Glossary of Planning Terms
A reasonable way to fix the identified problem or satisfy the stated need.
Approved refuge boundary
A project boundary which the Regional Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves upon completion of the planning and environmental compliance process. An approved refuge boundary only designates those lands which the Fish and Wildlife Service has authority to acquire and/or manage through various agreements. Approval of a refuge boundary does not grant the Fish and Wildlife Service jurisdiction or control over lands within the boundary, and it does not make lands within the refuge boundary part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Lands do not become part of the National Wildlife Refuge System unless they are purchased or are placed under an agreement that provides for management as part of the refuge system.
Biological diversity or biodiversity
The variety of life and its processes and includes the variety of living organisms, the genetic differences among them, and the communities and ecosystems in which they occur.
Candidate species
A species for which the Service has on file sufficient information on biological vulnerability and threat(s) to support a proposal to list as threatened or endangered species.
Categorical Exclusion
A category of actions that do not individually or cumulatively have a significant effect on the human environment and have been found to have no such effect in procedures adopted by a Federal agency pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act.
Code of Federal Regulations
Compatible use
A use that, in the sound professional judgment of the Director, will not materially interfere with or detract from the fulfillment of the mission of the System or the purposes of a refuge.
Comprehensive Conservation Plan (CCP) or Comprehensive Management Plan (CMP)
A document that provides a description of the desired future conditions and long-range guidance for the project leader to accomplish purposes of the refuge system and the refuge. CCPs establish management direction to achieve refuge purposes.
Concept Plan
A document developed early in the establishment a new refuge, designed to provide the public with a vision of what the refuge may accomplish.
Conceptual Management Plan
A document that presents a broad overview of the Service's proposed management approach to lands included within the National Wildlife Refuge System. Management actions would be finalized only after additional planning and public input. Areas addressed include: wildlife and habitats, public uses and wildlife-dependent recreational activities, wildfire suppression and prescribed burning, rights-of-way, law enforcement, facilities, public outreach, and interagency coordination.
Conservation easement
A legal document that provides specific land-use rights to a secondary party. A perpetual conservation easement usually grants conservation and management rights to a party in perpetuity.
Cooperative agreement
A simple habitat protection action in which no property rights are acquired. An agreement is usually long-term and can be modified by either party. Lands under a cooperative agreement do not necessarily become part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Cultural Resource Inventory
A professionally conducted study designed to locate and evaluate evidence of cultural resources present within a defined geographic area. Inventories may involve various levels, including background literature search, comprehensive field examination to identify all exposed physical manifestations of cultural resources, or sample inventory to project site distribution and density over a larger area. Evaluation of identified cultural resources to determine eligibility for the National Register follows the criteria found in 36 CFR 60.4.
Cultural Resource Overview
A comprehensive document prepared for a field office that discusses, among other things, its prehistory and cultural history, the nature and extent of known cultural resources, previous research, management objectives, resource management conflicts or issues, and a general statement on how program objectives should be met and conflicts resolved. An overview should reference or incorporate information from a field office's background or literature search.
A citizen or group may wish to give land or interests in land to the Service for the benefit of wildlife. Aside from the cost factor, these acquisitions are no different than any other means of land acquisition. Gifts and donations have the same planning requirements as purchases.
A territory defined by a combination of biological, social, and geographic criteria, rather than geopolitical considerations; generally, a system of related, interconnected ecosystems.
Eminent domain
The authority given to federal agencies to condemn land for the public good. Although it is Service policy to purchase land only from willing sellers, the Service does have this authority and occasionally uses it to clear title.
A dynamic and interrelating complex of plant and animal communities and their associated nonliving environments.
Endangered species
A species officially recognized by Federal and State agencies to be in immediate danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Environmental Assessment (EA)
A concise public document, prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, that briefly discusses the purpose and need for an action, alternatives to such action, and provides sufficient evidence and analysis of impacts to determine whether to prepare an environmental impact statement or finding of no significant impact. .
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)
A detailed written statement required by section 102(2)(C) of the National Environmental Policy Act, analyzing the environmental impacts of a proposed action, adverse effects of the project that cannot be avoided, alternative courses of action, short-term uses of the environment versus the maintenance and enhancement of long-term productivity, and any irreversible and irretrievable commitment of resources.
The acquisition of most or all of the rights to a tract of land. There is a total transfer of property rights with the formal conveyance of a title. While a fee title acquisition involves most rights to a property, certain rights may be reserved or not purchased, including water rights, mineral rights, or use reservation (the ability to continue using the land for a specified time period, or the remainder of the owner's life).
Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI)
A document prepared in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, supported by an environmental assessment, that briefly presents why a Federal action will have no significant effect on the human environment and for which an environmental impact statement, therefore, will not be prepared.
The environment in which a plant or animal lives (includes vegetation, soil, water, and other factors).
Land Protection Plan (LPP)
A document that identifies and prioritizes lands for potential willing-seller acquisition, and also describes other methods of providing protection. Landowners within project boundaries will find this document, which is released with the Environmental Assessments, most useful.
A short-term (usually 5-10 year) agreement for full or specified use in return for a rental payment (usually annual) and generally includes occupancy rights. The rights revert back to the owner at the termination of the lease. This device is useful when the objectives are short term or the owners are unable to provide other forms of land transfer. The property remains on the tax rolls during the term of the lease.
National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) (4.2 USC 4321)
The law that requires a federal agency to 1) consider every significant aspect of the environmental impact of a proposed action, 2) involve the public in its decision-making process when considering environmental concerns, 3) use a systematic, interdisciplinary approach to decision-making, and 4) consider a reasonable range of alternatives in every recommendation or report on proposals for legislation and other major federal actions significantly affecting the quality of the human environment. More information can be found on the NEPANET.
National Wildlife Refuge System
All lands, waters, and interests therein administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as wildlife refuges, wildlife ranges, wildlife management areas, waterfowl production areas, and other areas for the protection and conservation of fish, wildlife, and plant resources.
Overlay national wildlife refuge
Lands and waters that are under the primary jurisdiction of one Federal agency and the refuge purpose is superimposed as a secondary interest in the property. Primary administration is retained by the host agency. Wildlife management must be compatible with those uses for which the primary agency acquired the land.
Public involvement
The process by which interested and affected individuals, organizations, agencies, and governmental entities participate in the planning and decision-making process.
Refuge purposes
The purposes specified in or derived from the law, proclamation, executive order, agreement, public land order, donation document, or administrative memorandum establishing, authorizing, or expanding a refuge, refuge unit, or refuge subunit.
Step-down management plans
Plans that describe management strategies and implementation schedules. Step-down management plans deal with specific management subjects (e.g., crop lands, wilderness, and fire).
Study area
Within a larger ecosystem unit, an area that is characterized by ecological relationships that provides a broader context for preparing unit Comprehensive Management Plans.These may include similar landscape types, such as watersheds and physiographic provinces, regional areas that contribute substantially to refuge public use, adjacent watersheds that provide refuge water supplies, or other areas that may directly affect refuge resources.
Threatened species
Any species which is likely to become an endangered species within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
Wildlife-Dependent Recreation
A use of a refuge involving hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, or environmental education and interpretation.
Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Act
A law (Public Law 91-646,, as amended) that provides certain benefits and payments to persons displaced as a result of FWS acquisition of land.

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Note: This glossary defines some general terms used in most planning processes. If you would like us to add definitions to this list, please send us an e-mail message at :