Strategic Habitat Conservation
Conserving the Nature of America


Strategic Habitat Conservation

Biological Planning

Conservation Design

Conservation Delivery

Monitoring and Research


Related Information:

Landscape Conservation Cooperatives

FWS Climate Strategy

Science Excellence

Shared Stories and Practices



Selecting Species & Conservation Targets

Since the sheer number of species for which the Service, states, and other partners work with makes designing and conserving landscape-scale habitats impractical on a species-by-species basis, we are now developing a process to collaboratively identify surrogate species representing other species or aspects of the species’ environment (e.g., water quality, sagebrush or grasslands, etc.). Conserving habitat for these species or conservation targets can at the same time address the needs of a larger group of species. This is a practical step in using the SHC approach and the best-known science to conserve landscapes supporting multiple species. Selected surrogate species and targets will be used as the basis for regional conservation planning efforts within a landscape or geographic area.

The landscape conservation strategies and actions identified through such planning processes (species or habitat protection or restoration, monitoring, public engagement, research, etc.) will inform our agency’s management practices and systems – how we make budget decisions, evaluate performance and ensure accountability. Ultimately, they will enable the Service to make smarter, more cost-effective conservation and management decisions and investments and improve our ability to sustain abundant, diverse and healthy populations of fish, wildlife and plants now and in the future.

The Service has developed draft technical guidance that describes a robust process and criteria for defining biological outcomes using a "surrogate species" approach. Surrogate species is a commonly used scientific term for system-based conservation planning that uses a species as an indicator of landscape habitat and system conditions. It includes various sub-categories (umbrella, representative, focal, keystone, indicator, flagship) and its use is well documented in the scientific literature. The Service is currently working with States and other conservation partners to refine and improve the draft guidance.


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Additional Resources:

SHC Sharepoint Portal (FWS and DOI employees only)

Journals and Essays on Surrogate Species:

"On the Use of Surrogate Species in Conservation Biology" - Caro, O'Doherty

"Using Surrogate Species and Groups for Conservation Planning and Management" - Wiens, et al. 2008

"Conservation by Proxy: Indicator, Umbrella, Keystone, Flagship, and Other Surrogate Species" - Caro


Last updated: December 11, 2014

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