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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Blomquist SM, Johnson TD, Smith DR, Call GP, Miller BN, Thurman WM, McFadden JE, Parkin MJ, Boomer GS (2010) Structured decision-making and rapid prototyping to plan a management response to an invasive species. J Fish Wildl Manag 1:19–32
Catlin DH (2009) Population dynamics of piping plovers on the Missouri River in South Dakota. Dissertation, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
Choy SL, O’Leary R, Mengersen K (2009) Elicitation by design in ecology: using expert opinion to inform priors for Bayesian statistical models. Ecology 90:265–277
Converse SJ, Shelley KJ, Morey S, Chan J, LaTier A, Scafidi C, Crouse D, Runge MC (2011) A decision-analytic approach to the optimal allocation of resources for endangered species consultation. Biol Conserv 144:319–329
Elliott-Smith E, Haig SM (2004) Piping plover (Charadrius melodus). In: Poole A (ed) The birds of North America online. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca. http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/002
Gregory RS, Keeney RL (2002) Making smarter environmental management decisions. J Am Water Resour Assoc 38:1601–1612
Gregory RS, Long G (2009) Using structured decision making to help implement a precautionary approach to endangered species management. Risk Anal 29:518–532
Hammond JS, Keeney RL, Raiffa H (2002) Smart choices. Broadway Books, New York
Johnson FA, Kendall WL, Dubovsky JA (2002) Conditions and limitations on learning in the adaptive management of mallard harvests. Wildl Soc Bull 30:176–185
Keeney RL, Gregory RS (2005) Selecting attributes to measure the achievement of objectives. Oper Res 53:1–11
Larson MA, Ryan MR, Root BG (2000) Piping plover survival in the Great Plains: an updated analysis. J Field Ornithol 71:721–729
Larson MA, Ryan MR, Murphy RK (2002) Population viability of piping plovers: effects of predator exclusion. J Wildl Manag 66:361–371
Martin TG, Kuhnert PM, Mengersen K, Possingham HP (2005) The power of expert opinion in ecological models using Bayesian methods: impact of grazing on birds. Ecol Appl 15:266–280
Martin J, Runge MC, Nichols JD, Lubow BC, Kendall WL (2009) Structured decision making as a conceptual framework to identify thresholds for conservation and management. Ecol Appl 19:1079–1090
McGowan CP (2008) Incidental take and endangered species demography. Dissertation, University of Missouri, Columbia
McGowan CP, Ryan MR (2009) A framework to evaluate incidental take and endangered species population viability. Biol Conserv 142:3128–3136
McGowan CP, Ryan MR (2010) Arguments for using population models in incidental take assessments for endangered species. J Fish Wildl Manag 1:183–188
McGowan CP, Millspaugh JJ, Ryan MR, Cruse KC, Pavelka GA (2009) Estimating survival of precocial chicks during the pre-fledging period using a catch-curve method and age based count data. J Field Ornithol 80:79–87
McGowan CP, Ryan MR, Runge MC, Millspaugh JJ, Cochrane J (2011) The role of demographic compensation theory in incidental take assessments for endangered species. Biol Conserv 144:730–737
Nichols JD, Runge MC, Johnson FA, Williams BK (2007) Adaptive harvest management of North American waterfowl populations: a brief history and future prospects. J Ornithol 148:S343–S349
Noon BR, Sauer JR (1992) Population models for passerine birds: Structure, parameterization and analysis. In: McCullough DR, Barrett RH (eds) Wildlife 2001: populations. Elsevier Applied Science, London, UK, pp 441–464
Plissner JH, Haig SM (2000) Viability of piping plover Charadrius melodus metapopulations. Biol Conserv 92:163–173
Prindiville Gaines E, Ryan MR (1988) Piping plover habitat use and reproductive success in North Dakota. J Wildl Manag 52:266–273
R Development Core Team (2009) R: a language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna
Roche EA, Cohen JB, Catlin DH, Amirault-Langlais DL, Cuthbert FJ, Gratto-Trevor CL, Felio J, Fraser JD (2010) Range-wide piping plover survival: correlated patterns and temporal declines. J Wildl Manag 74:1784–1791
Runge MC (2003) A model for assessing incidental take of manatees due to watercraft-related activities. Appendix I in U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environmental Impact Statement: Rulemaking for the incidental take of small numbers of Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) resulting from government programs related to watercraft access and watercraft operation in the state of Florida (March 2003). U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Jacksonville
Runge MC (2012) An introduction to adaptive management for threatened and endangered species. J Fish Wildl Manag 2:220–233
Runge MC, Converse SL, Lyons JE (2011) Which uncertainty? Using expert elicitation and expected value of information to design an adaptive program. Biol Conserv 144:1214–1223
Ryan MR, Root BG, Mayer PM (1993) Status of piping plovers in the Great Plains of North America: a demographic simulation model. Conserv Biol 7:581–585
Swartzman GL, Van Dyne GM (1972) An ecologically based simulation-optimization approach to natural resource planning. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 3:347–398
U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (2000) Formal biological opinion of the Missouri River main stem reservoir system. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Denver
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (1998) Endangered species consultation handbook. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service. Washington, DC
Williams BK, Szaro RC, Shapiro CD (2007) Adaptive management: the US Department of the Interior technical guide. Adaptive Management Working Group, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, DC
I thank the U.S. Geological Survey and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences at Auburn University for financial and logistical support of this work. The research contained in this paper was not funded by a specific grant, but was developed and written as part of the author’s normal work duties. I thank M. C. Runge, J. F. Cochrane, and M. R. Ryan, for many extensive discussions on incidental take and endangered species management over several years that greatly shaped my thoughts on this subject. I thank T. J. Fontaine, M. R. Ryan, and M. A. Larson for reviewing pre-submission versions of this manuscript and helping to improve the quality of the work. I thank the editors and anonymous reviewers that helped to improve this manuscript.
Conflict of interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
The experiments and data analyses contained herein comply with the current laws of the country in which they were performed. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.
About this article
Cite this article
McGowan, C.P. A Structured Approach to Incidental Take Decision Making. Environmental Management 51, 241–250 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00267-012-9981-8
- Charadrius melodus
- Endangered Species Act
- Piping Plover
- Section 7 consultation
- Structured decision making