Structured decision making for managing pneumonia epizootics in bighorn sheep

Journal of Wildlife Management
By: , and 



Good decision-making is essential to conserving wildlife populations. Although there may be multiple ways to address a problem, perfect solutions rarely exist. Managers are therefore tasked with identifying decisions that will best achieve desired outcomes. Structured decision making (SDM) is a method of decision analysis used to identify the most effective, efficient, and realistic decisions while accounting for values and priorities of the decision maker. The stepwise process includes identifying the management problem, defining objectives for solving the problem, developing alternative approaches to achieve the objectives, and formally evaluating which alternative is most likely to accomplish the objectives. The SDM process can be more effective than informal decision-making because it provides a transparent way to quantitatively evaluate decisions for addressing multiple management objectives while incorporating science, uncertainty, and risk tolerance. To illustrate the application of this process to a management need, we present an SDM-based decision tool developed to identify optimal decisions for proactively managing risk of pneumonia epizootics in bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) in Montana. Pneumonia epizootics are a major challenge for managers due to long-term impacts to herds, epistemic uncertainty in timing and location of future epizootics, and consequent difficulty knowing how or when to manage risk. The decision tool facilitates analysis of alternative decisions for how to manage herds based on predictions from a risk model, herd-specific objectives, and predicted costs and benefits of each alternative. Decision analyses for 2 example herds revealed that meeting management objectives necessitates specific approaches unique to each herd. The analyses showed how and under what circumstances the alternatives are optimal compared to other approaches and current management. Managers can be confident that these decisions are effective, efficient, and realistic because they explicitly account for important considerations managers implicitly weigh when making decisions, including competing management objectives, uncertainty in potential outcomes, and risk tolerance.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Structured decision making for managing pneumonia epizootics in bighorn sheep
Series title Journal of Wildlife Management
DOI 10.1002/jwmg.21088
Volume 80
Issue 6
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Coop Res Unit Seattle
Description 13 p.
First page 957
Last page 969