National Wildlife Refuge System

Land Acquisition Priority System

With significant wildlife habitat in need of protection and limited funding available to accomplish the task, determining where to acquire land with Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) dollars is a challenging task.  To assist in the development of the Administration’s budget request, the Service identifies and ranks refuge projects using the Land Acquisition Priority System (LAPS).


LAPS is an automated scoring system that provides a uniform and objective approach to ranking proposed land acquisition projects within the National Wildlife Refuge System.  The LAPS biological rankings are a small part of the overall budget process.  The final project list submitted by the Administration to Congress reflects additional non-biological criteria, such as Director, Department, and Administration priorities, potential sources and levels of funding, appropriation history and carryover, partner and Congressional support, unique land acquisition opportunities, and – critically – up to date information on willing sellers.


LAPS informs the budget process by providing decision makers with information on the relative biological strengths of each project.  However, the LAPS rankings do not determine which refuge projects receive funding in a given fiscal year.  Congress, in consultation with the Service, determines which refuges receive land acquisition funds.  Nor does LAPS determine which lands are included as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.  Each refuge has a precise acquisition boundary that was created through a rigorous planning process.  LAPS’ primary role is to assist decision makers in prioritizing where to direct limited conservation dollars.


Annual FWS LWCF Budget Process

 

The Service developed LAPS in the late 1980’s, and it received the benefit of a public review and comment.  The Service revised the system in 2000 based on feedback from the General Accountability Office and conservation partners.  Each year, the Service updates LAPS to incorporate new biological data and input from the field, regions, and our partners.


LAPS’ computer-based system scores and ranks refuge projects with willing sellers using expert data provided by the Service’s Fisheries, Endangered Species, and Migratory Birds program offices.  LAPS scores four components tied to those trust resources: (1) Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, (2) Endangered Species, (3) Bird Conservation, and (4) Landscape and Ecosystem Conservation.  All refuges are scored using the same criteria.


LAPS Scoring Components:

  1. The Fisheries and Aquatic Resources component focuses on the status and trends of aquatic populations.  It uses information from the Fisheries Program’s Populations database, which provides aquatic species information for geographic areas that correspond to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUC).  Scoring criteria includes the status and trends of aquatic populations; species diversity for trust resources, such as anadromous fish; supported life cycles for trust resources; critical habitats, including free flowing rivers; wetland types and trend status; and wetland losses by percent of a state’s historic wetland base.

  2. The Endangered Species component focuses on the recovery of species with the goal of removing those species from the Endangered and Threatened Species lists.  The component uses population trend and recovery priority information on more than 1,100 endangered and threatened species on lists provided by the Endangered Species program.  Scoring criteria include species occurrences, status, and recovery priority; the nature of use by the species (resident, seasonal, etc.); and the documented importance of the area to de-listing a species or preventing the extinction of a species.

  3. The Bird Conservation component incorporates waterfowl and migratory bird species lists for the Bird Conservation Regions (BCR’s) from the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, a coalition of government agencies and private organizations.  BCR’s are ecologically distinct regions in North America with similar bird communities, habitat, and resource management issues that provide a consistent spatial framework for bird conservation across the landscape.  Scoring criteria includes an avian population importance index and an avian diversity index, which score refuge projects based on the presence of non-game species of management concern and priority waterfowl species identified by the Migratory Bird program office.

  4. The Landscape and Ecosystem Conservation component incorporates a list of critically endangered, endangered, and threatened ecosystems.  Scoring is based on the ecosystem’s biodiversity through distribution and abundance of rare communities; ecosystem decline and protection of native diversity of threatened ecosystems; landscape conservation by preserving large, intact habitats through conservation partnerships; and contributions to national plans and priority designations.

LAPS Project lists:


Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2014 Land Acquisition Priority List (474 KB PDF)

Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2013 Land Acquisition Priority List (456 KB PDF)

Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2012 Land Acquisition Priority List (88 KB PDF)

Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2011 Land Acquisition Priority List (112 KB PDF)

Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2010 Land Acquisition Priority List (536 KB PDF)

Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2009 Land Acquisition Priority List (520 KB PDF)

Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2008 Land Acquisition Priority List (145 KB PDF)

Land and Water Conservation Fund Fiscal Year 2007 Land Acquisition Priority List (67 KB PDF)

Last updated: December 12, 2012