How You Can Be Involved
- Stay informed and involved throughout the process. The Branch of Conservation Planning provides meeting dates, draft plans and other information for current projects on this website, and we also develop a mailing list for individual planning projects.
- Check our "Current Plans" page for information on specific projects, including contact information.
- Tell us what you want us to consider as we plan. Review the draft plan and suggest improvements.
About Conservation Planning
Managing a national wildlife refuge is complicated business; what helps one species may have drawbacks for another species. For example, should a refuge restore prairie habitat to benefit grassland birds, or should staff time and funding be used to improve habitat for forest-associated species? Should staff focus on wildlife research or combating invasive species? A new trail will enhance access for fishing, but will it make an area less desirable for nesting birds?
Answering these and other questions shapes the future of national wildlife refuges. In comprehensive conservation planning, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) asks staff as well as a wide range of people, agencies and organizations what they see as the primary issues facing the refuge, and asks how those issues should be resolved. Ultimately, comprehensive conservation planning charts a course that best addresses the issues, fulfills the mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System, and fulfills the mission and purpose of the refuge.
Planning has always occurred on refuges, but in 1997 the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act directed the Service to prepare a comprehensive conservation plan (CCP) for every refuge within the Refuge System. The Service has since established planning policy that outlines a collaborative and methodical approach involving communities, neighbors, state wildlife agencies, agricultural agencies, conservation organizations and many others. The Service's Planning Policy was published in the Federal Register in May 2000.
Click on the map at right to see planning activities in other regions of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
A CCP is a 15-year plan that identifies issues, goals, objectives and strategies for refuge management. The CCP provides refuge managers with a blueprint for management, and it provides neighbors and others a clear picture of what the Service intends to do in terms of managing habitat, protecting wildlife, and providing a place where people can enjoy wildlife-dependent activities. The steps we follow in planning are:
- Gather Information
- Identify issues
- Develop management alternatives and evaluate their impacts
- Draft a plan for public review
- Revise and release the final planAlong with the CCP, the Service completes environmental documentation, either an environmental assessment (EA) or an environmental impact statement (EIS) – that evaluates the impact of the management direction proposed in the CCP.
Refuges gain a lot through the comprehensive conservation planning process. The opportunity to visit with a wide range of people, local government units and agencies is perhaps one of the most beneficial aspects of planning. We hope that we strengthen the partnerships we have today and that we forge new ones as the planning process develops. Briefly, the benefits of planning include:
- Provides opportunity for public involvement.
- Provides clear direction for management.
- Establishes continuity in management.
- Improves understanding of management by neighbors and visitors.
More details about comprehensive conservation planning can be found in the National Wildlife Refuge Improvement Act of 1997 and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Planning Policy.
Before a new refuge is established or the boundary of an existing refuge is significantly revised, we complete an environmental planning process involving local governments, State agencies, a wide range of organizations, and the local community. We analyze the impacts of the proposal in either an Environmental Assessment or a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement. Public involvement is a key element of these planning efforts. Ultimately, the decision to add land to the National Wildlife Refuge System is based on national priorities, which are established by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the expected level of fish and wildlife resource conservation.