Strategic Habitat Conservation

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What is SHC?

Landscape Conservation in Action


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An Introduction

What is Strategic Habitat Conservation?

Strategic Habitat Conservation is a transparent framework for conservation work that will make our efforts more consistent, science-based, understandable and defensible. It is a means of dealing with complex conservation issues in an organized, adaptive manner on a landscape scale. It is a tool to help identify the resources that we need to accomplish our conservation mission.

Why are we adopting it?

As a leader in fish and wildlife and habitat conservation and management, the FWS is embracing a framework designed to maximize agency efficiency and increase on the ground conservation impacts. SHC enables the Service to:

1.Respond to new environmental challenges.
2.Advance opportunities with new and existing partners.
3.Utilize science based tools and resources to plan and evaluate our conservation efforts.
4.Continue to ensure conservation successes locally, while advancing landscape objectives.

Who will be involved?

The entire agency will embrace an improved way of conducting trust resource conservation. No individual will have to do it all alone. Not all employees will actively be involved in all aspects, but it is necessary for us all to understand the opportunities and resources it provides.

When are we adopting it?

Now. Drastic changes will not occur over night. The Region and the agency as a whole will gradually move toward fully implementing all of the elements of the business model in our decision making and on-the-ground conservation activities.

Where will SHC be implemented?

Wherever we need to work toward meeting our mission.

How are we going to implement it?

By fully utilizing existing technology such as GIS, becoming trained in better decision making through the Structured Decision Making process, reaching out to even more partners that have the necessary expertise to advance our knowledge of the resource and its needs at multiple spatial and temporal scales, and being diligent and transparent in our planning and decision-making processes we can meet our mission by addressing landscape scale threats such as climate change.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) Back to FAQ

A: Strategic Habitat Conservation is an operational framework that emphasizes a science-based approach to conservation and is focused on providing landscapes capable of sustaining trust species populations at objective levels.

Q: Why are we being asked to “do” SHC now? Back to FAQ
A: This framework has been developed in order to keep pace with advancements in conservation science and technology while assuring accountability and implementation of adaptive management.

Q: Aren’t we doing SHC already? Back to FAQ
A: Not completely. We are accomplishing some of the elements of SHC in some programs and at some field stations. In SHC we will emphasize the linkages between the work that we do individually (or as programs) that aren’t currently being used to meet shared goals, improving our effectiveness and efficiency.

Q: How will this change how I do my job? Back to FAQ

A: You may experience no change while others may see a shift in approach and/or priorities. This is a way of thinking and of doing business that requires us to set specific biological goals, allows us to make strategic decisions about our work, and encourages us to reassess and improve our actions.
Q: Will all employees be involved in SHC? Back to FAQ
A: Yes. However, very few employees will engage in the entire framework. Most will engage in only one of the elements, and then, possibly only indirectly.
Q: Will we get the resources we need to fully implement the SHC framework? Back to FAQ
A: No. Available staff and resources will always be challenges to the Service in accomplishing its mission. Our responsibility to all Americans is to efficiently use the resources available to us and to reach out to our partners for assistance.
Q: Why is it called Strategic Habitat Conservation instead of just Strategic Conservation? Back to FAQ
A: The pervasiveness and magnitude of habitat loss as a limiting factor for most species dictates the focus. SHC, however, is designed to provide a strategic framework for all Service conservation actions that address both habitat and non-habitat limiting factors.
Q: Is SHC going to fade away now that we have a new administration? Back to FAQ
A: No. It is an improved approach to conservation that will allow the Service to achieve its mission more effectively.
Q: Where can I go for more information about SHC? Back to FAQ
A: The Region 3 Intranet site provides information on how we are progressing in the Region at The national SHC page is located at
Q: How is this different than the ecosystem approach? Back to FAQ
A: The ecosystem approach required a significant reorganization of the agency. The SHC approach does not call for reorganizing, but for programs to work across institutional boundaries toward common goals.
Q: What are we supposed to do if we manage for healthy ecosystems not priority species? Back to FAQ
A: Continue what you are doing. If you are managing ecosystems you should be managing them to support some trust species. Changes in one or more of these species populations may be a measure of success.
Q: How and who determines what the priority species is/are? Back to FAQ
A: Region 3 currently has a Resource Conservation Priority list that will be updated in the near future. This list was developed by a team of biologists from all programs in the Region.
Q: At what scale do we need to set species objectives? Back to FAQ
A: At the landscape scale with individual field offices addressing the objectives outlined in landscape plans such as the Upper Mississippi River Great Lakes Joint Venture Implementation Plan or the Great Lakes Fish Community Objectives and species restoration plans, or a Recovery Plan.
Q: At what point will we engage with our partners on SHC and are we supposed to convince them to adopt it too? Back to FAQ
A: No, we do not have to convince them to adopt this framework. As SHC becomes part of your work life, it should be reflected in your interactions with your partners.
Q: In areas where we have prioritized by ecosystems or watersheds, how do we move toward targeting priority species if they are in conflict with what states and our partners want? Back to FAQ
A: While our priorities may differ from those of our partners, generally there will be some common ground in conservation needs regardless of species. The SHC framework can be used to help identify these commonalities and move the partnership in a unified direction.
Last updated: September 8, 2009