Few initiatives are more vital
to the Conserving the Future
goal of bolstering the scientific
underpinning of National Wildlife
Refuge System wildlife management
than the Inventory and Monitoring
The I&M program was established in
2010 to gather, analyze and disseminate
authoritative, scientifically rigorous
biological data about the status, trends
and responses to management of
species and habitats within the Refuge
System, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service and landscape conservation
The I&M program is based at the
Natural Resource Program Center
(NRPC) in Fort Collins, CO, with about
70 regional coordinators and biologists
located around the country. In its twoyear
existence, says national I&M
manager Jana Newman, the program has
made headway in many areas, including:
- Ensuring that field stations have
access to a core set of geospatial
abiotic base data layers for
topography, aerial photography,
hydrology, soils and infrastructure.
- Conducting water resources
inventories and hydrogeomorphic
- Designing and implementing ServCat,
a centralized repository for critical
refuge management documents. [See Adventures in I&M Data Mining.]
- Developing a repository called
Planning and Review of I&M on
Refuges (PRIMR) that provides
detailed information about more than
- Supporting adaptive management
efforts across the Refuge System.
- Implementing invasive-plantsmapping
pilot inventories at four
refuges (Alligator River, Quivira,
Silvio O. Conte and San Diego).
- Encouraging refuges to partner
with the USA-National Phenological
- Collaborating with partners on
wilderness character monitoring.
- Coordinating with the Services
Migratory Bird program.
- Coordinating with partners on
predictive models of climate-induced
change in oceanographic variables,
including sea-level rise.
- Providing guidance on predictive
models in Arctic and high-latitude
In short, Newman says, we strive
to ensure that there is credible, interdisciplinary scientific information
to inform biological planning at
But what Newman, Mark Chase, the
director of the NRPC who oversees the
I&M program, and Keenan Adams, the
newest addition to the I&M team, really
want Service employees and others to
know is: The I&M program exists to help
If youre a refuge manager putting
together a comprehensive conservation
plan … or a refuge biologist seeking
landscape-level data on an endangered
species thats outside your area of
expertise … or a visitor services
specialist looking for reliable information
but having trouble navigating a
cumbersome database, were here,
says Newman. Contact us. Be proactive.
We try to reach out, but with 556 refuges
we cant reach everybody. Contact your
regional I&M coordinator or your data
manager. We can help out.
Adams, in particular, sees himself as a
nexus between the field and the science
center for the Refuge System.
Most recently a deputy project leader
at Pelican Island Refuge Complex in
Florida, Adams came to Fort Collins in
June as a managing biologist.
I was one of those refuge managers who
took every opportunity to remind people
in the headquarters office and regional
office that they should engage the field
more with certain decisions, he says.
This job was an opportunity to practice
what I preach. I knew that I&M would
have many challenges if refuge managers
and biologists were not bought in.
He saw the job as a chance to work
in a science center and gain a nationalscale
perspective, but also provide the
center with a field perspective. He
expects most of his time to be spent on
managerial matters and working with
the NRPCs new human dimensions
branch, but hell spend a good deal of
time as an I&M biologist asking, Does
this make sense to the field.
Chase identifies three major challenges
for the I&M program, which is funded at
about $20 million annually.
The first is changing the cultural
mind-set to truly look at conservation
challenges and solutions beyond our
artificial human constructs of
political boundaries, regional and
The second is transitioning from
plugging holes to strategically
gathering rigorous, credible information
that informs our planning consistent
with our strategic habitat conservation
The third is data management, which
Chase says is expensive and often
an afterthought. We must make the
organizational commitment to invest
in data management to support every
refuge, both regionally and nationally.
For now, Adams has an immediate
message to Service employees on the
ground: Get engaged. Call your regional
I&M coordinator. Stay open-minded. Use
the tools that will be provided to you by
the I&M program; theyre there to make
your life easier.