environment may create departures from existing conditions, and these trends will be monitored for each indicator. For example, stream health will be influenced by myriad variables, including climate change. Monitoring stream health indicators over time will reveal the extent to which climate change and other stressors are impacting stream health. Additionally, each element and indicator will include narrative information about potential threats and stressors, including climate change impacts. The Dashboard will be able to inform future climate impact analyses, vulnerability assessments and resiliency planning.
Human activities such as development, recreation, and transportation create impacts on the natural environment. Through the dashboard we will be evaluating the current condition of select elements of the environment – that serve as surrogates for the health of the entire system – and accounting for the impacts humans are having on the natural environment. For example, if we measure the health of our waterways and find sections that get de-watered, which impacts wildlife, we register that as a degraded condition.
Dashboard users will be able to use this information to explore and identify the human action and other stressors that are causing negative effects, and could ultimately develop strategies that can mitigate the impact if necessary. Additionally, future phases of the Dashboard’s development could include the addition of other systems (e.g., economic and social) and/or elements for which a suite of targets and indicators could define the current status and be used to monitor ongoing progress.
Yes, representatives (both professors and researchers) from educational institutions including University of Utah, Utah State University, and Brigham Young University are included on our committee of technical experts who will be reviewing and informing the Dashboard development.
The Environmental Dashboard project aims to complement, align, and support other conservation management planning efforts in the region. The Environmental Dashboard draws upon these current efforts to help establish a common set of indicators and data sets to monitor. In turn, the existing and future conservation management plans will help detail specific implementation strategies that will support and enhance the conditions of the Dashboard indicators.