Strategic Habit Conservation

What is it and Why is FWS doing it?

What is Strategic Habitat Conservation - SHC?

Strategic Habitat Conservation (SHC) is a science-based framework for making management decisions about where and how to deliver conservation efficiently to achieve specific biological outcomes. Although originally focused on habitat conservation, this strategic conservation approach will include all Service programs and address both habitat and non-habitat factors limiting fish and wildlife populations. SHC 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 constantly reassess and improve our actions.

Why SHC?

We have an increasingly urgent need to embrace a strategic approach to landscape conservation due to a rapidly changing world and growing threats to conservation that were unimaginable just a few short years ago. In addition to the continually expanding dual threats of human development of wild places and invasive exotic species' direct and indirect impact on wild things, we have now before us an additional 21st century "perfect storm" of an increasingly disengaged public and a climate warming to the point of changing where wildlife and their habitats appear and disappear. The former stirs us to act quickly, with the latter demanding that we move forward strategically. The problems we now face are global in nature, and we have to adapt a framework capable at dealing at the global scale. We have a narrow window of opportunity to make a difference. Though our ways of the past have been well suited for those times, and our employees should be proud of their efforts, times are rapidly changing. Our methods of effecting conservation must change with changing threats and times. John P. Kotter said that, "People change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking, than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings."

The challenge of conserving fish and wildlife populations vastly exceeds the resources we can reasonably expect to have in the future. The future of conservation hinges on a landscape approach, and our success in this area will rise and fall with how well we integrate our efforts with our Federal, State and NGO partners. Thus, it is vital that we engage them in a dialog about SHC and about how we each apply our resources and authorities to conserve landscapes capable of sustaining all fish and wildlife species.

Although the urgency is real, building capacity for SHC will be an organizational evolution, not an overnight change. Institutionalizing the SHC framework is a marathon and we need to chart the course and set a purposeful and competitive pace.

No single office is likely to address or be involved in all of the functional elements that comprise the SHC Framework. At the same time, both individually and as an organization, we must be thinking about all of the elements and working systematically towards identifying the appropriate roles of the Service and our partners in performing them all.