Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of Environmental Management 92 (2011) 1403-1408.


The loss of biodiversity is a mounting concern, but despite numerous attempts there are few large scale conservation efforts that have proven successful in reversing current declines. Given the challenge of biodiversity conservation, there is a need to develop strategic conservation plans that address species declines even with the inherent uncertainty in managing multiple species in complex environments. In 2002, the State Wildlife Grant program was initiated to fulfill this need, and while not explicitly outlined by Congress follows the fundamental premise of adaptive management, ‘Learning by doing’. When action is necessary, but basic biological information and an understanding of appropriate management strategies are lacking, adaptive management enables managers to be proactive in spite of uncertainty. However, regardless of the strengths of adaptive management, the development of an effective adaptive management framework is challenging. In a review of 53 State Wildlife Action Plans, I found a keen awareness by planners that adaptive management was an effective method for addressing biodiversity conservation, but the development and incorporation of explicit adaptive management approaches within each plan remained elusive. Only w25% of the plans included a framework for how adaptive management would be implemented at the project level within their state. There was, however, considerable support across plans for further development and implementation of adaptive management. By furthering the incorporation of adaptive management principles in conservation plans and explicitly outlining the decision making process, states will be poised to meet the pending challenges to biodiversity conservation.