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We recommend incorporating triggers into monitoring frameworks and specifying actions that will occur when threshold values are reached to improve support for adaptive management. Revised CCPs should better reflect work that refuges already undertake to extend conservation objectives beyond their borders and better engage with regional conservation efforts to continue this work. More thorough landscape-scale threat assessments and explicit prioritization of planned actions would further improve conservation effectiveness.

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Excellent examples of all recommended practices exist within the CCPs we examined; sharing best planning practices would improve planning efficiency within the refuge system. Conservation Biology published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Didn't get the message? Find out why Add to Clipboard. Add to Collections.

These Are Your National Wildlife Refuges

One of these needs required by the CCP is a baseline of detailed vegetation information, which will allow these habitats to be better assessed, analyzed, and managed for future possibilities. Also provided are detailed metadata and summary reports documenting methods and results, groundtruth notes, and digital photography of groundtruth sites. These data are delivered in digital and, when appropriate, hard copy formats. Search Search. Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center. Conservation triage is a term referring to the allocation of scare resources to maximize the effectiveness of conservation Bottrill et al.

The term is derived from medical crisis management, where limited resources must be allocated to do the most good. We note that conservation triage has sometimes been seen as reflective of a defeatist attitude Pimm We argue, however, that conservation triage is a constructive framework with which to make decisions about how to allocate limited resources over spatial, temporal, and organizational scales to best meet conservation objectives.

This framework is the basis of traditional ecological-economic models that recognize and incorporate limited budgets when considering actions intended to maximize the net benefit to society. In we initiated collaborations among managers and researchers with the intent of helping NWRs make more effective planning and adaptation decisions in response to climate change and other global-change processes. In a complex and uncertain world, good decisions do not guarantee good outcomes, but a systematic decision process, in which decision makers, i.

In pursuing this management-research collaboration, we worked with NWR staff along the Atlantic Coast to understand the problems they face and how decision science might help address them. Decision analysis has been widely used in business and government decision making, but its application to problems in natural resource conservation has become increasingly common in the last two decades McFadden et al. Traditional approaches to decision making, which tend to focus mostly on alternatives and predicted outcomes, can be distinguished from modern methods that emphasize multiple values and the trade-offs inherent in natural resource management Gregory et al.

The emphasis on values rather than outcomes helps decision makers and stakeholders understand whether the source of disagreement over policy is related to predicting outcomes or how those outcomes are valued, i. Multicriteria decision analysis that accounts for outcomes and values is now widely used in conservation and is seen as contributing to better decisions through a formal structuring of decision problems that acknowledges and accommodates conflicts in values among stakeholders Huang et al.

We note that an important aspect of the trend toward formal decision analysis in natural resource management has been the increasing application of methods to analyze dynamic decisions, often within an adaptive-management framework Williams , Possingham A key consideration in dynamic decisions for natural resource problems is the uncertainty attendant to decision outcomes, which adds to the demographic and environmental variation of stochastic resource changes Williams and Johnson Multiple hypotheses and associated models are used to characterize this uncertainty, and comparisons of model predictions with observations from a monitoring program are used to derive model-specific probabilities that indicate model credibility Walters Important advances have followed from the recognition that these probabilities are not static, but evolve over time as new observations of system behaviors are accumulated from the management process, thus constituting a formalization of learning.

Indeed, the defining characteristic of adaptive management is the attempt to account for the temporal dynamics of uncertainty in making management decisions Johnson and Williams Despite its conceptual appeal, however, the application of decision science to complex, real-world problems can be quite challenging.

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In formulating, evaluating, and modifying environmental policies, difficult questions arise about how to design processes that nurture and sustain the engagement of stakeholders, scientists, and decision makers, and that enable governing bodies and institutions to promote discourse, transparency, accountability, learning, and a shared stewardship of the environment.

Part of the difficulty is that many conservation problems involve multiple decision makers, often acting more or less independently in pursuit of their own goals. Add to this complexity the presence of various sources and degrees of uncertainty in outcomes, and it is perhaps easy to understand why some have questioned whether decision science can be successfully applied to such wicked problems Ludwig The challenge for our project was to frame coastal resource conservation in a way that promotes a shared understanding of the problem among diverse decision makers; to understand the values and objectives of key stakeholders and to integrate these into the decision-making framework; to understand how key socioeconomic and environmental drivers and outcomes are linked across a range of spatial and temporal scales; and to develop approaches appropriate for coping with deep uncertainty and our collective ability to influence the future.

In an effort to help bridge the research-implementation gap in conservation Knight et al. Marks Florida NWRs during the autumn of The objectives of the two-day workshop were 1 to develop a shared understanding of the adaptation problems faced by coastal refuges and 2 explore the utility of structured decision making SDM , a.

Initially, our focus was on gaining a better understanding of the perspectives of refuge staff and what they see as desired futures and key challenges in dealing with global change processes. In particular, we believed that the issues of identifying conservation objectives and the scales at which they are pursued are central to any systematic analysis of decision making.


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  • Examples of the scale-related questions that arose during early discussions and the 2-day workshop are provided in Table 1. NCTC has pioneered development of a curriculum to help build capacity in applied decision science within the U. This development includes both instructor-led courses and hands-on experiential workshops that address real conservation problems. NCTC also has a mentoring program designed to build core competencies in the delivery of decision science and to provide opportunities for in-depth training in applying decision-analytic methods.

    SDM Gregory et al. The SDM process typically includes eliciting stakeholder values and formulating management objectives, identifying potential management actions, i. SDM and adaptive management are grounded in modern decision theory, which provides a rigorous framework for making decisions about the management of complex systems under uncertainty Williams et al.

    We followed general guidelines for the framing of decision problems provided by Keeney , meaning that decision problems are explicitly structured in terms of alternatives, outcomes, and values to identify the management action that is most likely to meet the stated objectives. Decisions involve both predicting outcomes, generally with mathematical models, from alternative actions and valuing those outcomes.

    Predicting the outcomes of management actions falls under the purview of environmental science, whereas assigning value to those outcomes is the role of the decision maker and, ultimately, of society. This distinction is useful for, among other things, providing guidance on who should be involved with each stage of the decision framing and analysis.

    Discussions were thus values focused Keeney in the sense that the ecological, social, and economic values the refuge supports were recognized as the key to developing and evaluating adaptation choices. Values and objectives were discussed first and drove the rest of the decision analysis.

    In other words, objectives should be sufficient to fully evaluate all the alternatives and alternatives should be sufficient to describe all the various ways in which the objectives could be achieved. This type of approach to decision making focuses on explicit identification of objectives and then development of creative actions to achieve these objectives. This approach differs from the common strategy of starting with a set of obvious alternatives and then evaluating them, often against unspecified or assumed objectives Keeney As expected, two topics dominated workshop discussions: 1 values and objectives and 2 the issue of scale.

    Questions concerning values and objectives serve as a basis for exploring decision opportunities in addressing the impacts of global change on NWRs. Sometimes identifying the decision problem is obvious.

    Learning from conservation planning for the U.S. National Wildlife Refuges.

    For example, do we continue to manage this freshwater impoundment with increasing saltwater intrusion? However, in many contexts decision opportunities must be created from identification of one or more concerns, e. Because of the many and diverse objectives embraced by coastal NWRs, a large portion of the workshop was devoted to identifying and structuring objectives, with attendant consideration of the issue of scale mismatch between management objectives and the decision context. In particular, there was a focus on both strategic and fundamental objectives and how they shape particular decision contexts Keeney By decision context we simply mean the specific nature of the decision, and the set of suitable alternatives to consider, for addressing particular management concerns, e.

    The workshops involving scientists, NWR managers, and decision analysts demonstrated that refuge staff and scientists can work together successfully to identify objectives, develop viable and creative management alternatives, predict at least qualitatively the consequences of those alternatives, and identify preferred strategies for the set of traditional objectives being considered by the refuge.


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    This insight led to an increased understanding of scale issues, the importance of how objectives are specified, and the added complexity of problems with multiple decision makers. The principal challenge is to broaden management objectives to include other ecosystem goods and services that traditionally have not been explicitly considered by refuges in their decisions, e. This broadening of objectives complicates the decision-making process by necessitating the search for additional alternative actions, but it also provides opportunities for collaboration, as well as identifying conflicts, with stakeholders who may have agendas different from those of the refuge.

    Effective engagement with stakeholders will be critical to this broader refuge-society collaboration. However, important considerations remain, including 1 identifying the stakeholders with an interest in the outcomes of this project; 2 assessing their current levels of knowledge, interest, and engagement with respect to sea-level rise on coastal refuges; 3 specifying whose objectives should be considered; and 4 predicting the associated effects on management decisions.

    Resolving these issues could be achieved through a combination of techniques including face-to-face interviews, small group meetings, focus groups, surveys, literature review, media e. The assessment would provide the foundation on which to build a stakeholder engagement strategy e. Physical scientists will also need to work closely with social scientists, in particular environmental economists, to help value the provision of ecosystem goods and services under current and future refuge designs.

    Many management actions that impact the quantity and quality of ecosystem services provided by refuges have benefits and costs whose values accrue outside traditional markets, such as increased flood protection, decreased nutrient cycling, and increased recreational quality for visitors.

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    Nonetheless, these values are critical to understanding how scarce management dollars should be allocated among competing demands. A host of economic valuation tools exists to quantify these nonmarket benefits and costs, such as choice experiments, contingent valuation, hedonic property value models, and recreational demand analysis Champ et al. Benefits-transfer techniques provide a reasonable and efficient approach to quantify the value of a great many different ecological services Bergstrom and Taylor However stakeholder values are ultimately characterized, refuge staff thus far have articulated a different problem frame and associated scale considerations depending on whether the focus is on the short or long term.

    The short-term problem focuses on efficient allocation of limited staff time and budgets for management of existing programs and resources under the current refuge design.