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A Structured Approach to Incidental Take Decision Making

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

Ethical Standards

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.

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Correspondence to Conor P. McGowan.

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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

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Keywords

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