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Strategic Habitat Conservation
In 2006, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service leadership endorsed Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) as the conservation approach the agency would use to achieve its mission in the 21st Century. In response to the unprecedented scale and complexity of challenges facing our natural resources, agency leaders saw the need to develop and implement a landscape approach to conservation that was more strategic, science-driven, collaborative, adaptive, and understandable. Indeed, throughout the conservation community, people are relying more and more on strategic approaches that apply advanced science and technologies to questions of how best to target conservation to sustain populations of fish and wildlife across the landscape.
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.
Fish, wildlife, and plants and the habitats they depend on, are dynamic; responding to ecological events and processes occurring at multiple scales, ranging from more local to global. Therefore, the better we understand how species respond to changes at these various scales, the better we can conserve landscapes capable of supporting self-sustaining populations now and in the future. SHC is the adaptive framework that we will use as routine practice within the agency to fulfill our mission and achieve our vision.
The Service is committed to using SHC to work and measure progress toward desired biological or ecological conditions, also called biological outcomes. The purpose of SHC is to coordinate and link actions that various programs and partners perform at individual sites, so that their combined effect may be capable of achieving these outcomes at the larger landscape, regional, or continental scales. In this way, conservation actions can help recover and sustain species' populations as part of whole communities and systems, together with their ecological functions and processes.
The SHC approach is built on five main components that compel the FWS to align expertise, capability and operations across our programs in a unified effort to achieve mutually aspired biological outcomes: (1) biological planning – working with partners to establish shared conservation targets and measurable biological objectives (i.e. population) for these outcomes, and identify limiting factors affecting our shared conservation targets; (2) conservation design – creating tools that allow us to direct conservation actions to most effectively contribute to measurable biological outcomes, (3) conservation delivery – working collaboratively with a broad range of partners to create and carry out conservation strategies with value at multiple spatial scales, and (4) outcome-based monitoring – evaluating the effectiveness of conservation actions in reaching biological outcomes and to adapt future planning and delivery and (5)assumption driven research – testing assumptions made during biological planning to refine future plans and actions. Both monitoring and research help us learn from our decisions and activities and improve them over time.
SHC relies on an adaptive management framework to focus on a subset of shared conservation targets, set measurable biological objectives for them, and identify the information, decisions, delivery, and monitoring needed to achieve desired biological outcomes. SHC helps the Service, and the broader conservation community, effectively organize expertise and contributions across programs and partners, so our efforts to conserve landscapes— capable of supporting self-sustaining populations of fish, wildlife, and plants— are both successful and efficient.
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April 10, 2014