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Conservation experts gather to protect our nation's natural resources

September 9, 2014

The Gulf Coastal Plains and Ozarks Landscape Conservation Cooperative (GCPO LCC) in conjunction with the Geosystems Research Institute (GRI) and the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station (MAFES) hosted a  multi-agency workshop to provide a forum for the conservation community to share ideas and pool available resources. The workshops facilitated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service strived to define, design and deliver efficient and effective conservation strategies that maintain the ecological benefits of managing wildlife and marine environments.

The workshop brought in over 50 participants to address the challenges of creating a sustainable balance of natural and cultural wildlife interrelationships with the growth of urbanization and economic development, and determining the potential impact to habitat associated with threatened and endangered species.

The Structured Decision Making process allows groups to come together and focus on solving a single complex problem, but does so in such a way that the process for making the decision is clearly laid out. Each decision problem is given a discrete set of plausible alternative solutions.   

There were 4 subsections of the workshop one group working on decisions regarding captive breeding and reintroduction of the endangered Louisiana Pine Snake, another team working on reintroduction and translocation of the Flatwoods salamander, an assemblage of experts working on beaver wetland management to maintain ecological integrity and minimize negative impacts on private lands adjacent to the Natchez Trace Parkway, and authorities working on streamlining the endangered species recovery permitting process in the Southeast region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Kristine Evans, GCPO LCC and GRI geomatics coordinator, stated "The conservation community often struggles when trying to make hard decisions because there are often so many critical political and biological factors at play." She said, "There's also a lot of uncertainty when it comes to wildlife response to conservation investments which makes decisions difficult at best." Further, "Since decisions involving wildlife conservation often are paid for by the taxpayer, it is important that these decisions are come by in the most transparent and defensible manner possible."

The four groups brought in technical experts from federal and state agencies, universities, non-governmental organizations and zoos.  Each group spent the week working through a rigorous and often quantitative decision process and ended the week with plans in hand outlining solutions to their challenging decision problems.

"During the course of an SDM workshop the group rigorously, often quantitatively, assessed the pros and cons of each decision alternative to come up with the best possible solution to the problem at hand, said Evans. "Applying structure to the way we in the conservation community make complex decisions will help guarantee the public's trust and incorporate scientific thinking into decisions about conservation. The workshop was a great example of multi-agency collaboration toward a single solution."

For more information about the GCPO LCC, please visit: www.gcpolcc.org or contact Kristine Evans at 662.325.3167 or Kristine@gri.msstate.edu