Strategic Habitat Conservation Fact Sheet
From the National SHC Technical Advisory Team
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.
Strategic habitat conservation incorporates these elements – biological planning, conservation design, delivery, monitoring and research – in a framework that allows change (adaptive) and repetition (iterative).
- Biological planning involves identifying priority trust resources, determining population objectives, assessing the current status of populations, identifying threats and limiting factors, and using models to describe the relationship of populations to habitat and other limiting factors.
- Conservation design uses the results of biological planning to develop decision support tools, including maps and models, to guide management. It also identifies priority geographic areas for conservation and determines population-based objectives for habitat or other limiting factors based on these tools.
- Conservation delivery involves implementing conservation actions through programs and partnerships that are guided by decision support tools and targeted to achieve specific biological results (outcomes).
- Monitoring collects data to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation actions in reaching biological outcomes and to provide feedback to future planning and delivery.
- Research tests assumptions in biological planning and conservation design that have the greatest impact on management decisions and provides feedback to future planning.
The question we each need to ask is: "How we can incorporate this approach into our management decisions and our day-to-day routines?" Building on past success and informed by experience, strategic habitat conservation integrates all the facets of conservation biology necessary to achieve our highest conservation priorities.
- Strategic habitat conservation is not something to do, but a way to do something.
Our conservation work often involves working in partnership with others. As we move forward with strategic habitat conservation, we need to be working with partners to determine who is best-suited to accomplish each phase of this process. For example, the Service is well-known for on-the-ground conservation actions, while USGS is known for their research capabilities. Using a strategic approach, our partnerships with state fish and wildlife agencies, tribes, USGS, private landowners, and conservation groups will grow stronger and the results will be more substantial. Here’s a look at one instance of the approach in action:
The Service's work on Virginia's eastern shore is an excellent example of strategic conservation in action. Many habitat use and migration studies sponsored by the Service, the Commonwealth of Virginia, TNC and others have led us to concentrate our activities along the migratory funnel created at the southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula. The Service put together a land protection planning group composed of federal, state, local and non-government partners who work together to identify priority land protection needs, pool funding sources and manage bird habitats under a memorandum of understanding agreement. Partners for Fish and Wildlife staff worked closely with the Division of Migratory Birds staff, National Wildlife Refuge System’s Realty and Refuge staff and many non-Service partners to develop and implement two North American Wetlands Conservation Act grants in 2004 and 2005 to protect and restore over 9,000 acres of habitat for migratory birds and endangered species in Northampton, Virginia.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge's comprehensive conservation plan will guide both protection and restoration efforts within the acquisition boundary. The on-going use of radar data will allow us to better understand and respond to migratory bird movements, and monitoring of habitat treatment areas will lead us to adjust future restoration actions to achieve the best responses from plant and bird species.
- The elements of strategic habitat conservation are the scientific method in action.
Strategic habitat conservation is not a new organization. It is not a new initiative. It is not a set of procedures to be checked off. It is, instead, an approach to guide our conservation work with more integrated information and more cross-programmatic collaboration to achieve even stronger results. It is a blending of science and relationships to meet our highest conservation priorities. As its name implies, it is a strategy for building on the incredible conservation work being accomplished on the ground by improving coordination, planning, implementation and monitoring at the landscape level.
- This strategic approach to conservation is a living process that changes and evolves.