Tracking demographic and threats status of ESA-listed species

Tracking demographic and threats status of ESA-listed species

Abstract

Background/Question/Methods: The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is considered one of the strongest acts in the world for protecting wildlife, but that strength depends on proper implementation. Despite the importance of ensuring the Act is implemented correctly, the responsible federal agencies responsible for carrying out the Act, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services, collectively), have no formal policy for monitoring implementation. In contrast to other aspects of the ESA, such as recovery and consultation, there is no designated monitoring handbook. This means there is no guidance for Services personnel to reference as they carry out the law, or for anyone with whom they interact, inside or outside of government. Further, the Services have no system in place to monitor and report on the effectiveness of conservation actions and mitigation effects, nor do they have an efficient system in place for monitoring species populations or the status of their threats. We propose that the lack of systematic monitoring under the Act has been driven by the lack of a clear legislative, regulatory, or policy direction. Results/Conclusions: We conducted a systematic review of the available literature and government documents to evaluate what is known about monitoring under the ESA and where a lack of monitoring may create implementation gaps. In response to these identified gaps and complemented by knowledge from Service biologists, we created draft monitoring policy that lays out a directive for (1) biological monitoring; (2) threats monitoring; (3) compliance monitoring; and (4) effectiveness monitoring. We designed these four monitoring categories to incorporate the need for increased transparency both within and outside the Services; to facilitate the incorporation of new and emerging technologies; and to address the need for detailed qualitative and quantitative data with a consistent method of data collection. Our results provide a framework for a monitoring policy that would provide essential data for determining the extent and severity of implementation gaps. In turn, the adoption of a robust implementation policy would help ensure efficient and effective implementation of the ESA and lead to better conservation outcomes for imperiled species.

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Location
Louisville, KY
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Meg Evansen
Conservation Science and Policy Analyst

As the Conservation Science and Policy Analyst in the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Meg assists with the analysis of scientific research and policy implementation to find new and creative solutions for wildlife conservation.