Science Applications
Southwest Region

"Surrogate Species" in the Southwest

Photo of a Diamondback Terrapin
Photo of a Diamondback Terrapin. Photo Credit: USFWS.

As part of our modernized approach to conservation, called Strategic Habitat Conservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our partners are in the process of identifying “surrogate species” throughout the country to help focus our efforts.

Surrogate species are plants and animals that distinctly signal the health of ecosystems. According to the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Draft Technical Guidance on this subject, surrogate species are defined as “species that are used to represent other species or aspects of the environment.”

Identifying surrogate species is necessary because it is no longer feasible or efficient to carry out conservation on a species-by-species or habitat-by-habitat basis. Focusing on surrogate species, and the condition of the broader ecosystems they represent, helps us maximize our resources and act proactively on behalf of many species before they are put at serious risk.

Ultimately, the decisions we make about surrogate species will guide our conservation efforts by helping us identify desired conservation outcomes indicative of a functioning landscape. Strategic Habitat Conservation leads us to these desired outcomes.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is working to finalize technical guidance relating to the selection of surrogate species, building on broad feedback received from many partners. We are collaborating with states and other organizations in the conservation community to develop an initial list of potential surrogate species.

For more information on the Science Applications program and “surrogate species,” please contact:
Dana Roth, Assistant Regional Director for Science Applications, 505.248.6928
or Annessa Culbreth, Executive Assistant, 505.248.6277

Learn more

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How we are carrying out Strategic Habitat Conservation in the Southwest

Surrogate Species Draft Technical Guidance

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Last updated: June 24, 2014