A science-based decision support tool for land acquisition in the National Wildlife Refuge System

Thursday, October 23, 2014: 4:15 PM
Hemisphere B (Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center)
Kathleen Fleming , USFWS, Laurel, MD
Keenan Adams , USFWS, Fort Collins, CO
Sean Fields , USFWS, Great Falls, MT
Ken Fowler , USFWS, Arlington, VA
The 3 primary conservation goals of the USFWS National Refuge System’s (NWRS) new strategic growth policy are to acquire lands that contribute to the conservation of (1) federally threatened or endangered species, (2) migratory birds of conservation concern, and (3) waterfowl population objectives of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan (NAWMP).  We discuss the ongoing development of a science-based decision support tool (DST) to prioritize land acquisition under the third goal:  achieving NAWMP continental population objectives, and associated step-down objectives of the Migratory Bird Joint Ventures (JVs).  This process consists of several steps.  First, an interim decision tree was developed through collaboration with USFWS Migratory Bird Program staff, utilizing a combination of waterfowl survey data and population/habitat models to characterize landscapes in the US in terms of their potential to support populations of high-priority waterfowl species.  Ranking criteria for breeding populations were based on waterfowl abundance; criteria for migrating/wintering populations were based on an index of harvest.  Second, JV expertise was solicited through a structured decision making process and subsequent meetings with JV science coordinators, to refine ranking criteria and identify potential conservation planning datasets which could be incorporated into the tool as surrogates for abundance.  These included food energy by land-cover type and wetland density.  Third, collaborative data sharing relationships will be established between NWRS and the JVs, to provide ongoing data support for future funding allocation decisions.  By leveraging JV expertise and data, the NWRS can acquire land more effectively to benefit priority waterfowl species in the US.