A U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and U.S Geological Survey Vision - Strategic Habitat Conservation
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service mission is to work with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The U.S. Geological Survey serves the Nation by providing reliable scientific information to describe and understand the Earth; minimize loss of life and property from natural disasters; manage water, biological, energy, and mineral resources; and enhance and protect our quality of life. The American public created this role for government to make sure that populations of fish and wildlife will still be here for our grandchildren.
Anadromous fish, migratory birds, marine mammals, endangered and threatened fish, wildlife and plants, and refuge lands are entrusted to our management and conservation care. Further, we understand that humans, as a species, depend on the same ecological systems that sustain fish and wildlife. The health of these systems will determine our future as well.
Alongside our State and other conservation counterparts, we have proudly met the 20th century’s conservation challenges:
- Ending unregulated and exploitive taking of public trust resources;
- Restoring and recovering wide-ranging, naturally abundant species;
- Acquiring, protecting, and managing public lands devoted to the perpetuation of fish and wildlife and their habitats;
- Representing the public’s conservation interests in decisions relating to the development of the Nation’s land and water resources; and
- Identifying and protecting rare species from extinction.
However, conservation of the future presents new and different challenges. In the 21st century, we face issues of scale, pace, and complexity that will make it virtually impossible for the Services, as we currently operate, to fulfill our role in assuring the future of our Nation’s fish and wildlife - the reason we devote our careers to research and conservation. These challenges include:
- Sprawling development patterns and intensifying agriculture
- Lack of understanding and acceptance that people depend on the same environmental systems that sustain fish and wildlife – that any system separating people from conservation efforts is not sustainable
- Difficulty in ensuring a functional landscape that will support wildlife, because of the complex logistics of working with thousands of private landowners
- Lack of transparency and credibility
- lack of understanding and acceptance by public of what we are trying to achieve and why – we have difficulty articulating population and habitat objectives for trust resources, how they were developed, and why they are important
- lack of understanding and acceptance by public of how we try to achieve population objectives – we have difficulty articulating how each program contributes to population and habitat objectives for trust resources and how much habitat is needed to support public expectations for population levels
- Constraints on staff and funds
We are expert at acute management – the management of harvest and take – and we need to continue to manage acute population impacts. However, we must envision and ensure functioning landscape-scale habitats a century from now that will support the abundance and diversity of trust species that the public expects. The contiguous landscapes needed are far too large to be simply acquired or regulated – we must become facilitators of cooperative conservation – focusing, leading, and encouraging all conservation efforts by individuals, agencies, and organizations to target strategic conservation outcomes that assure landscape habitat and population sustainability.
We must meet these challenges or accept the inevitable fate that we will fail in the mission that the American people have entrusted to us. We will only be able to count what is left.
To avoid this fate, we will commit to a new role of strategic conservation leadership that we call Strategic Habitat Conservation:
- We will engage partners and the public in development of population objectives for trust species, emphasizing transparency and credibility. These population objectives will result from knowledge of both biological resource viability and social impacts, and the public must, ultimately, support the consequences needed to achieve the objectives.
- We will facilitate the development and sharing of scientific information to help define the functional habitat landscapes needed, across large areas, to support population objectives for trust species. We will become a leader in facilitating conservation of functional landscapes across large regions to assure that fish and wildlife trust species will be here for our grandchildren.
- We will align our programs and conservation efforts to make clear contributions towards population and habitat conservation outcomes to achieve population objectives for trust species.
- We will recognize a shared responsibility to public trust resources with State Fish and Wildlife agencies and that the conservation required cannot be accomplished except in partnership. We honor State missions, passions, capacity, and expertise, and will facilitate and encourage programs that contribute towards strategic conservation outcomes that we develop together. We will develop a facilitation and coordination role in all of our programs that is not redundant, but complementary and synergistic, to the conservation efforts of other organizations and fulfills needs that are not easily accomplished by States across larger regions. We will catalyze and strengthen the collective capacity of State, Federal, and private conservation efforts.
- We will continue to provide leadership in promoting the need, development, and the use of cooperative and financial incentives for private landowners to manage habitat for the benefit of trust species and recognize that the entire public benefits from positive conservation actions of private landowners.
The future of North America’s fish and wildlife depends on our success in achieving this vision. The Service and Survey together have a unique role and are the only entities that can facilitate needed conservation across such large areas. The American public has entrusted us to ensure the future of our resources for our grandchildren and theirs – it is our responsibility. This vision of landscape conservation for all trust species is daunting, with no assurance of success. However, we are certain of the outcome if we do not rise to this conservation leadership role, so we commit to this vision with the hope and determination that we will succeed.