Strategic Habitat Conservation

With ever increasing threats like habitat loss and the changing climate, conserving America's fish, wildlife and plants for the continuing benefit of the American people is increasingly challenging. In 2006, U.S. Fish and Wildlife leaders (Service) saw the need for a framework to organize conservation work more strategically to support species and their habitats across entire landscapes. This framework is called Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC).

SHC Graphic

All conservation actions, e.g., acquiring a wetland easement, selective tree cutting, private lands grassland restoration, etc., occur in a specific place or at a local site scale. There are many conservation actions that take place across a landscape. In conservation, each of these actions in a specific place should contribute to a biological goal for particular species.

The purpose of SHC as a guiding framework is to ensure that the Service uses the best process to make decisions about the conservation actions it takes (what we do and where we do it) to achieve biological goals as efficiently as possible.

Because the Service is charged with the conservation of species (migratory birds, threatened and endangered species, inter-jurisdictional fish, marine mammals and populations that reside on National Wildlife Refuges), our objectives are normally expressed in terms of a population size or response, a biological goal.

SHC starts with setting a biological goal, then planning and designing an action strategy to achieve that goal, doing the conservation work on the ground, and monitoring the results of the work to see how the strategy and actions could be improved to better achieve the biological goal.

Strategic Habitat Conservation is based on these five elements: developing common population and conservation goals with partners, identifying limiting factors for fish and wildlife populations, aligning our program and conservation efforts to contribute to common fish and wildlife population outcomes, working collaboratively with partners on landscape-scale habitat conservation strategies to sustain fish and wildlife populations, and monitoring our conservation actions and adapting our scientific approaches when necessary.

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives (LCCs) allow us to most effectively collaborate with partners on common objectives, tools, and strategies to help design and conserve a landscape that will sustain fish and wildlife populations at levels desired by society.

In order to achieve the vision of the LCCs, landscape designs for multiple species of fish and wildlife must be defined and designed. The Service has responsibility to manage and conserve all trust species and States have primary responsibility for all species occurring in their states. The number of priority trust species and state priority species makes designing landscape habitats for all species individually impractical, so we need to identify a suite of representative species that can represent the habitat needs of a larger group of species.

A representative species is a species that is sensitive to habitat characteristics, ecosystem function, or management responses similar to a group of other species and conserving or managing habitat for a representative species can bring along the needs of a larger group of species with similar habitat requirements. This is a key practical and efficient tool and next step in using the SHC approach and the best-known science to design landscape-scale habitats for multiple species.

The Service must now envision and ensure functional, sustainable landscapes that support the biological abundance and diversity expected by Americans.The future of North America's fish and wildlife depends on resource mangers success in achieving this vision of sustainable landscapes.

For more information...

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service SHC Vision and Approach

National LCC Network