Introduction to the Refuge Resource Vulnerability Assessments

A collaborative project between the Service and NatureServe was initiated by the National Wildlife Refuge System HQ in late 2009 and completed in spring of 2012 under a Cooperative Agreement.  We designed the project to develop and test a methodology for assessing the vulnerability of refuge resources and infrastructure to a variety of stressors, primarily climate change, and for developing management alternatives to help resolve conflicts and issues.   

Four products resulted from this pilot project:
A Refuge Vulnerability Assessment and Alternatives Technical Guide that provides scientific and technical guidance on a methodology for conducting Resource Vulnerability Assessments (RVA).  This Guide contributes to a number of objectives included in the Service’s Rising to the Urgent Challenge: Strategic Plan for Responding to Accelerating Climate Change.  The methodology considers multiple scales, assesses options for current and alternative future scenarios, and provides guidance for translating assessment information to alternatives for management.  It also includes resources such as recommended data sets and software tools that can be used. This information can help refuges better develop responses to climate change during comprehensive conservation planning and step‐down management planning and help refuges maximize their ecological contribution to the landscape. 

A Manager’s Guide to Refuge Vulnerability Assessment and Alternatives that explains how a refuge manager could set up a RVA for a refuge (or larger area) using the methodology described in the Technical Guide, including an overview, timeframes, estimated costs, and other practical considerations.

The Resource Vulnerability Assessment and Strategies for Management Options for the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Fisherman Island NWRs report that includes results, analysis, and strategies and options for refuge management of two small, eastern, coastal refuges.

The Vulnerability Assessment and Strategies for the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge and Hart Mountain National Antelope Refuge Complex report that includes results, analysis, and strategies and options for refuge management of a large, western, interior refuge complex.

While these particular products yielded useful results, they were pilot efforts that helped identify the challenges and benefits of conducting single refuge analyses.  NatureServe, working with its many partners, continues to improve and refine its methodology. In general, RVAs will be more beneficial and cost-effective when conducted over a larger geographic area, in cooperation with multiple partners, and with direct engagement of appropriate staff. 

For further information, contact:  Patrick Crist (, John Schmerfeld (, or Nancy Roeper (