Skip Navigation

Surrogate Species


The scale and complexity of environmental challenges we face today – draught, climate change, development – requires us to be more strategic, accountable and adaptive in our approach to conservation, what we call Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC).

Identifying surrogate species, those wildlife and plant species that can represent other wildlife and ecosystems, are part of this strategic approach. We simply can't account for every species and factor that influences complex systems. Surrogates allow us to simplify by focusing on measureable outcomes on a limited number of species that stand to benefit a far greater assortment of species.

  • Strategic Habitat Conservation

    Photo of a Fender's blue butterfly by the USFWS

    Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) is a process that facilitates effective coordination across the many USFWS programs, as well as with partners and stakeholders at larger, landscape scales. This approach links our actions to outcomes and allows us to learn as we go.

    In addition to producing the best return on investment, this approach is adaptive, allowing us to address not only the challenges we face today, but the unknown challenges of the future. This flexibility is what it will take to continue supporting self-sustaining fish and wildlife populations while also providing for the evolving needs of the American people.

    Learn more about the guiding principles of SHC

  • The Willamette Valley Pilot Project

    Photo of Oregon white oak trees by the USFWS

    In 2012, the Willamette Valley was chosen as a SHC pilot project for the Service, in large part because its conservation challenges are the most pressing and the SHC approach builds on decades of successful work by our partners.

    The Valley contains the nine of the ten largest cities in Oregon and is the most urban and fastest-growing ecoregion in Oregon. Pressures on the ecosystems – from population growth, to land-use conversion, to pollution – demand action.

    View the full Willamette Valley Pilot document (4.9mb PDF)

    What Lies Ahead

    With the Willamette Valley Pilot well under way, we are in the process of selecting surrogate species for the remaining ecoregions of Oregon, working to closely align with the State Wildlife Action Plan (summary).

  • Meet the Surrogates

    Photo of a western meadowlark by the USFWS

    Fourteen surrogate species have been selected by a team of partners, fitting into a variety of surrogate species categories, including keystone, iconic, and umbrella (read the Willamette Valley Pilot document to find our more about these categories).

    Below is the complete list of surrogates. Where available, click the link to get general information about that species and learn more about how it represents a strategic habitat within the Willamette Valley:

    Western meadowlark

    Slender-billed white-breasted nuthatch

    Oregon white oak tree

    Bradshaw's lomatium

    Fender's blue butterfly

    American beaver (Beaver Restoration Guidebook)

    Pacific lamprey

    Northern red-legged frog

    Black cottonwood

    Western pearlshell

    Vesper sparrow (All About Birds Profile)

    Western bluebird (All About Birds Profile)

    Yellow warbler (All About Birds Profile)

    Yellow-breasted chat (All About Birds Profile)

  • Surrogate Species Projects

    Photo of a Fender's blue butterfly by the USFWS

    Several surrogate species projects are already underway in the Willamette Valley. The link below will open a table showing the project name, where it's taking place, and the funds that were directed at that project in 2014.

    View the Willamette Valley Surrogate Species Project Table (PDF)

    Take a Closer Look - The Oak Mapping Project

    View the video: Oregon's Oak - A Vanishing Legacy

Return to main navigation