Environmental Management

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 241-250

First online:

A Structured Approach to Incidental Take Decision Making

  • Conor P. McGowanAffiliated withU.S. Geological Survey, Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University Email author 

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Decision making related to incidental take of endangered species under U.S. law lends itself well to a structured decision making approach. Incidental take is the permitted killing, harming, or harassing of a protected species under the law as long as that harm is incidental to an otherwise lawful activity and does not “reduce appreciably the probability of survival and recovery in the wild.” There has been inconsistency in the process used for determining incidental take allowances across species and across time for the same species, and structured decision making has been proposed to improve decision making. I use an example decision analysis to demonstrate the process and its applicability to incidental take decisions, even under significant demographic uncertainty and multiple, competing objectives. I define the example problem, present an objectives statement and a value function, use a simulation model to assess the consequences of a set of management actions, and evaluate the tradeoffs among the different actions. The approach results in transparent and repeatable decisions.


Charadrius melodus Endangered Species Act Piping Plover Section 7 consultation Structured decision making