Structured Decision Making Webinar Series

To help answer this question, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has developed a series of web conferences to engage practitioners in the process of structured decision making using a variety of case studies. Structured Decision Making (SDM) is a decision analysis framework that we can apply to conservation problems to integrate strong science with values, laws, and policies. Conservation issues often involve multiple goals and actions, levels of uncertainty, and a complex understanding of systems. SDM helps conservation professionals develop a process to determine objectives, alternatives, and optimal solutions for environmental issues.

Structured Decision Making (SDM) Webinar Descriptions

A structured approach to cross-jurisdictional brown bear management on National Park Service Lands in Alaska (00:59:05)
Presented by Angela Romito, PhD, US Fish and Wildlife Service. June 17, 1014.

Management decision-making is complicated when multiple user-groups and management agencies with overlapping jurisdictions have fundamentally different objectives and policies. In these instances, formal decision making frameworks, such as structured decision making (SDM), can provide a means to evaluate management decisions in an integrated framework that can be used to address conflicting perceptions of system dynamics. In Alaska, brown bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) occur in large numbers on lands managed by the National Park Service (NPS) and other federal agencies and also are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game and regulated as a game species by the Alaska Board of Game. Using SDM, we developed an integrated modeling and decision support system for brown bear management in Katmai National Park and Preserve and Noatak National Preserve. The decision models tracked the state of bears through time and estimated the effects of management actions on bear populations, harvest success, human-bear incidents, and park visitation. Sensitivity analysis identified key uncertainties that included factors that affected bear populations and human-bear incidents. Model estimates also were sensitive to the relative value of harvest, bear population, and non-consumptive use objectives. Limiting the scope of the problem to NPS jurisdictional boundaries allowed for transparent decision making but may slow learning in an adaptive management framework.

Adaptive Management to Conserve Red Knots (00:43:54)

Presented by Gregory Breese, Delaware Bay Estuary Project, USFWS. February 12, 2012.

Since 1998, the horseshoe crab fishery has been managed cooperatively by Atlantic coast states through the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission. The ASMFC recognizes this resource as having multiple objectives, including supporting populations of shorebirds. Because much of the concern about a reduced horseshoe crab population centered on the ecosystem services (food for shorebirds) provided by high abundance of horseshoe crabs within Delaware Bay, a traditional single-species assessment was not sufficient for managing harvest of the Delaware Bay population of horseshoe crabs. In order to factor in shorebird needs, an effort began in 2007 (Breese et al. 2007) to develop a multi-species approach to managing horseshoe crabs by employing the tools of structured decision making and adaptive management. This effort provides recommended harvests that are optimal with respect to the objectives of maintaining the crab fishery and providing sufficient resources to maintain viable populations of Red Knots.

Application of Adaptive Management (01:02:25)

Presented by Ken Williams, Chief, Cooperative Research Units, U.S. Geological Survey. July 23, 2102.

This webinar will feature a discussion on adaptive management, a learning-based approach to problem solving. The Interior Department recently published Adaptive Management: The U.S. Department of the Interior Applications Guide to provide federal, state, tribal and other natural resource managers with tools to more effectively address the complexities and uncertainties involved in natural resource management, especially under challenging conditions such as climate change. The Applications Guide includes case studies ranging from river flow management and protecting migratory birds to siting renewable energy projects. Ken Williams, Chief, Cooperative Research Units, USGS, will discuss the Applications Guide and explain how adaptive management can facilitate decision making and help resolve the uncertainties that hinder effective resource management.

Bridge Over Troubled Water: Building Adaptive Governmance Networks for Turbulent Times (00:50:41)

Presented by Teresa Woods, University of Minnesota, Retired USFWS employee. July 30, 2013

Preliminary results from a study on Landscape Conservation Cooperatives.
The effects on wildlife of global climate change and other large-scale stressors occur across a variety of geopolitical scales, giving rise to unprecedented need for coordinated and efficient multi-jurisdictional governance and public-private partnerships. Uncertainties about the future and complexities of social-ecological systems require capacities for innovation, adaptation, and learning as part of governance systems. What do adaptive governance networks look like and how should they function for effective conservation of wildlife resources? Presented will be the preliminary findings from her research into how groups form networks to address large-scale and complex conservation problems, using DOI Landscape Conservation Cooperatives as a case study.

Developing a surrogate species approach to landscape conservation for the USFWS’ Midwest Region (01:06:25)

Presented by Sean Blomquist, Ph.D., USFWS; Pat Heglund, Ph.D., USGWS; and Lori Nordstrom, USFWS. June 25, 2013.

We used a rapid prototyping process to explore how to implement the draft Guidance on Selecting Species for Design of Landscape‐scale Conservation in the Midwest region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The draft guidance was released by the USFWS in July 2012 as the agency’s initial step toward implementation of Strategic Habitat Conservation. Currently, we have developed, prototyped and refined a draft process for steps 1‐6 (selecting surrogate species) and step 8‐9 (checking logic and assumptions) of the guidance, and we will describe our results to date. Our initial prototype focused on USFWS cross‐programmatic implementation, and we developed a process to define a functional landscape. Further, we explored how surrogate species could be used to evaluate our effectiveness in achieving USFWS conservation objectives based on hypothetical objectives and species information for the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big River Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) geography. Based on the results of the initial prototype process, we are now working alongside representatives from state wildlife agencies to further refine the process. We have formed two teams, an oversight team, to help with internal and external engagement and communication, and a technical team that is continuing to develop the species selection and landscape assessment processes. Through USFWS and state wildlife agency collaboration, we are refining the process developed during the initial prototype by integrating species data for approximately 2900 priority species identified from sources such as State Wildlife Action Plans and State and Federal
Endangered Species Act lists for each of the Eastern Tallgrass Prairie and Big River LCC and Upper Midwest and Great Lakes LCC geographies. One potential long‐term application of the selected surrogate species is a decision tool to aid the USFWS to take site‐scale conservation actions in high‐priority locations that contribute to a shared regional‐ and LCC‐scale vision.

Multi-Stakeholder Planning Using a Structured Decision Making Approach (01:11:28)

Presented by Graham Long, CEng, EngD, Compass Resource Management Ltd. and Dan Ohlson, MSc, PEng, MCIP, Compass Resource Management Ltd. April 24, 2012.

In this talk we discuss our experiences implementing multi-stakeholder planning processes using Structured Decision Making as the overall planning framework. We’ll begin by discussing the general methodological requirements for applying SDM in a multi-stakeholder context. Then we present a case study of a water use planning process in British Columbia, highlighting: i) Approaches to structuring objectives and measures, and developing creative alternatives, ii) Application of a multi-method approach trade-off assessments, and iii) Dynamics of the multi-stakeholder process. We conclude with some broad lessons learned.

Science-Based Management in Practice: an Example with Native Prairies (01:17:17)

Presented by Jill Gannon, Ph.D., Ecologist, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center, United States Geological Survey, January 24, 2012.

Native prairies managed by the USFWS in the Prairie Pothole Region are extensively invaded by introduced cool-season grasses, smooth brome (Bromus inermis) and Kentucky bluegrass (Poa pratensis). Management to suppress these invasive plants has had poor success, mainly for insufficient understanding of prairie restoration ecology and absence of systematic evaluation of management effects. In partnership with the USFWS, we developed an adaptive decision support framework to assist managers in selecting management actions under uncertainty and maximizing learning from management outcomes. Decision making under this framework is adaptive, as monitoring feedback increases understanding of the system and in turn determines the path of future decision making. Refuge-specific data provided by cooperators reduces uncertainty across the whole region, allowing individual land managers to receive updated decision guidance that incorporates understanding gained from the collective experience of all cooperators. This model-based decision making approach merges science and management in a tangible way that is well-suited for many fish and wildlife applications.

Shifting impediments to decision making: An SDM case study on strategic Conservation of Freshwater Mussels (00:42:07)

Presented by David R. Smith, Aquatic Ecology Lab, U.S. Geological Survey Leetown Science Center. May 22, 2012.

This is a story about impediments to making a decision. Sometimes what appears at first to be an impediment, turns out not to be an impediment at all. And sometimes what appears to be a non-issue, turns out to be THE issue. The decision problem for this SDM case study involved species-specific protective measures in surface mine permitting. An SDM workshop did not lead to a nice clean resolution, but it did lead to some insights and lessons learned.

Structured Decision Making and the Glen Canyon Dam (01:28:50)

Presented by Michael C. Runge, Research Ecologist, U.S. Geological Survey. March 13, 2012.

In 2010, the Bureau of Reclamation, worked with several other federal agencies, the State of Arizona, and five Native American tribes to employ several analytical tools in a structured process. This process resulted in finding a way to control non-native fish to support recovery of the endangered humpback chub (Gila cypha) in the Colorado River, while recognizing a range of cultural, spiritual, ecological, recreational, and economic objectives. Mike will overview this SDM case study.

Structured Decision Making for the Selection of Surrogate Species - A Case Study in the Klamath River Watershed (01:17:00)

Presented by Nicole Athearn, Ph.D., Klamath SHC Team and Richard Kearney, Asst. Regional Director, Science Applications, USFWS. April 16, 2013.

The Service's Draft Guidance for Selecting Species for Design of Landscape-scale Conservation was released in July 2012 to provide guidance for directing Strategic Habitat Conservation towards achieving and maintaining functional landscapes. Beginning in the summer of 2012,scientists and managers from 3 Klamath field offices, the Klamath NWR complex, and the Pacific Southwest regional office came together to define conservation objectives for a functional landscape in the Klamath River watershed and to pilot a surrogate species selection process using Structured Decision Making. Our approach was to select surrogate species that represent key physical and ecological conditions and processes, which in turn collectively support functional species assemblages. Our goal was to use surrogate species to guide our work and provide a measure of progress toward objectives in our conservation objective hierarchy within a scalable and transparent framework. We will describe our approach and methods for this pilot effort as we continue to work towards a comprehensive strategy for landscape scale conservation in the Klamath River Watershed.

Three Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Underway in the Northeast for Amphibian Conservation (00:47:05)

Presented by Evan H. Campbell Grant, Principle Investigator, Northeast Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (ARMI), Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD. October 2011.

The natural resource community has been tasked with developing climate change adaptation strategies in response to the serious threats posed by altered global climates. Across the northeastern United States, negative changes are predicted for the habitats of amphibian species, many of which are already restricted to small patches (e.g., the Shenandoah salamander), or reliant on habitats within a narrow range of tolerable characteristics (e.g., wetland-breeding amphibians). The Northeastern Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative (NE ARMI) has partnered with federal and state resource managers and university scientists to develop proactive management strategies for these species given the uncertainty in future conditions. The teams have used a structured decision making framework as a guide to explore the potential management decisions which will not only have to incorporate future climate change and amphibian ecology, but consider variables such as the utility thresholds connecting the value of resource management and ecosystem performance. Despite the considerable uncertainty at the outset, the goal is to increase learning with each recurring management decision under an adaptive management framework.