National Wildlife Refuges must manage habitats to support a variety of species that often have conflicting needs. To make reasonable management decisions, managers must know what species are priorities for their refuges and the relative importance of the species. Unfortunately, species priorities are often set regionally, but refuges must develop local priorities that reconcile regional priorities with constraints imposed by refuge location and local management options. Some species cannot be managed on certain refuges, and the relative benefit of management to regional populations of species can vary greatly among refuges. We describe a process of 'stepping down' regional priorities to local priorities for bird species of management interest. We define three primary scales of management interest: regional (at which overall priority species are set); 'Sepik Blocks' (30 min blocks of latitude and longitude, which provide a landscape level context for a refuge); and the refuge. Regional surveys, such as the North American Breeding Bird Survey, provide information that can be summarized at regional and Sepik Block scales, permitting regional priorities to be focused to landscapes near refuges. However, refuges manage habitats, and managers need information about how the habitat management is likely to collectively influence the priority species. The value of the refuge for a species is also influenced by the availability of habitats within refuges and the relative amounts of those habitats at each scale. We use remotely-sensed data to assess proportions of habitats at the three geographic scales. These data provide many possible approaches for developing local priorities for management. Once these are defined, managers can use the priorities, in conjunction with predictions of the consequences of management for each species, to assess the overall benefit of alternative management actions for the priority species.
Additional Publication Details
Use of survey data to define regional and local priorities for management on National Wildlife Refuges
U. S. Forest Service, Pacific Southwest Research Station